Saturday, 29 December 2007

Bush to veto Defense Policy Bill

Bush facing problems he is simply ill-equipped to deal with

U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to veto a massive defense policy bill because it contains language that would expose the Iraqi government to law suits stemming from the Saddam Hussein era.

A substantial number of these lawsuits have in fact been lodged by American citizens, including former U.S. soldiers.

Bush says the crippling lawsuits would disrupt Iraq's reconstruction efforts.

But what about those people with legitimate claims?

PressTV asked Kevin Sanders, Director of Special Projects of the War and Peace Foundation in New York to try and unravel some of the complicated questions this proposed veto has thrown up.

PressTV: The main problem with the bill, as far as Bush is concerned, is that it leaves the Iraqi government open to lawsuits stemming from the Saddam era. But some of those suits have been filed by Americans, including former soldiers, so how is this going to be perceived by the American public?

Sanders: With some confusion and by the Bush administration, as we have already seen, by rather desperate efforts to obstruct anything that could possibly open the way to a whole host of impossibly difficult lawsuits that could theoretically bankrupt the American government. Now the problem, of course, is one that was never anticipated.

The Bush administration went into Iraq with the idea that it would be a swift and successful war, that they would be received as liberators, and none of these problems was ever even thought of. Never considered. And certainly not in the form in which they have now taken where some of the people contesting this are, as you say, American soldiers.

Now this is a very delicate problem. The Bush administration can’t be seen to be rejecting legitimate claims by American soldiers. So the Bush administration is going to obstruct it or delay it, do whatever it can, and its going to become political football.

PressTV: The Bill also contains other important provisions such as a pay rise for U.S. troops. Now Bush seems to be going to great lengths to protect Iraqi interests at the expense of Americans, why is he doing that?

Sanders: He is facing a whole set of problems with the American military that he never anticipated. Its almost impossible to get anybody to join the American military anymore. Their recruitment drives have failed, their desertion rates – that they don’t like to talk about – are higher than they’ve been at any time since the Vietnam War. The suicide rate, you know important indices like these are very disturbing. So Bush is in an almost impossible dilemma, no matter what he does he is going to look bad.

He cannot be seen in any way to be doing anything that would be unfair or thoughtless or insensitive, or in any way hostile to American troops. He is in a lose lose situation.

Politically the Democrats are in a position to exercise as much fury and anger as they wish, and they no doubt will. That doesn’t mean they will win the case, they can’t override Bush’s veto.

One of the problems again is that it comes down to numbers. The Democrats do not have the numbers that they need in Congress to force these things through, Bush will simply obstruct it. In a way, time is on his side. Bush is simply going to try and put everything on hold until his time has run out, and leave all these problems to his successor, who in all probability will be a Democrat.

PressTV: Bush obviously came under some pressure from Baghdad who threatened to withdraw their U.S. assets out of the country if the bill passed. How big of a blow would that have been.

Sanders: I am sure estimates would vary widely depending on who is being asked, but it could lead to huge disruption in the war effort if it had gone through. Its still not clear how this is all going to work out. It’s a matter of huge confusion for the Justice Department, for the Pentagon, for the Bush administration and they find themselves now in a morass they never anticipated and for which they are completely ill-equipped to deal with.

PressTV: The Democrats, understandably are outraged. But it hasn't been a good year for them and their efforts to bring the war to an early close. This has led to speculation that they are incompetent or are not really trying hard enough. Which is it?

Sanders: Well, a little of each, but more importantly they simply do not have the numbers. In many cases, in politics, in war, truth comes down to numbers. Now in the House the Democrats have a huge majority and can push through pretty much anything they want. But the moment it hits the Senate where they have a very uncertain majority of just one, and certainly not the majority that is needed to override Bush on veto.

In the last election the people of America made it perfectly clear they wanted to get out of Iraq, no matter what, and the Democrats have tried with varying degrees of vigor to do that but they have been obstructed every time when it gets to the Senate, and with the present numbers in the Senate there’s not much that can be done to change that.

Bush can finally block whatever he wants. So the sort of changes that they are talking about, that they’d like to bring about – that the American public rather impatiently expected them to fulfill – may have to wait until the next election

Above article based on interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV, Saturday, December 29th, 2007.

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