House Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey Won’t Say Whether They’ll Fund Bunker Busters For Iran

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The Bush administration recently sent Congress a request for $196 billion in “emergency” funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week ABC reported that it includes one line asking for $88 million to upgrade stealth bombers to carry the 30,000-pound “massive ordnance penetrator”:

So where would the military use a stealth bomber armed with a 30,000-pound bomb like this? Defense analysts say the most likely target for this bomb would be Iran’s flagship nuclear facility in Natanz, which is both heavily fortified and deeply buried.

“You’d use it on Natanz,” said John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. “And you’d use it on a stealth bomber because you want it to be a surprise. And you put in an emergency funding request because you want to bomb quickly.”

Today David Obey (D-WI), the Democratic Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, appeared at the National Press Club. You can see the footage via C-Span.

At 42:10, Obey is asked whether he plans to fund the bunker busters. He speaks for over three minutes, beginning by saying “Our Iran policy has been spectacularly stupid for 50 years,” references the 1953 CIA coup, and asks, “Wouldn’t we have been better off if we left Mossadegh in place?” Yet he never answers the question.

When Obey finally winds down, at 45:30, the moderator asks again: “Will you fund the bunker busters?” Obey replies:

Well, I don’t have the power to determine whether we will or will not do anything. I certainly think that the bunker busters raise very serious questions about what the Administration’s intentions are and I’m very skeptical that we ought to proceed but that’s going to have to be a collective decision.

What does this mean? First of all, Obey most certainly has the power to stop this if he wants to badly enough. But given the behavior of the Democratic Congress to date, it seems unlikely they’ll refuse to fund it. Some of the Democratic caucus is quite willing to bomb Iran. And the ones who don’t want to will be scared to cut the funding. Certainly they’d consider the cable TV pandemonium that would ensue if they remove the funding, the bombing goes ahead anyway with non-Stealth bombers, and some of them get shot down.

(Thanks to Just Foreign Policy for pointing this out.)

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