In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory
By THOM SHANKER
Published: October 4, 2006
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Even as the Bush administration urges Americans to stay
the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in
the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away.
Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past
year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s
capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.
Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A
paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and
House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.
The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of
celebration” to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan
and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United
States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
The celebration would honor the soldiers, sailors, air crews and marines
who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it would be held in Washington, with
the $20 million to cover the costs of military participation.
Democrats called attention to the measure, an act that Republicans are
likely to portray as an effort to embarrass them five weeks before the
midterm election. The Democrats said both the original language and the
extension were pushed by Senate Republicans. A spokesman for the
Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee said it was protocol
not to identify sponsors of such specific legislation.
The overall legislation was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent and
overwhelmingly in the House after a short debate.
Democrats nevertheless said they were not pleased.
“If the Bush administration had spent more time planning for the postwar
occupation of Iraq, and less time planning ‘mission accomplished’ victory
celebrations, America would be closer to finishing the job in Iraq,” said
Rebecca M. Kirszner, communications director for Senator Harry Reid of
Nevada, the Democratic leader.
Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said late Tuesday that the event
was envisioned as an opportunity for “honoring returning U.S. forces at the
conclusion” of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “As the funds were not
used in F.Y. 2006,” the official said, using the initials for fiscal year,
“the authorization was rolled over into F.Y. 2007.”