Americans have been asking a simple question for years. What is meant by success in Iraq?President Bush finally anwers the question.
Source: Agence France Presse 05/02/2007
WASHINGTON, May 2, 2007 (AFP) -
US President George W. Bush on Wednesday was to host top Democrats to wrangle a truce in the bitter feud over the Iraq war one day after he vetoed their effort to tie funding to a withdrawal timeline.
Hours before White House talks also set to include Bush's Republican allies, each side urged the other to compromise amid increasing talk of agreeing to "benchmarks" for the Baghdad government but no sign of a deal on a pull-out.
"I am confident that, with goodwill on both sides, that we can move beyond political statements and agree on a bill that gives our troops the funds and the flexibility they need to do the job," said the president.
Bush, an unpopular leader waging an unpopular war, signalled some of his strongest support yet for clear "benchmarks" for the Baghdad government as he addressed a very friendly crowd at a national builders' meeting here.
"Iraq's leaders still have got a lot to do," he said. "They've got a lot more to do and the United States expects them to do it, just like I expect them to remain courageous and just like they expect us to keep our word."
But he rejected any "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq, the chief reason he gave Tuesday for vetoing a 124-billion-dollar spending bill for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that also set October 1 as the start date for withdrawing the 146,000 US troops in Iraq.
The Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, said he hoped the chamber would vote on a new Iraq war budget within two weeks, and signalled that the party would not choke off funding for US troops.
"We will not allow this to languish," he said. "We are going to fund the troops, we are not going to leave our troops in harm's way without the resources that they need."
Such a schedule would allow the Senate to take up its own version and send the new emergency bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Bush at the end of May, he said.
"What we can do is bring about benchmarks for accountability," Democratic Representative Kendrick Meek told CNN television Wednesday. "It's now going on five years. The president wants another blank check."
Bush, in remarks to a builders' association, defended his decision to send more US troops to Iraq this year and pleaded for patience with his approach amid polls showing that both he and the war are deeply unpopular.
"We are heading in the right direction," he said, telling the friendly audience that signs of progress in Iraq were "not headline-grabbing" and "certainly can't compete with a car bomb or a suicide attack."
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox television that benchmarks for the Iraqis government "is the place where compromise could well be achieved."
"There's bipartisan frustration -- frustration in the Congress with the Iraqi government. I think we can reach an agreement on the kinds of requirements of the Iraqi government that they ought to be pursuing," he said.
He cited the Baghdad government's struggle with passing legislation on oil revenue sharing, setting up local elections, and other matters.
"There are a number of other things they know they need to do in order to continue to enjoy our confidence. And most of it has not yet been done," McConnell warned.
Bush also seemed to fine-tune his definition of victory in the war, saying: "The definition of success as I described is 'sectarian violence down.' Success is not, 'no violence.'"
"There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives," he said.
Bush had most recently defined success as creating a government in Iraq that can "sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself."