As of Wednesday, at least 3,800 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Washington President Bush and Congress are headed toward another showdown on war spending, this time sparring over nearly $190 billion the Pentagon says is needed to keep combat in Iraq afloat for another year.
Sen. Robert Byrd, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, vowed Wednesday not to "rubber stamp" the request and said it was time to put Bush's policies in check.
"We cannot create a democracy at the point of a gun," said Byrd, D-W.Va., whose speech during a Senate hearing on the spending request was interrupted several times by cheers of anti-war protesters.
"Sending more guns does not change that reality," Byrd said.
The tough rhetoric was reminiscent of last spring, when Congress passed and Bush vetoed a bill funding the war through September but ordering troop withdrawals to begin by Oct. 1. Democrats still lack the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
If approved, Congress would have appropriated more than $760 billion for the two wars, having already approved of $450 billion for Iraq and $127 billion for Afghanistan.
Testifying before Byrd's panel, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that America's "difficult choices" on the war "will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the president and in the wider public debate."
But Gates said he hoped Congress would approve money that is needed by the troops.
"Under some of the most trying conditions, they have done far more than what was asked of them, and far more than what was expected," he said.
The Pentagon had already requested $147 billion for the wars; Gates went to Capitol Hill to ask for an additional $42 billion. The money would pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2008 budget year, which begins Monday.
Gates said the extra $42 billion was necessary to buy vehicles that can protect troops against roadside bombs, refurbish equipment worn down by combat and consolidate U.S. bases in Iraq.
More specifically, the request includes some $11 billion for 7,000 mine-resistant vehicles. This is in addition to the 8,000 vehicles already planned for fielding.
Congress has not yet approved any of the money but was on track this week to pass a stopgap spending bill that would keep the war afloat for several more weeks. This gives Democrats, divided on whether to cut off money for the war, time to figure out their next step.
Since Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, testified this month, Republicans have said they are willing to give his strategy more time to work. GOP members have blocked Democratic bills ordering troops home.