Alexa

Bush prepares veto of Iraq bill requiring U.S. troop withdrawals

Bush prepares veto of Iraq bill requiring U.S. troop withdrawals

Hours before vetoing a war spending bill, President George W. Bush said Tuesday that Democrats who made the legislation a showdown over withdrawing U.S. troops could turn Iraq into a terror-spreading "cauldron of chaos" with their approach.
"Success in Iraq is critical to the security of free people everywhere," Bush said at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, including Iraq.
The Democratic-led Congress was holding a ceremony Tuesday to send the bill to the president, and he planned to veto it soon thereafter, immediately upon his return to the White House from Florida. The White House said Bush would go before television cameras to explain his veto, just before the evening news shows.
On Wednesday, Bush is scheduled to meet at the White House with bipartisan congressional leaders, including the leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats, to begin discussing follow-up spending legislation.
Reid accused Bush of putting American troops "in the middle of a civil war" in Iraq, according to prepared remarks that he planned to deliver during the Tuesday ceremony.
"After more than four years of a failed policy, it's time for Iraq to take responsibility for its future," Reid said. "Today we renew our call to President Bush: There is still time to listen. There is still time to sign this bill and change course in Iraq."
Democrats had time bill to arrive on the president's desk by Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of Bush's announcement aboard the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. Administration officials described the move as a cheap publicity stunt.
Bush since has acknowledged that the war has not progressed as he had hoped. After the November elections in which Democrats swept up enough seats to take control of Congrress, he announced a new strategy that involved sending additional forces to Iraq.
Without enough votes to override Bush's veto, Democrats are considering revisions to the bill that will fund the troops but not give the president a blank check. A likely option is demanding the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks.
But less clear is what consequences the Iraqis would face if they fail to meet the standards. Democrats want to pull out U.S. troops if the Iraqis fall behind, but such a measure would trigger a second veto.
Some Republicans say they would support tying benchmarks to the more than $5 billion (euro3.6 billion) provided to Iraq in foreign aid, but nothing that would tie the hands of military commanders. It is not clear whether the White House is open to this approach, either. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said over the weekend that Bush would not sign a bill containing any penalties for the Iraqi government.
"House Republicans will oppose any bill that includes provisions that undermine our troops and their mission, whether it's benchmarks for failure, arbitrary readiness standards, or a timetable for American surrender," said Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
When he announced a U.S. troop increase in January, Bush said Iraq's government must crack down equally on Shiias and Sunnis, equitably distribute oil wealth, refine its constitution and expand democratic participation. But he attached no consequences if these benchmarks were not met.
On Tuesday, the president did not explicitly mention the war funding legislation. But he made clear indirectly how he feels about its requirement that troops begin to be withdrawn by Oct. 1, and defending his policy of not only keeping troops in Iraq, but increasing their numbers.
Bush said that pulling the American presence from Baghdad before Iraqis are capable of defending themselves would have disastrous results _ giving al-Qaida terrorists a safe haven from which to operate and an inspiration for new recruits and new attacks.
"Withdrawal would have increased the probability that coalition troops would be forced to return to Iraq one day and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous," he said in remarks to representatives from countries participating in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. "Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world."
Bush's appearance in Florida came exactly four years after his speech on an aircraft carrier decorated with a huge "Mission Accomplished" banner. In that address, a frequent target of Democrats seeking to ridicule the president, he declared that the Iraq front in the global fight against terrorism had been successfully completed.
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," the president said from the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, just weeks after the war began. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
At the time, Bush's approval rating was 63 percent, with the U.S. public's disapproval at 34 percent.
Four years later, with over 3,300 U.S. troops killed in Iraq along with tens of thousands of Iraqis and the country gripped by unrelenting violence and political uncertainty, only 35 percent of the public approves of the job the president is doing, while 62 percent disapprove, according to an April 2-4 poll from AP-Ipsos.


Updated : 2021-04-14 15:16 GMT+08:00