Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Congress to Bush: How's That Iraq Thing Going?

Uh oh. There's gonna be trouble now. You know this whole Iraq thing? The quagmire? The debacle? Well, it's gotten Congress' attention. Somebody's gonna furnish the butt for a beatin'.

The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a Democratic effort to pressure president Bush to outline a timetable for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, then it endorsed a weaker statement calling on the administration to explain its Iraq policy. "The president told us that outlines were tough for him," said Senate majority leader Bill Frist. "You know, the combination of Roman numerals and letters can be confusing. He thought an essay would be better."

Senators also voted to endorse the Bush administration's military tribunals for prosecuting miscellaneous brown people held at the U.S. torture base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but to allow survivors to appeal their status and punishments to a federal court. "We figured that after surviving torture the American judicial system would be a piece of cake for them," said Senator Kennedy. "Unless Scalia gets a hold of the case. Then all bets are off."

The developments in Congress underscored the political significance of the war as the U.S. death toll climbs, public support plummets, the insurgency continues and the price tag soars with no end in sight. "We want the American people to know we're on the job," said Senator Frist. "Give us two years or so and over two thousand deaths and you'll get our attention. Well, assuming there's no election or anything."

The bill includes provisions that mark an effort by the Senate to rein in some of the wide authority lawmakers gave the president following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Yeah, we told the president he could do stuff said Senator Specter. "But who knew he would actually take us up on it. Besides, it's not like we actually read the president's request before we passed it."

The measure includes language that would prohibit the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees and standardize interrogation procedures used by U.S. troops. The Bush administration has threatened to veto any bill that includes language about the treatment of detainees, arguing it would limit the president's ability to prevent terrorist attacks. "Look, if we can't torture the guys we've got, what's to keep the guys we don't have from attacking us," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Reflecting senators' anger over recent leaks of classified information to the public, the bill also includes provisions requiring the Bush administration to provide Congress with details on laughingly secret CIA prisons overseas and stripping of security clearances of any federal government official who knowingly discloses national security secrets. "Oh, it's on now baby," Senator Santorum explained. "Bush isn't pushing us around. Did you see his poll numbers? I mean we're standing up for America."

The House version of the defense bill doesn't include those provisions, nor does it include the language on the detention, interrogation or prosecution of detainees. "Those guys are wusses," said House leader Dennis Hastert. "We ought to send Tom DeLay and a couple of his crew over there for a little caucus, if you get my drift."

Republicans largely adopted the Democratic proposal as their own, but they omitted one paragraph calling for the president to offer a plan for a phased withdrawal of the roughly 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. "Yeah, we ran out of ideas over a year ago," said Senator Frist. "So we traded the democrats Virginia and New Jersey for a foreign policy."

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