Left: Member of the US 82nd Airborne Division in the Aadhimiya section of Baghdad, Iraq; photo by AP/Maya Alleruzzo
(Washington) House Democrats proposed legislation today that would mandate the removal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August 2008, and that the timetable could be sooner if the Iraqis fail to reach certain benchmarks of progress.
The proposed bill stipulates that the Bush administration and the Iraqi government show progress in bringing stability to Iraq, including benchmarks on the training of Iraqi forces and the sharing of the country's oil revenue. If Congress determines that those conditions have not been satisfied, then a 180-day withdrawal of U.S. troops would begin, quite possibly as early as July 2007.
The proposal, of course, allows President Bush to "certify" that the conditions are being met, which then would force the Democratic-controlled Congress into a showdown with the administration if congressional leaders differed with the President's internal analysis.
While the bill would require the Pentagon to maintain its existing standards for equipping and training U.S. troops sent to Iraq - as well as providing time for them at home between tours of combat - the President would be allowed to issue waivers that exempt the administration from adhering to its own standards.
Moreover, the bill would be meaningless if - as it appears to this writer at this moment - the Middle East devolves into a wider regional war. How long, for example, will Israel remain on the sidelines with regard to Iran's nuclear program? The region is a powderkeg, and US forces are at the center of what could be the largest conflict in the history of the Middle East.
The result of the Murtha-led campaign, unfortunately, is a relatively toothless piece of feel-good legislation that serves only one purpose: to attempt to convince voters in 2008 that the Democrats are the party of results. Ultimately the President and the warhawks still call the shots, and troops will not return home any sooner with this insignificant, enervated shred of legislative fluff.