- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003


The Senate refused yesterday to force the Bush administration to specify the cost of continuing military operations in Iraq, defeating a Democratic attempt to use a defense-spending bill to criticize the war.

The vote was 53-41 to kill a proposal by Sen. Byron Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, to force the administration to submit an amendment to the pending $368.6 billion overall defense-spending bill stating the costs.

“It’s impossible to know what the cost will be of fighting this war in advance,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Dorgan said the administration knows it’s spending $4 billion a month in Iraq and it makes little sense to pretend the costs do not exist.

Democrats have repeatedly criticized President Bush for not aggressively seeking more international forces to police Iraq and help oversee its reconstruction as American soldiers continue to die in attacks from Iraqi resistance elements.

“Our men and women in uniform, doing courageous work, find themselves in a near shooting-gallery environment in Iraq, with very little contribution from allies and the world,” Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, said Tuesday.

Mr. Johnson’s son, Staff Sgt. Brooks Johnson, returned from Iraq in May after serving with the 101st Airborne Division during the war.

Asked whether the White House feared the Democrats using the Iraq criticism as a political issue, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “The American people recognize that some are more focused on elections, and possibly even revising history or rewriting history.

“The president remains focused on his priorities for the American people — that’s winning the war on terrorism, which the battle in Iraq was about, and protecting the homeland and strengthening our economy.”

Mr. McClellan said he saw “good, steady progress in Iraq in terms of reconstruction and stability and moving toward a democracy.” But as he spoke during his morning news briefing, however, the U.S. military announced that the pro-American mayor of Hadithah in western Iraq was fatally shot yesterday along with one of his nine sons.

Democrats prepared to use the $368.6 billion Pentagon bill to force debates yesterday over issues ranging from the cost of the Iraq war to the detention of enemy combatants in the war against terrorism.

The measure represents a Defense Department budget increase of a little more than 1 percent for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, not counting a $62.4 billion emergency-spending bill passed earlier this year to cover the cost of war in Iraq.

Likewise, the 2004 bill does not include additional money to support the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which probably will be financed by another emergency-spending bill.

Republicans mustered a strong majority to turn back the Senate’s most vocal critic of the war on Tuesday as he attempted to limit the deployment of National Guard and reserve forces around the world.

The 64-31 vote killed a proposal by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, to limit National Guard and reserve overseas missions to six months, once a year.

The Defense Department reported last week that 204,100 Guard and reserve forces were now on active duty.

Mr. Stevens, who oversees the defense budget, said the deployments are already limited to 180 days, not including time spent preparing and returning from an operation.

But he and other Republicans acknowledged the pressures faced by those forces when they are deployed to repeated missions abroad and promised to study the problem.

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