The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that House Democrats are pushing for legislation that will require U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by fall of 2008. That sounds like a timeline to me.
The legislation reportedly also says that the withdrawal deadline will move up to the end of 2007 if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government doesn't meet benchmarks set for readiness of Iraq's security forces.
Thursday afternoon, Senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced a joint resolution calling for U.S. troops in Iraq to begin redeployment in 120 days and for all American combat forces there to be redeployed by March 31, 2008.
Timelines and benchmarks: it's about time.
Crystal Balls and Tea Leaves
As Will Rogers once famously said, all I really know is what I read in the papers, and I don't believe most of what I read in them. From what I can divine between the lines, it looks like the Democrats have given up on trying to stop Mr. Bush's surge, but are taking measures to ensure the surge doesn't turn into a long-term escalation. The proposed House bill, according to AP, "also calls for the Pentagon to adhere to its existing standards for equipping and training U.S. troops sent overseas and for providing time at home between tours of combat."
From what U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and his number two man Lieutenant General Ray Odierno are saying publicly, the full surge--five combat brigades plus 7,000 something support personnel and 2,000 or so military police--won't be in place until sometime in June of this year. Odierno says the surge force level can't last beyond August without taking draconian measures that would include extending tours in theater and cutting stateside rotations short.
This clumsy dance will float back and forth across the floor until the inevitable happens. Whether the Democrats manage to push a timeline and benchmark bill through or not, U.S. ground forces will poop themselves dry sometime late this year or early in 2008. We'll end up redeploying to the periphery like Jack Murtha recommended back in November 2005.
As the 2008 election madness heats up, the Republicans will try to gin up spin that either says they achieved "victory" by staying the course or blame "defeat" on the Democrats and the liberal media.
A Tectonic Shift?
Recent media reports suggest that Dick Cheney is losing his influence on young Mr. Bush subsequent to the Scooter Libby convictions. I'm not convinced of that just yet. Cheney and his neo-confederates have been propping Bush's empty hat above the podium throughout his tenure in the White House. 60 years old now, Bush has never been held responsible for any of his actions and never had to pass a test he couldn't cheat on. If you've noticed, he's starting to look his age. It's about time he started acting it.
It may be that Congress will finally get him and his administration under control and hold them accountable for their horseplay. From the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform:
Chairman Henry A. Waxman announced a hearing on whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. At the hearing, the Committee will receive testimony from Ms. Wilson and other experts regarding the disclosure and internal White House security procedures for protecting her identity from disclosure and responding to the leak after it occurred. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 16.
Can we dare to hope that the grown ups are taking back control of the kindergarten we call Washington D.C.?
Over the weekend, you might want to check out this interview between David Swanson and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski. Kwaitowski's last assignment was in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary for Policy Near East South Asia (NESA) Policy directorate, and she knows a little something about what went on during the Iraq intelligence bake sale. The money quote regards her assessment of Doug Feith's infamous Office of Special Plans.
There is no doubt in my mind that what they were impeachable offenses.
Have a good weekend. Let's all hope the sun rises come Monday morning. (I have it on best authority that the odds makers in Vegas say it will.)
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.