The Chicago Tribune Has an excellent editorial that is well worth the read… I have copied the entire article, and highlighted a few of the points that I found most significant.

Shortchanging soldiers

Last week, House Democrats made good on their anti-war pledge and narrowly passed a spending bill that set deadlines for the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq. On Thursday, the Senate, by a 51-47 vote, did the same, albeit with malleable deadlines. It is clear that a majority of lawmakers want U.S. troops brought home in 2008 if not sooner, no matter what.

The president vows to veto legislation that dictates any deadlines. And neither the House nor the Senate is likely to muster the votes for an override. That leaves what? A stalemate? A constitutional crisis? An opening for a compromise, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has suggested?

President Bush appears disinterested in compromise, arguing that “members of Congress need to stop making political statements,” and pass a war funding bill he can sign.

Congress has spoken. Setting troop deployment in Iraq, however, is not the lawmakers’ job. That job belongs to the commander in chief and the nation’s military leaders.

It would be wonderful if wars were won by setting deadlines. Just as it would be wonderful if the troop surge now under way accomplishes what the president has promised, thus swiftly ending U.S. involvement in this war.

But the enemy likely has other plans. And specific deadlines only straitjacket American commanders on the ground.

Lawmakers could have attempted to shut off funding for the war, but they didn’t. So now they have a duty, just as important, to the tens of thousands of soldiers who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan: Pass a spending bill the president will sign.

The legislation heading to the president has another problem: It is bloated with pork-barrel spending. That was a political strategy: Larding the bill with billions in parochial spending rendered it harder for members to oppose.

But U.S. forces on the ground now need around $100 billion to pursue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They don’t need $25 million for spinach growers, as the current House bill provides. They don’t need $74 million for peanut storage. They don’t need $283 million for dairy farmers. They don’t need $5 million to compensate shellfish producers.

A stalemate between the president and Congress on a war spending bill of this magnitude carries imminent dangers. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned that failure to pass a funding bill soon would force the Army to delay training of units and halt the repair of vital equipment. Bush has said that troops and their families will face “significant disruptions” if a bill isn’t signed into law by April 15.

Ultimately, lawmakers may decide to halt all spending on the war. These votes stand as a sharp warning to Bush that Congress has far less patience than he when it comes to Iraq’s leaders and the painfully slow pace of progress. For the moment, neither side appears ready to budge. Both are digging in for a huge political battle over the best way to pressure Iraqi leaders to make the tough moves imperative to secure their country. So be it.

Meanwhile, however, there’s a war on. Lawmakers need to strip out the political pork and drop the hard-and-fast deadlines to bring the troops home.American forces aren’t bargaining chips for politicians. And shortchanging soldiers and their families isn’t a strategy for ending the war. It’s intolerable.


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