THE House of Representatives in the United States voted by 218 votes to 208 on Wednesday for a Bill to end the US occupation of Iraq, by starting the withdrawal of combat troops in October and completing it by March 31, 2008. The vote pitted Democrats against Republicans.
The Bill on funding the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan sanctioned $124bn of new funds, $100bn for Iraq operations, linked to the deadline for getting US troops out of Iraq.
President George Bush had repeatedly told Congress that he would veto any Bill setting a date for US forces to be withdrawn from Iraq.
After their success in the vote, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said: ‘The sacrifices borne by our troops and their families demand more than the blank cheques the President asked for, for a war without end.’
She urged Bush to sign the Bill so that ‘we can focus on winning the war against terrorism, which is the real threat to the American people’. The Democrats consider that they cannot get the two-thirds needed to overturn a veto by Bush.
The White House spokeswoman said: ‘Tonight, the House of Representatives voted for failure in Iraq and the President will veto its Bill.’ Republicans described the deadline as a ‘surrender date’.
The Bill was due to be voted upon in the Senate last night.
The stalemate between Congress and the President shows that the ruling class in the US, the most powerful imperialist state in the world, has been split down the middle by the failure of its occupation of Iraq.
The vote in Congress was not the only bad news for the White House concerning its strategy in Iraq this week.
On Tuesday evening, nine US troops were killed and 20 injured by the Iraqi resistance in a suicide bomb attack on them in Diyala, north east of Baghdad. Despite the recent troops ‘surge’, this is the largest US loss since the end of 2005.
Since the US-British war and occupation of Iraq began in March 2003, 3,300 American troops have been killed and 24,300 wounded.
Bush is not only confronted with a split on Capitol Hill, he is also at odds with the US-sponsored puppet government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, over the building of a wall in Baghdad, separating the Adhamiyah district from the rest of the east bank of the River Tigris.
US forces and the Iraqi army are still building the wall despite its rejection by the puppet premier. On Monday, Maliki said: ‘I asked yesterday that it be stopped and that alternatives be found to protect the area.’ But on Tuesday, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker insisted that the work was going ahead.
The debacle of US forces in Iraq and the stand-off with Congress, resulting in Bush’s weak and ineffective Presidency, comes at a time when the US capitalist economy is also heading for the rocks.
House prices increased by only 2.6 per cent in March, with demand 23 per cent down on the same month in 2006. Sales of existing homes last month were the lowest for 18 years.
A Federal Reserve Board study, published on Wednesday, revealed a slowdown in housebuilding, a weakness in manufacturing and rising prices for fuel and raw materials. Cliff Waldman from the Manufacturers Association said: ‘The general economic outlook remains precarious.’
The growing recession threatens jobs and living standards in the US.
Yet the manoeuvring in Congress shows that the Democrats are unable to take decisive action to put an end to the discredited, lame-duck Bush regime.
It is time for the American working class, organised in powerful trade unions in the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, to take action to defend jobs and living standards, and end the occupation of Iraq that has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Iraqis.
What is needed is a mass mobilisation of strikes and political actions to bring down the Bush regime. The American unions should build a Labor Party to replace the parties in Congress.
US workers must build a new revolutionary leadership, an American section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, to organise the struggle by the working class for socialism.