Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Byrd: Bush Has "Stoked The Fires Of Fear"

The Senate on Monday started debate on the $122 billion measure that will primarily fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that also contains much-needed funding for improving the health care for returning soldiers and veterans, money for continued Hurricane Katrina recovery for the Gulf Coast and funds to fill major gaps in homeland security.

While the legislation does not include any restriction on funding for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, it does call for a gradual redeployment of troops and a total withdrawal of troops from Iraq by this time next year. The deeper intent is to give the U.S. military greater ability to focus its resources on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Remember them? The people who actually attacked us on September 11, 2001?

"We are now in the fifth year of the war in Iraq. The debate about the war has deteriorated into a series of buzzwords," said Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in opening the debate Monday. "Preemptive war, mission accomplished, exaggerated intelligence, inadequate body armor, and surges."

"Our job in the Senate is to look forward. The Constitution clearly gives the Congress the power to decide when this Nation should go to war. It also gives the Congress the power of the purse, so funding such conflicts is the responsibility of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Because of that power over the purse, it is certainly our duty to debate the future of the war in Iraq."

Republicans are determined to vote against the bill, but to avoid revealing yet another example of how they don’t truly support the troops, have focused a lot of attention on ancillary, non-defense spending included in the bill -- even though more than $96 billion of the $122 billion is specifically for the continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's also a $1 billion increase for the National Guard and Reserve, $1.1 billion for improvements to military housing and more than $4.3 billion to ensure that returning troops and veterans receive improved health care.

"During the debate on this bill, assertions will be made that it is inappropriate to add to this bill funding to meet domestic needs," said Byrd, launching a preemptive strike at GOP critics. "In fact, the White House has claimed that efforts to add funding for our veterans, for Katrina victims, and for homeland security, will hold hostage the funds for the troops. What nonsense! Just more buzzwords."

And Byrd, who is managing the Democratic effort on the funding bill, fired a shot across the bow of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their whole cabal for fighting a useless war while making it their five-year plan to scare the crap out of Americans every chance they get.

"For five and a half years since the attack of 9/11, this Administration has raised fears of another terrorist attack. The Administration has announced a high, or orange, threat level for possible terrorist attacks on eight different occasions," said Byrd, the oldest member of the Senate. "In every State of the Union Address, the President has stoked the fires of fear. Periodically, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the FBI Director help to fan those flames."

"This country was not attacked by Iraq on 9/11. There was not a single Iraqi involved in the devastation in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on that fateful day. According to our own government, the perpetrators of 9/11, Osama bin Laden and his organization, are alive and rebuilding in Afghanistan and Pakistan as I speak. Language in this bill would allow the President to refocus our military and our intelligence on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11."

We should see this week how many Senators understand that.