Friday, December 28, 2007

Bush screws the troops. (Again)

If you're in the US military, you might have been expecting a pay raise. In fact, if you were in the US military, you might have been expecting an expansion of some benefits.

Certainly, the United States Congress passed a bill which would have seen the US military receive a raise in pay and allowances, improvements to military health benefits, expanded health care for those wounded in action, improvements in the care, management and transition of recovering veterans, improvements in family housing and on and on and on. And, the bill passed both houses of Congress with solid majorities.

But, if you're serving in the US military or are a veteran no longer on active service, you're going to be disappointed.

George W. Bush, in an unannounced move and with no warning or negotiation, said that he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.
At the behest of the Iraqi government, President Bush has vetoed the annual defense authorization bill, saying an obscure provision in the legislation could make Iraqi assets held in U.S. banks vulnerable to lawsuits.

The veto startled Democratic congressional leaders, who believe Bush is bowing to pressure from the Iraqi government over a provision meant to help victims of state-sponsored terrorism. The veto was unexpected because there was no veto threat and the legislation passed both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly.

At issue is section 1083 of the bill which amends Chapter 97 of title 28 of the US Code by removing the jurisdictional immunity of foreign states from US courts when that state is alleged to have sponsored terrorism.

The Iraqi government has a problem since the Bush administration has declared that Iraq, prior to the US invasion was designated as a state sponsoring terrorism. The same goes for Afghanistan. What that essentially does is open the door for law suits against the Iraqi government and the possible freezing of Iraqi assets held in US financial institutions.

The Iraqi's have threatened, if the bill passes, to withdraw all funds from US banks. That would be some big bucks - in the billions.

At issue is a provision deep in the defense authorization bill, which would essentially allow victims of state sponsored terrorism to sue those countries for damages. The Iraqi government believes the provision, if applied to the regime of Saddam Hussein, could target up to $25 billion in Iraqi assets held in U.S. banks. Iraq has threatened to pull all of its money out of the U.S. banking system if the provision remains in the bill.
All of this came as a surprize to both houses of Congress since Bush had made no indication that a veto was in the offing.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was angered that the White House decided on a veto long after the bill passed both chambers of Congress.

"It is unfortunate that the administration failed to identify the concerns upon which this veto is based until after the bill had passed both houses on Congress and was sent to the President for signature," Levin said. "I am deeply disappointed that our troops and veterans may have to pay for their mistake and for the confusion and uncertainty caused by their snafu.

What is so unusual about this pending veto is that the White House almost always telegraphs a veto threat while a bill is under consideration so that changes can be made to the legislation to avoid a veto. This defense bill passed the House 370-49 and cleared the Senate on a 90-3 vote. According to Democratic leadership aides, the Bush administration did not raise any objections about the section in question until after the bill was transmitted to the White House.

Cool. He used SNAFU. An apt description of the Bush administration. Situation Normal. All Fucked Up.

Hey! Don't worry about it all that much. I'm sure the Commander Guy will make it all up to the troops by serving them a special Valentine's Day meal.

H/T Crooks and Liars

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