This is not really particularly shocking news, but it does explain the flaw at the center of the Democratic strategy on Iraq supplemental bills:
Even opponents of the war, as Durbin calls himself, find themselves likely to vote for the extra money, he said. "When it comes to the budget, I face a dilemma that some of my colleagues do," he said.
He voted against the war "but felt that I should always provide the resources for the troops in the field," Durbin said. "But it's now reached a point where we have got to change the way we appropriate this money."
Though he said he is likely to approve the increased request -- it would accompany a pending request for an additional $147 billion in war funding -- Durbin said he would work to attach conditions to it that would require troops to begin coming home in the spring.
Now, in a number of instances here, the reporter for the Chicago Tribune puts words in Durbin's mouth rather than actually quoting Durbin. However, the words that are being put in Durbin's mouth are not entirely inaccurate. The Democratic strategy, in both the House and the Senate, has always been to pass whatever supplemental appropriations bills for Iraq that Bush requests, at least in terms of the amount of money he requests. Rather than deny funding altogether, the strategy is instead to attach conditions to the money that is appropriated. These conditions include, but have not been limited to, troop readiness standards, withdrawal timelines, and benchmarks for the Iraqi government. This is even the strategy of the Out of Iraq and Progressive Caucuses, who have argued that funds should be approved, but that they should only be approved on the condition that they are used for a fully funded withdrawal. The problem with this strategy is that there is a working conservative majority in Washington, D.C. that opposes any conditions begin attached to Iraq funding. So, by making it clear from the start that they intend to appropriate the money, all that the working conservative majority needs to keep doing is have Bush veto those conditions, and then uphold the veto, until enough Democrats cave and allow another blank check on Iraq to pass.
Democrats have no intention of denying funding for Iraq. Instead, they want to use funding to end the war. However, as long as Bush remains in office, and the Bush Dogs remain unmoved, the working conservative majority has the votes to do this indefinitely. If Congress is ever going to engage in a real showdown with Bush over Iraq, then we need 218 members who would rather that the war not be funded at all than for the war to be funded without any conditions attached to it. Right now, we are nowhere near 218 votes on that front. Back in May, fully 86 Democrats voted against even going for a second round against Bush, with only two Republicans defecting to the anti-war side. That means we need to swing at least 70 votes to prolong the fight this time. Note that I said "prolong" the fight, rather than win it. Even if we get 70 votes to force Bush into a third round this time, there is still no guarantee any conditions will be applied to the funding.
The money will almost certainly be appropriated, and another 1.5% of our gross national income will be sent to Iraq. We sent along another 0.7% back in May, and the DoD appropriations bill sent another 3.5% indirectly to Iraq. That makes a running total 5.7% of our gross national income spent on Iraq and the military so far this year. This is simply not sustainable. Among other things, the Soviet Empire's war in Afghanistan destroyed the Soviet Empire. The longer we keep sending 5-6% of our national income down the Iraq sinkhole, the more likely it becomes for the Iraq war to destroy us. We need to get these votes, but it is a task I am not particularly optimistic about at this time. Another blank check it probably on the way. Perhaps a better strategy is to figure out how, in 2008, to punish those who allowed it to happen, and end the working conservative majority.