Bush orders gradual troop cuts

President Bush, defending an unpopular war, ordered gradual reductions in U.S. forces in Iraq on Thursday night and said, “The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.”

Still, Bush firmly rejected calls to end the war, saying the insurgents who threaten Iraq’s future are a danger to U.S. national security. American troops must stay in the battle, Bush said, and more than 130,000 will remain after the newly ordered withdrawals are completed in July.

“The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is: return on success,” the president said.

Bush said 5,700 U.S. forces would be home by Christmas and that four brigades — at least 21,500 troops — would return by July, along with an undetermined number of support forces. Now at its highest level of the war, the U.S. troop strength stands at 168,000.

With no dramatic change in course, Bush’s decision sets the stage for a fiery political debate in Congress and on the 2008 presidential campaign trail. Democrats said Bush’s modest approach was unacceptable.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a former Army Ranger who delivered the Democratic response, said that “once again, the president failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it.”

Reed said Democrats would work to “profoundly change our military involvement in Iraq.”

The reductions announced by Bush represented only a slight hastening of the originally scheduled end of the troop increase that Bush announced in January. When the cutbacks are complete, about 132,000 U.S. forces will be in Iraq.

Bush’s speech was the latest turning point in a 4 1/2-year-old war marred by miscalculations, surprises and setbacks.

Almost since the fall of Baghdad, in April 2003, U.S. commanders and administration officials in Washington mistakenly believed they were on track to winding down U.S. involvement and handing off to the Iraqis. Instead, the insurgency intervened and the reality of a country in chaos conspired to deepen the U.S. commitment.

Bush said the U.S. engagement in Iraq will stretch beyond his presidency, requiring military, financial and political support from Washington. He said Iraqi leaders “have asked for an enduring relationship with America.

“And we are ready to begin building that relationship in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops.”

Bush described the withdrawals, and the U.S. forces still fighting in Iraq, as a compromise on which war supporters and opponents could agree.

“The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together,” Bush said.

That appeared highly unlikely, however, based on the reaction of Democratic leaders who want deadlines for withdrawals.

“The American people long ago lost faith in the president’s leadership of the war in Iraq because his rhetoric has never matched the reality on the ground,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “The choice is between a Democratic plan for responsible redeployment and the president’s plan for an endless war in Iraq.”

Majority Democrats in Congress are unable to muster enough votes to force an end to the war. So they are hoping to win Republican support with legislation to limit the mission of U.S. forces to training Iraq’s military and police, protecting U.S. assets and fighting terrorists.

Addressing America’s frustration with the protracted war, the president said, “Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late. They are mistaken. It is never too late to deal a blow to al-Qaida. It is never too late to advance freedom. And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.”

“Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East,” the president said.

He added, “Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East.”

In his speech, Bush acknowledged that Iraq’s government has failed to meet goals for political reconciliation and security. “In my meetings with Iraqi leaders,” he said, “I have made it clear that they must.”

A White House report, to be released Friday, will document the failures of the Iraqi government.

The latest conclusions largely track a comparable assessment in July, the White House said. The earlier report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on the rest. A senior administration official said Thursday that only one of the benchmarks — enacting and implementing legislation to allow former lower ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to hold government positions — has moved from unsatisfactory to satisfactory.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been made public, pointed to the tentative Aug. 26 power-sharing agreement among leading Iraqi politicians that outlined major terms on several issues, including changing the law preventing many former Baath Party members from holding government jobs and elected office.

“Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done,” Bush contended. He said the Baghdad government has passed a budget and is sharing oil revenues among the provinces even though legislation has not been approved. Changes that have begun to take hold in the provinces must be followed in Baghdad, he said.

Bush’s claims of security progress in Iraq were jarred by the assassination of a Sunni sheik who revolted against al-Qaida and fought alongside Americans.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed Thursday by a bomb, dramatizing the danger faced by people who cooperate with coalition forces.

Bush had met with the sheik 10 days ago during a visit to Anbar province. Bush said that after the sheik’s death, a fellow Sunni leader pledged to continue working with the United States.

“And as they do,” the president said, “they can count on the continued support of the United States.”

He said Anbar, once considered lost to al-Qaida, shows what can happen across Iraq. “They show al-Qaida that it cannot count on popular support, even in a province its leaders once declared their home base.”

Bush said he had directed Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, to report to Congress in March with their next assessment of developments in Iraq and the level of U.S. troops needed to handle security.

“Americans want our country to be safe and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq,” Bush said. He said his strategy would permit “people on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.”

Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,700 U.S. troops and cost about a half trillion dollars. His approval rating — both for his handling of Iraq and for his overall performance — stood at 33 percent in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Thursday.

In his speech, Bush directed specific messages to different audiences.

To Congress, he sought support for Petraeus’ recommendations on troop levels.

To Iraqis, he said, “You must demand that your leaders make the tough choices needed to achieve reconciliation.”

To Iraq’s neighbors, he said efforts by Iran and Syria to undermine the government in Baghdad must end and that “the violent extremists who target Iraq are also targeting you.”

To the international community, he appealed for help in revitalizing Iraq’s economy and support for an expanded mission of the United Nations in Iraq.

To U.S. military personnel, intelligence officers, diplomats and civilians on the front line, he said, “You have done everything America has asked of you.”


  1. LurkingFromTheLeft


    …5700? –

    …all at once? –

    …OH be still my heart –

    …the grinch that stole christmas FOREVER has struck again –


  2. JudyB

    I just heard our infamous President say there are 36 coalition forces fighting with us in Iraq. I want to know just who are the other 35 coalition forces with us in this war AND how many individuals do THEY total AND are they fighting along side of our soldiers OR are they safely out of harms way AND HOW MUCH FINANCIALLY ARE THEY CONTRIBUTING???
    I am sick and tired of being told half truths and out and out lies.


    “Half truths are a whole lie, and the most cowardice of all”

  3. SEAL

    I have been wanting one of the reporters ask Bush just exactly how what we are doing in Iraq is protecting the United States. But then I remembered that Bush does not allow himself to be questioned by reporters after his fairy tales and that he is always surrounded by no less than a company or brigade of his past or present troops he says we must support that makes it impossible for any reporter to get within shouting distance of him.

    No matter what, no matter the reason, every time the Iraq subject comes up, regardless of how he veralizes it, the message is always the same – stay the course in Iraq. And that course, of course, is whatever he feels like doing. This last presentation is the most obvious load of crap yet.

    He says we are making progress when every statistic, every report, and every reality clearly shows we are not. He says we are winning and in control when we are not. That was clearly demonstrated today by al Qaeda delierately killing the Sunni Chief that had joined forces with us just before he made his speach. I.e., they can do it anytime the wish. They made their point. Again. Every time there is some sort of declaration about how well we are doing, they take out someone important just to demonstrate the reality. So, who is really in control? I suspect the only reason he got in and out of Iraq safely was because they just love him being in charge. They wouldn’t want to see him replaced by anyone with any brains.

    He blames Iran for feuling and supporting the insurgents. His proof of that is a few Iranian made weapons they discovered that have been used against us. If that is the standard, then lets count how many of the weapons being used against us have been made in america, or russia, or france, or china, or – well you get the point. They even have Iraqi police uniforms and Iraqi police cars to stop armored cars and steal a million here and a half million there several times now. Or to kidnap some of our guys. I doubt those things came from Iran.

    He says the Iraqi government is making progress when they are not. 4 years of no progress! They are futher apart today than when they started. He says the country is more secure when the number of deaths continues to increase daily. Ours (3758) and theirs (over a million). He says our nation is more secure because of what we are doing in Iraq when Iraq has nothing to do with our security and never did. We have borders peole cross, papa carrying a matress and box springs and frame, the kids carry the dresser, and mama brings the clothes.

    He says if we pull out they will follow us home when they don’t even have a row boat or a Piper Cub and we have the most powerful Navy the world has ever seen. Perhaps their intel has discovered al Qaeda has built up a shitload of frequent flyer miles? But just imagine anyone who resembles an arab getting off an airplane at Kennedy International. Good luck there mohammed.

    Bush has to be the most arrogant SOB on the planet. He just creates his own reality by declaring it so. He simply ignores every fact, or whatever any reports show, or what anyone says. What he says is the way it is. It’s very simple for him. He just creates his own reality for us and screw what anyone thinks about it. How the hell can 33% of americans believe this psycho? How the hell can any member of congress, regardless of party affilliation, allow such a baldface liar to continue to occupy the position of commander in chief of our armed forces?

    Somewhere in the realm of reality there is a line drawn that every person must be aware has been crossed – long ago.

    This is not the America I grew up in. This is not the America I gave 32 years of my life in defense of. This is not America.

  4. outhereinthewest

    somehow, I don`t think 5700 is gonna be a sufficient number of troops to keep the people in this country under the heel when he declares martial law!

    N, besides I don`t really think (least I hope) he`s gonna be able to get the military to see the people of this country as the enemy!

    even tho the troops over there are so discouraged from the chicken-shit situation they gotta put up with over in the ol sand-box! they just wanna kill somebody! only thing is they don`t know who to gas THIS WEEK!

    wait a minute! he`s the bad guy now? the other day he was the good guy! I`m sooo confused!

    so, maybe when they do get sent back home, they`ll be so spun-out, it won`t even be a problem for em to enforce the policy of Dumbya-Darth, n help round up alla the folks (enemy combatants?) like you n me and make us see how much better it`s gonna be if we just see things their way!

    course, if they cant count on the military to do this for em, there`s always the mercs! I`m sure Blackwater n Triple Canopy could use the funds!