The man who controls the House purse strings to fund the war in Iraq said the President’s “surge” was showing recent signs of success because U.S. soldiers have “run out of people to kill.”
“One of the reason we’ve had incidents of violence, sectarian violence go down is because they are running out of people to kill,” said the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. David Obey (D.-Wisc.) at a National Press Club luncheon Monday afternoon.
“They’ve killed so many in so many areas, that there are fewer opportunity targets, if you want to put it that way, for each side,” Obey said. “I welcome any reduction in the level in violence for whatever reasons it occurs, but I don’t think that tells us much for what the future is going to be.”
[Update after original publication: It has been pointed out to this reporter that Obey may have been referring to insurgents, not U.S. soldiers, when he said "they." Obey's spokeswoman Kirsten Borst has not responded to an on the record request for clarification.]
Obey’s remarks were prompted by a question that asked, “Some Republicans say the casualties are going down in Iraq, there seems to be signs the surge is working. Do you think that is true?”
In recent weeks there have been various signs of success in Iraq Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who is second in command in Baghdad, reported in late October that coalition forces casualties had reached their lowest point in years and deaths from roadside bombs were in decline. Army General David H. Petraeus told reporters on October 28 that “we think that there are no al-Qaeda strongholds at this point” in Baghdad. Then, on November 2, the chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council, Abdulsalam Mohammed said al Qaeda had been “almost defeated” in his province.
When asked for reaction to Obey’s comment that soldiers were “running out of people to kill,” a House Republican leadership aide said, “The Democratic party is so invested in defeat any good news from our military is bad for them politically.”
As appropriations chairman, Obey has pressed Congress to cut off funding for the war and challenged the President’s veto threats on various spending bills by sending them to the Senate over budget.
Obey said, “It is unreasonable for the President to demand that we give him another $200 billion for the quagmire in Iraq and then try to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility by requiring short-sighted reduction in key domestic investments that will make our country stronger.”
He accused President Bush of “manufacturing controversy” by vetoing spending bills that have been delivered to him above his original budget request. Obey said Bush was vetoing bills to boost himself in the polls by gaining support from his extreme right-wing base.
As chairman of the appropriations committee, Obey is responsible for crafting the House's 13 annual "must pass" spending bills that fund government operations. None of these have been passed to date, although the final deadline was September 30.