Organizations and legislators opposing the Iraq war are readying their next moves, as Congress prepares to send President Bush a supplemental appropriations bill with a deadline to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.

If Bush follows through on his vow to veto the bill, MoveOn told its Operation Democracy activists, “We need to loudly let him know that he can’t keep ignoring our voice — and we need to let our leaders in Congress know that they need to stand up to him and keep pushing for legislation with timelines for ending the war in Iraq.”

MoveOn called for protest rallies across the country the day after a veto is announced. “Feel free to bring pots, pans or other noisemakers,” the organization added. “We’re going to make symbolically certain that the Bush administration can hear us.”

Calling the bill’s requirement for troop withdrawal “a tremendously important step along the road to changing U.S. policy,” the Friends Committee on National Legislation said Congress “will have several opportunities in the next few months to change U.S. policy on Iraq and at each step we hope to make progress.”

Besides the next phase in the battle over the supplemental appropriation, FCNL will focus on the overall military authorization bills expected next month, Rachel DuBois, FCNL program assistant for foreign policy, said in a telephone interview. “We want to include diplomacy in those bills,” she said, including meeting with all of Iraq’s neighbors, and talking with all Iraqi factions.

“We’d prefer members of Congress not vote for any war funding,” she added. “But until that happens, it’s important to place restrictions in those bills.”

Until a majority in Congress is prepared to oppose new funding for the war, FCNL said, “we are insisting that any new funding should, at least, name a date certain for withdrawal of troops.”

FCNL is working to identify more members of Congress who are willing to speak out on the war, DuBois said, including Republicans who could move toward an antiwar position.

One such effort is the StandUpCongress.org campaign — a project of Win Without War — to press Maine’s two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, “to vote for the safe, secure and rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.” The weeklong campaign for signatures on an open letter to the two senators kicked off April 28 with rallies in Portland and Bangor. It culminates in a May 5 “Special Delivery Saturday” at post offices across the state.

The urgency of these actions was emphasized with reports that 11 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq April 24, bringing the total U.S. troops killed to more than 3,333, with nearly 25,000 wounded. War-related deaths of Iraqi civilians since the U.S. invasion are estimated to exceed 600,000.

The Iraq war supplemental appropriations bill agreed on by a House-Senate conference committee April 23 was expected to be passed by both houses and sent to Bush early in the week of April 30.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told an April 24 press conference, “Our bill is grounded in the realities in the war in Iraq, recognizes the urgency to hold the Iraqi government accountable, and honors our commitment to our veterans, instead of the failure to meet those commitments that exists now.” She added, “For the first time, the president will have to be accountable for this war in Iraq. And he does not want to face that reality.”

In a statement the same day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush “apparently remains in a dangerous state of denial about the situation on the ground in Iraq and its impact on our security at home.” Challenging Bush’s phrase, “precipitous withdrawal,” Reid said “there is nothing precipitous about insisting that the president change course after more than four years of his failed policy.” Last week, Reid called the war “lost.”

Bush responded by repeating his veto threat.

The conference committee’s bill would require U.S. forces to start withdrawing from Iraq on Oct. 1, or sooner if the president cannot certify that the Iraqi government is meeting certain requirements. It projects the goal of completing withdrawal of combat forces by April 1, 2008. Included are funds for medical care of troops and veterans, aid for Katrina victims and other domestic emergencies.

Democratic leaders in Congress, who lack a veto-proof majority in either house, were contemplating post-veto moves.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats would work to win over Republicans. Sen. Charles Schumer pointed to a strategy of forcing Republicans to vote repeatedly on the war, while Rep. John Murtha has floated the idea of a short-term appropriation that would force Bush to return quickly to Congress.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service said that nearly half the $94 billion earmarked in the supplemental for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would really be used for non-urgent items like sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, and funding a U.S.-established Arabic-language TV station. The CRS report also pointed out that the Pentagon has funds available to continue the war until June or July.

mbechtel @ pww.org

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