By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
March 17, 2007 – It is vital Congress pass an emergency war spending bill as soon as possible and without strings attached, President Bush said during his weekly radio address today. "In times of war, Congress has no greater obligation than funding our warfighters," Bush said. "The purpose of this legislation should be to give our troops on the front lines the resources, funds and equipment they need to fight our enemies.
Bush submitted a defense budget request Feb. 5 that includes a $93.4 billion emergency supplemental measure to cover the cost of operations in the war on terror for fiscal 2007. Congress subsequently added several additional spending measures to the bill. Bush said some members of Congress are using the bill as an opportunity to micromanage military commanders and force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, while spending billions on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war on terror.
U.S. troops "urgently" need the emergency funds as they step up the new security strategy in Iraq, he said. The new strategy, under the leadership of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, is still in its early stages, yet signs of progress are already being seen, Bush said.
"Iraqi and American troops have rounded up more than 700 people affiliated with Shia extremists," he said. "They've also launched aggressive operations against Sunni extremists. And they've uncovered large caches of weapons that could have been used to kill our troops."
Bush said the bill Congress is now considering would undermine Petraeus and the troops under his command just as these critical security operations are getting under way. The bill would impose restrictive conditions on the use of war funds and require the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of this year if these conditions are not met, he said.
"These restrictions would handcuff our generals in the field by denying them the flexibility they need to adjust their operations to the changing situation on the ground," Bush said. "And these restrictions would substitute the mandates of Congress for the considered judgment of our military commanders."
The consequences of imposing an artificial timetable would be disastrous, he added.
Bush said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said it best when he told Congress setting a fixed date to withdraw would "essentially tell [the enemy] how long they would have to wait until we're gone."
The scale and scope of insurgent attacks would increase and intensify if U.S. troops were forced to step back from Baghdad before it is more secure, he said. This could in turn cause more violence to spill out across the entire country, and possibly the entire region, he said. "The enemy would emerge from the chaos emboldened with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America," he said.
Another damaging aspect of the bill would be funding cuts for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders do not meet rigid conditions, Bush said. "Members of Congress have often said that the Iraqis must step forward and take more responsibility for their own security," he said. "Yet members of Congress can't have it both ways: They can't say that the Iraqis must do more and then take away the funds that will help them do so."
The additional domestic spending components of the bill include, $74 million for peanut storage, $48 million for the Farm Service Agency and $35 million for NASA, Bush said. "These programs do not belong in an emergency war spending bill," he said.
The president said he would veto a bill that contains such measures. "Many in Congress say they support the troops, and I believe them," he said. "Now they have a chance to show that support in deed, as well as in word."
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