Bush Denounces Iraq War Timetable
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; 4:22 PM
Stepping into an increasingly personal dispute over a crucial war-funding bill, President Bush today denounced congressional Democrats for approving legislation that contains a timetable for bringing U.S. combat forces home from Iraq, and he repeated his vow to veto it on grounds that it would "embolden our enemies," undermine troops in the field and threaten Americans' safety at home.
In a somber statement on the South Lawn of the White House before leaving on a trip to New York, Bush said he was willing to meet with Democratic leaders "as many times as it takes to resolve our differences," but he signaled no intention to compromise with them on the funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later, Vice President Cheney and Democratic leaders traded barbs over the $124 billion emergency war-funding bill, a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) described Cheney as the Bush administration's "chief attack dog" against the Democrats' plan to end the war in Iraq. Reid said yesterday that Cheney lacks credibility and has offered "wildly irresponsible and inaccurate attacks on us and our strategy."
Cheney today said Reid's comments were "uninformed and misleading" and accused him of "defeatism" on Iraq.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) called Cheney's attacks on Reid "as disturbing as they are disingenuous" and dismissed the vice president as "the American Idol of outlandish claims."
Separately, Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Bush to face reality and reconsider his veto threat.
Bush spoke a day after House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on legislation that would provide $95.5 billion for the wars this year -- $4 billion more than Bush requested -- but would also set timetables for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq tied to the Iraqi government's progress in meeting a series of economic, political and military benchmarks. Regardless of Iraqi compliance, the bill calls for beginning the "phased redeployment" of U.S. forces out of Iraq no later than Oct. 1, with a goal of ending U.S. combat operations in Iraq by April 1, 2008.
Democratic negotiators on the House-Senate conference committee removed some funding items that had come under heavy criticism, but their final version of the bill still contains billions of dollars in appropriations unrelated to the wars, including $3.5 billion in domestic agricultural assistance. It also includes $1.8 billion for veterans' health care that Bush had not requested and $2 billion more than the White House wanted for homeland security.
"Yesterday, Democratic leaders announced that they plan to send me a bill that will fund our troops only if we agree to handcuff our generals, add billions of dollars in unrelated spending and begin to pull out of Iraq by an arbitrary date," Bush said. "I'm disappointed that the Democratic leadership has chosen this course. The bill they announced yesterday includes some of the worst parts of the measures they had earlier passed with narrow majorities in the House and the Senate."
However, a group of retired generals who have criticized Bush's conduct of the war released statements today applauding the supplemental appropriations bill, calling it the best way to show real support for U.S. troops.
"The bill gives the president a chance to pull back from a disastrous course, reorient U.S. strategy to achieve regional stability, and win help from many other countries -- the only way peace will eventually be achieved," said retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. His and other flag officers' statements on the congressional action were distributed by the National Security Network, a Washington-based group that advocates what it calls "progressive national security policy solutions."
Reid responded to Bush's comments by charging that "the president apparently remains in a dangerous state of denial about the situation on the ground in Iraq and its impact on our security at home."