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Bush Vows Veto if Funding Bill Includes Troop Withdrawal Language

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2007 – President Bush said today he will veto any bill that reaches his desk containing a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

“It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C., to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away,” Bush said.

In a speech to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting here, Bush said politicians on Capitol Hill are playing politics, and he condemned efforts to put non-emergency items in the emergency supplemental war funding request.

Both the Senate and House have passed versions of the supplemental measure, and both versions call for troop withdrawal.

Bush said the bills neglect the fact that initial responses from Baghdad indicate the new security plan for the city is working. The Iraqi people are feeling safer and are turning in those who mean harm, he added. “The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence,” the president said.

Bush said the bills also ignore that the plan, begun with such promise, has only about half of its troops in place so far. The Baghdad security plan calls for an extra 21,500 U.S. combat troops. Just over three brigades have arrived so far, with full operational capability not expected until the end of May.

The bill would damage U.S. efforts in Iraq in some basic ways, the president said. It imposes unnecessary restrictions on U.S. commanders in Iraq and places rigid conditions on the Iraqi government, he said.

“It would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces if every one of these conditions is not met by a date certain,” he said. “Even if they are met, the bill would still require that most American forces begin retreating from Iraq by March 1st of next year, regardless of conditions on the ground.”

If the bill becomes law, “our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars,” Bush said.

The House bill cuts funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders do not meet certain deadlines. He said House leaders cannot say the Iraqis must do more and then take away the funds needed for the missions.

Finally, the House bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending completely unrelated to the war, Bush said.

The president called the Senate bill no better than the House version. The Senate bill also sets a date for U.S. withdrawal and cuts funds for Iraqi security forces. The Senate bill also has add-ons not related to military operations.

“Here's the bottom line: the House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal,” he said. “And I have made it clear for weeks (that) if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it.”

In all likelihood, Bush said, his veto would be sustained, so he called on Congress to revamp the bill because “the clock is ticking for our troops in the field.” Current funding for forces will begin to run out in mid-April, the president said.

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