By Adam Robertson
The U.S. Congress decided last month to pass the Iraq war funding bill with no timetable after months of discussions. Senior Democrats view this legislation as the first step in an ongoing battle, while anti-war campaigners have accused them of caving into pressure from the White House, according to a BBC editorial.
The compromise - which has been welcomed by President Bush - let down the voters who gave the Democrats control of Congress last November. A poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News showed that 76% of Americans are currently against the war in Iraq while six out of ten consider it a mistake right from the start. Amazingly, three out of four senators who hope to win the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2008 are against the war.
Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd and Barack Obama voted against the war funding bill along with 11 other senators, while 80 voted for it.
Former Senator of North Carolina, John Edwards, expressed his criticism regarding the war and said: “I believe the Congress has the responsibility to force this president to end this war in Iraq”.
Last month, Clinton, along with senator Robert Byrd, proposed a legislation revoking the war powers resolution on its 5th anniversary. “Are you ready to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home and restore America's reputation around the world?" Clinton asked the crowd in Cedar Rapids and got a cheer of “Yeah”.
Defending themselves, Democrats say the passed bill includes benchmarks for progress - although these can be over-ruled by Bush - and so they believe that it represents a "change of direction". Despite the passage of the war funding bill, Democrats are expected to face another dilemma in September when it's time to ask for more funding. The USD 100 Billion bill that is solely related to war funding was compromised before released.
Michael Hammond, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says it is unfair to say the Democrats have failed to deliver on what they promised to voters. “They came into office saying they would not cut off funding for the war, and so this is a re-versioning of what their initial position had been at the start of this calendar year.”
Hammond also added the Democrats could make a fresh push on Iraq in September, when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, will have had time fully to implement Bush’s "surge" strategy of deploying extra U.S. troops in Iraq, and it will have become clearer whether it failed or not.
He suggests the Democrats have up till now given too much sway to the loud anti-war voices on the party's left and not enough to the "silent middle" in the party, who want to see a stable resolution to the conflict. “The Democratic party is certainly frustrated with this war and I don't think the party wants to see it go on much longer - but it's not as if everyone is rushing to the doors thinking it's already over," Hammond said.
However, the real danger lies in the voters who are feeling let down by the President, his Republican party and Democrats supporting them, according to Christopher Preble, the director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.
But Preble said “not every American who has expressed concern about the war is ready to exact a political revenge - and the next election isn't for another 17 months”.
As for the presidential nomination, Preble stressed the conflicting views of each party in nominating contenders. "Right now in the Democratic party you are not going to be nominated as a supporter of the war," he said.
"And in the Republican party, even though a majority of Republicans are dissatisfied with at least the conduct of the war, right now you cannot get nominated in the Republican party unless you are pro-war.
"You've got to get nominated before you get elected,” Preble said.
One of the major challenges facing the Republican frontrunners - former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen John McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney - will be to convince the Americans that the Iraq War is necessary for their security, as President Bush claims.
Meanwhile, the president has already got what he wanted from his talks with Congress, Preble says. "The question the president and others who did not want a timetable want to be asking themselves is, how likely it is that the military strategy will succeed?"