Military Strapped, General Angry

The 2005 Bush budget includes no funds for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means the services will have to make do until a supplemental appropriation comes through. Also, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker failed to say to the Senate Armed Services Committee if he supports the invasion of Iraq. His silence speaks volumes.

Shameful. Because President Bush’s 2005 budget didn’t include any spending for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military will run out of funding at the end of September unless Bush requests a supplemental appropriation.
Now, this is an important story, and shows the depths of dishonesty to which this administration will sink when it comes to cooking the books. Or maybe it’s just incompetence. Congress approved two administration requests last year totalling nearly $166 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, which were _not_ popular — especially that $87 billion Bush asked for. The president is going to have to come back and ask for more money, and if he waits until the end of September that won’t go down well with the voters. Joshua Bolten, the White House budget director, said a supplemental bill could be as much as $50 billion.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Army is spending $3.7 billion a month in Iraq and $900 million a month in Afghanistan.
But the most interesting part of the story came when committee chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked the joint chiefs if they had any doubts about the intelligence they had before the war. The story says, “Three said they still support the decision to go to war, in spite of questions being raised about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the time U.S. troops invaded.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, all said they supported going to war despite doubts about the intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Gen. Schoomaker didn’t “address the issue,” the story says.
That’s interesting. The general in charge of the branch that’s taking it on the chin in Iraq declines to state he supports his commander-in-chief’s decision to go to war? He wasn’t on active duty at the time, yes, but if he supports the decision, he wouldn’t be criticized for saying, “I wasn’t on active duty when we went to war, but I support the decision now that I’m in charge of the Army.” No one in the White House would fault him for that. But he can’t criticize his commander-in-chief, even implicitly; it’s not allowed under Title 10, Section 888, Article 88 of the U.S. Code.

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

So rather than risk court-martial or a demand for his resignation, he shuts up, begs off. I think with the lack of financial support from the White House, and the less than full-throated defense of the president’s policies from one of his joint chiefs, Bush has made some enemies in the services.
Hardly surprising. To date, one U.S. soldier is missing and 535 are dead in Iraq. Exactly 100 have died in Afghanistan. More than 2,600 soldiers have been wounded, and that number is likely much higher. Most of those casualties have been U.S. Army, and now the Bush White House forces the Armed services to dip into their maintenance and modernizing funds to fight two hot wars? That maintenance and modernizing money is used to replace old weapons with new ones. It’s to replace tires, boots, damaged bullet-proof vests and pay for ammunition. It’s not money for sexy, new, expensive weapons system — it’s money that keeps American soldiers alive. Schoomaker knows this, and his silence speaks volumes.

Smoking gun? What’s Bill Smoking?

Bill Safire strangely uses the Zarqawi memo as proof that Saddam had links to al Qaeda. Instead it’s proof that the U.S. invasion has opened opportunities previously denied to terrorists.

There he goes again. Bill Safire is beating the same old drum about al Qaeda and Saddam using faulty logic. This time, he points to the 17-page letter captured from Hassan Gul, who appears to have been acting as a courier between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. The letter asks al Qaeda to reinforce Ansar al-Islam in its attacks on Shi’ite targets in the hopes of sparking a “sectarian war.” Zarqawi appears to be the author of the letter, according to U.S. sources.
(By the way, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has expressed uncertainty regarding the authenticity of the Zarqawi memo.)
Bill Safire toots his own horn:

On Sept. 24, 2001 — not two weeks after 9/11 — Kurdish sources led me to report: “The clear link between the terrorist in hiding [Osama] and the terrorist in power [Saddam] can be found in Kurdistan. . . . The Iraqi dictator has armed and financed a fifth column of Al Qaeda mullahs and terrorists. . . . Some 400 ‘Arab Afghan’ mercenaries . . . have already murdered a high Kurdish official as well as a Muslim scholar who dared to interpret the Koran humanely.”

Well, sure there were and are links between Ansar and al Qaeda. I pointed that out in January last year. But a linkage between Ansar and Osama doesn’t prove a linkage between Saddam Hussein and Osama. As I wrote then:

No doubt Saddam is providing funding to the group in an effort to destabilze Iraqi Kurdistan. But other countries are funding the group, including Iran and Turkey. The Kurds realize that their neighbors have no interest in seeing an independent Kurdistan and will support any group that might thwart those ambitions.
… Because [Ansar al-Islam militants] are operating in an area that has been freed of Baghdad’s influence I find it hard to believe that they are operating with Saddam’s “blessing.” More likely, Tehran is helping them more than Baghdad is, and the Iraqi president is taking advantage of their presence to keep the Kurds off balance. Getting money from both Saddam and al Qa’ida does not logically lead to a linkage between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Ansar wants to destroy the Kurdish secular government and set up an Islamic state under shar’ia, the harsh Islamic law of the Taliban. Baghdad, however, is a secular gangster regime. If Ansar were ever to gain control of Iraqi Kurdistan — an impossible dream for the insurgents — Baghdad would immediately launch a campaign to crush the Islamists, who have no intention of co-existing peacefully with Saddam. I might add, too, that if the above scenario were to come to pass, the United States would be glad to see Saddam wipe them out.

Safire starts wrapping his flights of illogical linking with this quote: “Of the liberation’s three casus belli, one was to stop mass murder, bloodier than in Kosovo; we are finding horrific mass graves in Iraq. Another was informed suspicion that a clear link existed between world terror and Saddam; this terrorist plea for Qaeda reinforcements to kill Iraqi democracy is the smoking gun proving that.”
Hm. Seems to me that linking Saddam to world terror in early 2004 would require Saddam Hussein to actually, oh, I don’t know, be in power and in control of Iraq. Last time I checked he was a guest of the U.S. military and hadn’t been running the country since April 2003. Safire is becoming some kind of Jaubert-like figure on this meme that has been denied by almost everyone — now — in the White House. The exception being, of course, Vice President DIck Cheney.
I have no doubt al Qaeda and Ansar are operating in Iraq and attempting to spark a civil war. It’s part of the terror network’s spring offensive. But Iraq is one of the battlefields because the chaos and insecurity of the country following the invasion last March has given Islamist terrorists a freer range of movement in a country that previously was closed to them. The failed policies of the Bush Defense Department regarding Iraq has created a failed state, which is conducive to allowing terrorists to work and live. The Zarqawi memo isn’t proof a Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda; it’s proof that the American occupation of Iraq opened up opportunities for al Qaeda to act where it couldn’t before.