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No time for symbolism in Iraq money debate

The choices made by President Bush and Congress leading up to Bush’s veto of a war funding bill that included deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops showed that both parties are more concerned with political posturing than doing what’s right by the public and our armed forces.

First, there’s Bush, who promised for weeks that if a funding bill came to his desk with pullout deadlines, he would veto it. Never mind the majority of the American public who want our troops out of Iraq. Never mind the majority of Iraqis who say they would be better off without us.

Then there’s the Democrat-controlled Congress, which heard those warnings and ignored them. Not only did they spend weeks crafting a bill that was certain to be vetoed, they actually waited several days to submit the bill so that Bush’s veto would fall on the four-year anniversary of his “Mission Accomplished” speech off the coast of San Diego, when he declared major combat in Iraq to be over.

We think that delay was insulting to our troops and to the American people. We haven’t forgotten what Bush said on that aircraft carrier, and we haven’t forgotten how long it has been or the horrors that have happened since. Congress should be a lot less concerned with symbolism and more concerned with getting something done. Their goal shouldn’t be to make Bush look bad; it should be getting us out of the mess Bush got us into.

So, how to do that? Bush still says he’ll veto any war funding bill that includes pullout requirements. Some Democrats are talking about calling his bluff by continuing to send him bills that include the requirements and forcing Bush to keep vetoing them through the summer. Is this what our democracy has become? Empty gestures for the sake of making a point?

We think it’s time to end that game and move on to something new. The onus is on Bush now to tell the people what our goals are in Iraq and give us an idea of how long it will take to achieve them. He hasn’t tried hard enough to explain those things to Congress or the public. When this war started, we were told we were removing a dangerous dictator in possession of weapons of mass destruction, and that without him Iraq would become a model of democracy for the entire Middle East.

Saddam is gone. The weapons were never there. Bush talks less now about establishing a functioning democracy and more about getting violence in Iraq down to a level where people are comfortable living their lives. Is this a goal worth the price being paid in American lives - a price that will continue to be paid while the funding debate plays out?

We consider the announcement that congressional leaders will begin meeting regularly with Bush’s chief of staff and national security advisor to be an encouraging development. Hopefully those meetings will produce a clear articulation of our goals in Iraq and our plan to achieve them.

If not, then it’s time for Congress to get serious about ending this war without the President’s blessing, either by cutting off funding or by putting together the votes necessary to override his veto.

In war, wasting time means wasting lives. Our President and our Congress have wasted enough.