House votes, again, to withdraw troops

The Iraqi government is achieving only spotty military and political progress, the Bush administration conceded Thursday in an assessment that war critics quickly seized on as confirmation of their dire warnings.

Within hours, the House voted to withdraw U.S. troops by spring.

The House measure passed 223-201 in the Democratic-controlled chamber despite a veto threat from President Bush, who has ruled out any change in war policy before September.

“The security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging,” the administration report concluded. The economic picture is uneven, it added, and the government has not yet enacted vital political reconciliation legislation.

As many as 80 suicide bombers per month cross into the country from Syria, said the interim assessment, which is to be followed by a fuller accounting in September from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the region.

“I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must,” Bush said at a White House news conference at which he stressed the interim nature of the report.

Describing a document produced by his administration at Congress’ insistence, he said there was satisfactory progress by the Iraqi government toward meeting eight of 18 so-called benchmarks, unsatisfactory progress on eight more and mixed results on the rest.

To his critics — including an increasing number of Republicans — he said bluntly, “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding the troops.”

Democrats saw it differently.

A few hours after Bush’s remarks, Democratic leaders engineered passage of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008. The measure envisions a limited residual force to train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and fight al-Qaida and other terrorists.

The vote generally followed party lines: 219 Democrats and four Republicans in favor, and 191 Republicans and 10 Democrats opposed.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., voted for troop withdrawals for the first time, contending that while she still opposes a swift pullout, “staying in Iraq indefinitely is equally unacceptable.”

“The report makes clear that not even the White House can conclude there has been significant progress,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

To Bush and others who seek more time for the administration’s policy to work, she said, “We have already waited too long.”

Republicans sided with Bush — at least for now. The bill “undermines Gen. Petraeus, undermines the mission he has to make America and Iraq safe,” said the House GOP leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. “What we have here is not leadership, it’s negligence.”

The 25-page administration report was issued in the fifth year of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,600 U.S. troops and is costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $10 billion a month.

Bush announced last winter he was ordering thousands of additional troops to the war zone, but the full complement has only arrived in recent weeks. “The full surge in this respect has only just begun,” the report said.

It warned of “tough fighting” during the summer as U.S. and Iraqi forces “seek to seize the initiative from early gains and shape conditions of longer-term stabilization.”

The president sampled the report at his nationally televised session with reporters.

“Iraqis have provided the three brigades they promised for operations in and around Baghdad. And the Iraqi government is spending nearly $7.3 billion from its own funds this year to train, equip and modernize its forces,” he said.

But in other areas, he added, they “have much more work to do. For example, they’ve not done enough to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues.”

The report was blunt at points and more opaque at others.

While Iraq has begun to show progress in providing services, “citizens nationwide complain about government corruption and the lack of essential services, such as electricity, fuel supply, sewer, water, health and sanitation.”

At another point, it added, “The prerequisites for a successful militia disarmament program are not present.”

In addition to citing a Syrian connection for terrorists, it also said Iran has continued to foster instability in Iraq.

It cited measured progress on the economic front. “Unemployment has eased slightly and inflation is currently abating,” the report said. It omitted mention of a June 1 Pentagon report estimating an annual inflation rate at 33 percent and the Iraqi government estimate of joblessness at 17 percent.

In an evident jab at critics of Bush’s war policies, the report also said progress toward political reconciliation was hampered by “increasing concern among Iraqi political leaders that the United States may not have a long term-commitment to Iraq.”

Despite rising pressure from Republicans in Congress for a change in course, Bush was adamant.

“When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will (be) because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it’ll be good politics,” he said.

Before Thursday’s House vote, GOP aides said they hoped to suffer only a few party defections, but the administration faced a more volatile situation in the Senate. There, three Republicans have already said they intend to vote for a separate withdrawal measure, and several others have signed on as supporters of a bipartisan bill to implement a series of changes recommended last winter by the Iraq Study Group.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who announced his intention to seek a change in policy last week, issued a statement that said the administration’s most recent assessment “confirms my worst fears that while the Iraqi government is making some progress on some benchmarks, it’s not moving fast enough to make meaningful or lasting progress.”

Even so, it appears the president’s allies have the support to block a final Senate vote in a showdown expected next week.

If the report changed any minds in Congress, it was not immediately apparent.

“It is time for the president to listen to the American people and do what is necessary to protect this nation. That means admitting his Iraq policy has failed, working with the Democrats and Republicans in Congress on crafting a new way forward in Iraq and refocusing our collective efforts on defeating al-Qaida,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

But Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Congress has already decided it will be September before the administration’s strategy can be evaluated properly. “Certainly the young soldiers and Marines risking their lives today on the streets of Baghdad and Ramadi would agree — and they deserve our patience.”


On the Net:

White House interim progress report on Iraq:


  1. Bill Jonke

    Here we are, bearing witness to another Dog and Pony show by the house.

    The president is insane, and matters need to go beyond what Congress can or cannot do.

    Do you think Bush is ready for a straitjacket yet?

  2. LurkingFromTheLeft

    Sign Him Up…

    …he sees signs of progress –

    …and I see dead people! –

    …maybe this is a Bruce Willis movie –


  3. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Even the DemoKrats that voted to get out still keep the proviso except a small contingent to train Iraqi
    soldiers, protect assets & fight Al Qaeda. That involves being in Iraq, protecting the Super McEmbassy and permanent bases which assumes the Iraqi government will have its security chops together and agree to be raped by the oil deal to benefit Amerikaner Oil Greed.

    The Dems are largely just as full of scheise as much
    as the Repbulikaners

  4. gene

    This event isn’t even worth commenting on anymore. Bush and Cheney are both dictators and Congress as usual is nothing but a helpless bunch of whoring scum bags.

  5. SEAL

    It becomes more apparent every day and with every action that the democratic plan is to harass Bush and use him to discredit the republican party for the remainder of his term. They can’t muster the votes to override a veto and stop the war but they can place all the blame on those repug congressmen and senators for backing Bush. Meanwhile, all those running as democrats against the prepugs will be saying they will stop the war right up to voting day. The dems don’t give a damn how many die or what the cost is to the country, they just want all those seats in congress. If their plan works this will be the biggest landslide victory in history.

    Of course, we all know they can stop the war any time they choose by not funding it. But that’s why they continue to allow the “support the troops” slogan to fly, that’s their excuse for not cutting off the money. The public bought that bullshit from the beginning as if we would leave our soldiers out in the line of fire with no bullets. That doesn’t inspire much hope for this country if the people are that damn dumb and explains why Bush has been able to get away with all their crap for over 6 years. They still have almost a third of them under their spell.

    All the complaining and ranting and raving we do here is a waste of time. Nothing will change the democrats plan. They are so myopically focused on it they don’t realize the danger they are leaving open from the crazed megalomaniacs in the White House. They have me convinced they have another terrorist attack in the works. It may be planned for Isreal or Europe this time. They would thus benefit from the the support of the European nations if it happened to them. Almost anything is possible. That near miss that was thwarted in England may have been an indicant of things to come.

    One thing is obvious. They have deliberately allowed al Queda to rebuild. I think bin Laden died about a year ago from kidney failure. Probably because he could not get proper medical treatment. And I believe our spooks know that. But they need to keep the bogeyman alive. Another myth they perpetuate is this vast network idea. The reality is there are only independent terrorist groups operating on their own in different places, all with the same goals. We monitor them but do nothing to stop them. In fact, we would facillitate them which is, I believe, what happened on 9/11 and then finished the job for them with controlled demolition. Anyone who knows anything about construction who watched those buildings come down can have no other conclusion. That was controlled demolition. One building wasn’t even hit by a plane.

    All we can do is wait and watch to see what happens while the democrats screw around with winning their seats in congress, unless the Bushitas pull another one off and snatch their victory away from them by proving they were right all along. We are helpless observers.

  6. bryan mcclellan

    The Troops deserve our patience ? Shouldn’t that statement be turned around? Surely they would know how to evaluate it properly .(Translated)I think mr mcconell meant to say Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah you’re screwed til fall. Nice to know the gov is looking out for ya isn’t boys and girls……..

  7. mojibyrd

    What is the sense…

    Why have a senate and congress when Dictator George feels he can do what he wants whenever the hell he feels like it…why should tax payers pay all these sob’s in the white house if they are merely just window dressing….or is this just a government gone wild to be aired nightly on the propoganda channel called fixed (fox) news…something must be done with this group in office and before 2008 elections.

    Impeach Bush Now