Bush Puts 'Immunity' for Iraqi Government Ahead of Bonuses for American Troops

In November, the Bush administration threatened that if Congress didn't pass the Defense Authorization Bill, it would have to issue furlough notices for up to 150,000 civilian workers at military bases. The Pentagon distributed a document warning that the Army may cease to function if it did not receive the funds.

Congress eventually passed the defense authorization bill before winter recess and President Bush raised no concerns at the time. But over the break, the White House threatened a veto because of language that would expose the Iraqi government "to massive liability in lawsuits concerning the misdeeds of the Saddam Hussein regime."

Ironically, Bush's refusal to sign the bill is leading to the very damaging effects that he was fearmongering about back in November. The Air Force Times reports that Bush's veto is holding up re-enlistments and causing "some bonus programs for airmen" to expire:

All re-enlistments for airmen in Air Force Specialty Codes with a selective re-enlistment bonus or those with a critical skills retention bonus are suspended until further notice, the Air Force Personnel Center announced Monday. Instead, airmen can stay in the service by signing a "30-day best interest of the Air Force extension" as needed until the defense bill is signed into law.
Those career fields include security forces, air traffic controllers, explosive ordnance disposal and a host of other positions that are undermanned or require exceptional skills.
It is expected that the bonuses will be paid retroactive to Jan. 1 once the bill is signed into law, but there's no guarantee. According to the personnel center, bonus programs are dependent upon congressional authorization and enactment into law.
While Bush vetoed the defense bill to protect the Iraqi government from liability, the Times notes that "[a]mong the people expected to seek a financial claim against Iraq were former U.S. servicemen held as prisoners of war during Desert Storm in 1991." The bill Bush vetoed upgrades military health care and provides a 3.5 percent pay raise for service members.

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