Is compromise possible?

President Bush and congressional Democrats don’t agree about much when it comes to the Iraq war, but one of the areas where they disagree the least is the need to measure the Baghdad government’s progress.

That makes the issue ripe for negotiation in an evolving veto struggle over the war, even though the administration and its critics are fiercely at odds when it comes to how — and whether — to enforce these so-called benchmarks for self-defense and democracy in Iraq’s post-Saddam Hussein era.

“The problem is, why tie our own hands?” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday. “And that’s the problem with having so-called consequences for missing the benchmarks,” she added, in effect warning Congress not to pass a timetable for a troop withdrawal by another name.

Democrats began laying out their own case in public last week, even before they passed war-funding legislation that Bush has said he will veto.

“If the president doesn’t want to enforce the timelines the U.S. Congress has proposed for reduction of the number of troops in Iraq, he should at least be willing to enforce timelines the Iraqi government has set for itself,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said after participating in a White House meeting on the war.

Any serious attempt at compromise will wait until later in the week, after Bush has carried out his veto of the war-funding bill and its attached withdrawal timetable. The measure sets a deadline of Oct. 1 for the withdrawal to begin, with a goal of completion six months later.

The president said Friday his veto will be sustained, and no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge his prediction.

Bush also has invited the leaders of both parties to the White House on Wednesday. And he said that once he casts his veto he’ll be ready to work with Democrats on a new version that provides funds without strings attached.

Bush is “willing to work with the Democrats on benchmarks,” the House Republican leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, told reporters last week.

Barring a change in plans, Democrats have signaled they intend to jettison the timeline from the follow-up bill they draft. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others insist they will not send the president a blank check to prosecute a war that so far has claimed the lives of more than 3,300 U.S. troops.

Administration officials give Bush credit for injecting the issue of benchmarks into the public debate about the war.

“I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended,” he said in a speech in January in which he also announced an increase in troop strength to try to curtail sectarian violence, particularly in the Baghdad area.

“If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” the president said.

He also said the Iraqis would increase their own commitment to quell sectarian violence, and he noted several other promises the Iraqi government had made.

These included approving legislation to share oil revenue among all Iraqis, spending $10 billion on job-creating reconstruction projects, holding provincial elections, overhauling de-Baathification laws and creating a fair process for considering amendments to the constitution.

“America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced,” Bush said.

In his speech, the president did not threaten any specific consequences for the government — or any impact on U.S. participation in the war — if the benchmarks were not met.

Republicans in the House and Senate, too, have embraced the benchmark concept, along the lines Bush favors.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans introduced legislation in February saying that Iraq’s political leaders “must show visible progress toward meeting” 11 benchmarks, including those the president laid out.

In the House, Republicans backed a different version that several GOP aides say was intended to signal to the administration as well as the Iraqi government — and the public — that patience was limited.

It called on Bush to certify every 30 days that the Iraqi government was “fully cooperating” with U.S. efforts in the country in several areas. Among them were purging its security forces of members with ties to insurgents and denying terrorists sanctuaries on Iraqi territory. Iraq also was to have “made demonstrable progress” toward completing a purge of security forces of all members with ties to insurgents, sectarian militias and terrorism.

Democrats inserted benchmarks into the legislation that Bush is expected to veto later this week.

Under the measure, the Iraqi government would be called on to meet standards for developing its own forces, giving the United States the authority to pursue extremists, establishing a militia disarmament program, pursuing reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis, revising its de-Baathification program, enacting legislation to allocate oil resources, reducing sectarian violence and protecting minority rights.

The particulars are similar to the benchmarks Bush laid out last winter.

But Democrats went one step further, specifically tying the Iraqi government’s progress to the U.S. military’s deployment.

Under the soon-to-be-vetoed bill, if Bush cannot certify by July 1 that Iraq is meeting the benchmarks, the United States “shall commence to redeploy” troops by that date.

Otherwise, the withdrawal would begin on Oct. 1.



David Espo is AP’s chief congressional correspondent.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Bill Jonke

    If Congress thinks for a minute that a compromise will be reached with the stubborn presidential fool, they truly are naive, overly optimistic, or just plain stupid.

    Bush has shown, time and time again, that he never relents on anything, and although anything he proposes and acts on pretty much always fails, he continues to implement them.

    We can safely say that when all is said and done, after the House bends over backward to get him to compromise and give the president his money, Bush will stick his middle finger in the air, smirk and then do some other inane gesture with his hand and say “Suckers!”

    Bush is the quintessential short-shit class clown, reveling in his power, and this class clown needs to be expelled.


  2. Sandy Price

    Bush speaks for God and the American Way. He has no need for the truth as he is leading America into a new one world order. This is what happens when we elect a leader who has no respect for the laws of the Constitution or the individual American citizens. We are his to be used as he sees fit. This is the way of all dictators.

    To weaken us, he has put our nation into greater debt than ever before. He will open the borders through his North American Union plans and he will then rule all of the Western Hemisphere. The voters are ignorant enough to think this would be neat.

    To most Americans the elections are boring and of no value as nothing is ever changed by a change of party. Our Congress has no intentions of using the Constitution and our Supreme Court will never be able to use the Constitution for their decisions.

    America is a dictatorship that on occasion changes from an R to a D and then back again.

    My own Congressional District in Arizona was host to our very religious Representative Trent Frank last week and heard him justify Bush’s decisions in Iraq. These are retired seniors who are bored to tears and will search for anything that does not force them to think. They don’t care that he is a liar and in fact they believe they can vote for him in 2008.

    America cannot even educate a Senior in High School to know about the Constitution. We are all being dumbed down into oblivion.

  3. BeeJay

    Has everyone forgotten that Iraq was supposed to finance its own reconstruction with the sale of oil?

  4. Caine

    Compromise? Compromise the President says? What BS! This president does not compromise! What he calls compromising, is equal to him compromising the saying “It’s my way or the highway!” to “It’s my way or the dirt road!”.

    And this congress is going to go right along with this crapola?!?? They too are almost worthless. That or they’re complicit in the blood money Bush’s buddies are reaping!

    I think that if congress were to compromise, the only change they should make in the bill is to change the redeployment start date from October 2007, to September 2007. And if that isn’t enough of a compromise, then they should back it up another month to August 2007 and keep backing it until it says to redeploy tomorrow! Otherwise, we are moving in the wrong direction with the compromise on this bill.

    And the oil situation? Why do I not see in the above article anything concerning how Iraq must pass the Iraqi bill that states that they will open their oil sales to Western companies?

    "The law was in essence drafted, behind locked doors, by a US consulting firm hired by the Bush administration and then carefully retouched by Big Oil, the International Monetary Fund, former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz’ World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. It’s virtually a US law (its original language is English, not Arabic). "
    US’s Iraq oil grab is a done deal

    Compromise? BS! This administration doesn’t want to compromise when the stakes are so high!

  5. Razor

    Bush still has Iran to conquer so don’t count on any withrawal from Iraq. Has anyone noticed how the media has stepped up the articles of Iran being top terrorist supporter and supplier? Its more conditioning for americans so before long an attack on Iran will be just another days news. Bush’s push into the middle east is for long term domination and he is just starting. He said it would be a war of generations or never ending and he meant it.