The Democrats’ congressional victory was widely seen as a public condemnation of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq. But hopes that troops would soon be withdrawn were short-lived. New House leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi:
“If the president chooses to escalate the war in his budget request, we want to see a distinction between what is there and to support the troops who are there now. If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it.”
But George W Bush seems determined to stay the course. As President, he is Commander-in-Chief of the army, has the power to veto any legislation passed by Congress, and can issue executive orders without its approval.
Analyst Christopher Preble:
“The President believes that this strategy will help to achieve victory. He is still talking about victory, he still believes victory in Iraq is possible.”
More than 130,000 US troops are deployed in Iraq. The death toll among US soldiers exceeds the 3,000 mark.
The war is costing the US 8.4 billion dollars a month, and has cost 350 billion dollars since March 2003.
But critics believe raising troop numbers and spending is not necessarily a solution:
“A number of people have noted that other civil wars have taken a very, very long time to sort themselves out – 6, 10, 12 years, sometimes even more,” says Christopher Preble.
“In reality, that is what we are dealing with here – a sense on the part of all three parties (Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds) that they can win by violence and they are not ready to give that up yet.”
In fact, by their own admission, Democrats opposed to the war have few means of pressure.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell:
“Congress tools to micro-manage the war are quite limited. About all Congress could do if it choses to, and I don’t believe it will, is to cut off money for the troops.”
An unlikely option indeed for the Democrats who can not afford to appear weak in the war on terror or take any measures which might threaten the troops in Iraq, as the next presidential election looms less than two years away.