Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Iraq War Bill: Text, Lies, and Accountability


Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the final conference committee-approved bill appropriating $124 billion for the Iraq war through FY 2007. News reports invariably portray the bill as requiring that "American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1. "

While true as far as it goes, that media rendition of the bill is one-dimensional; certainly better than the mendacious "cut and run" characterization by Bush and Cheney but it's not the whole truth, either.

The actual language of the appropriation legislation is far subtler and more intelligent than the standard media narrative would lead you to suppose. Essentially, what Congress is doing is trying to hold George W. Bush accountable in a meaningful way for seeing that the Iraq government does what it's been promising for more than three years. Bush wants to escalate a war that virtually everyone on the planet knows is "grave and deteriorating", as James Baker's Iraq Study Group concluded. What the Iraq war funding bill does is require him to vindicate his position with facts, not mere wishful perseverating.

H.R. 1591 explicitly establishes certain specific "performance benchmarks" measuring "whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitments" in specified list of national war policy goals. It then requires the executive branch to report back to Congress with specific 'determinations' detailing whether "substantial progress" toward each of those policy goals is being achieved.

You can read the entire bill by wading through the Congressional Record here or focus on just the core Iraq War language of the final conference committee bill language here. This is the essence:
SEC. ___. (a) The President shall make and transmit to Congress the following determinations, along with reports in classified and unclassified form detailing the basis for each determination, on or before July 1, 2007:

(1) whether the Government of Iraq has given United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, and is making substantial progress in delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference; intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis; ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces; eliminating militia control of local security; establishing a strong militia disarmament program; ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws; establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan; and eradicating safe havens;

(2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including enactment of a hydro-carbon law; adoption of legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections; reform of current laws governing the de-Baathification process; amendment of the Constitution of Iraq; and allocation of Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects;

(3) whether the Government of Iraq and United States Armed Forces are making substantial progress in reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq; and

(4) whether the Government of Iraq is ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament are protected.
Iraqi Parliament are protected.

(b) If the President fails to make any of the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq no later than July 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(c) If the President fails to make any of the determinations specified in subsection
(a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq no later than July 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(d) If the President makes the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this or any other Act are immediately available for obligation and expenditure to plan and execute a safe and orderly redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq, as specified in subsections (c) and (d).

(f) After the conclusion of the redeployment specified in subsections (c) and (d), the Secretary of Defense may not deploy or maintain members of the Armed Forces in Iraq for any purpose other than the following:

(1) Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. armed forces;

(2) Serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions;

(3) Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach; and

(4) Training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision oflaw, 50 percent of the funds appropriated by title I of this Act for assistance to Iraq under each of the headings ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’ and ‘‘International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement’’ shall be withheld from obligation
until the President has made a certification to Congress that the Government of Iraq has enacted
a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis;
adopted legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taken steps to implement such legislation, and set a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections; reformed current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws; amended the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in Article 137 of such constitution; and allocated and begun expenditure of $10,000,000,000 in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.

(g) The requirement to withhold funds from obligation pursuant to subsection (f) shall not
apply with respect to funds made available under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’
for continued support for the Community Action Program and Community Stabilization Program
in Iraq administered by the United States Agency for International Development or for programs and activities to promote democracy in Iraq.

(h) Beginning on September 1, 2007, and every 60 days thereafter, the Commander, Multi-National Forces—Iraq and the United States Ambassador to Iraq shall jointly submit to Congress a report describing and assessing in detail the current progress being made by the Government of Iraq regarding the criteria set forth in subsection (a).
Other provisions in the bill seek to enforce long-standing Defense Department policies that only "mission capable" Reserve and National guard forces be deployed to Iraq and that none "be deployed for combat beyond 365 days" (or 210 days for Marine Corps units).

As to all such conditions, of course, Congress possesses reserved powers of the purse to alter, amend, extend, or even eliminate conditions of war funding, just as Bush himself has chosen to seek funding for his Iraq War adventure through a series of "supplemental" budget requests rather than by the usual annual appropriation process.

As Rep. John Murtha says --
This bill is called the Iraq Accountability Act for a good reason. It requires accountability on the part of the Iraqi Government to solve its own civil war. It calls for the President to be accountable for our military readiness and the welfare of our troops and to begin a responsible redeployment of our forces from Iraq.
Murtha goes on to say that if Bush vetoes the act, as expected, "he is denying our troops the resources that they need; he is denying our veterans the medical care they deserve; and he is denying the American People a new direction for Iraq."

Actually, what Bush would be denying is that he is accountable to anyone, ever -- much less to Congress. A veto would signal that Bush thinks he can continue bumbling along wasting American lives and treasure in Iraq without answering to anyone. Even as the facts on the ground continue to deteriorate, as Sudarsan Raghavan reports from Baghdad:
Ten weeks into the security plan, even as U.S. lawmakers propose timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal, there has been little or no progress in achieving three key political benchmarks set by the Bush administration: new laws governing the sharing of Iraq's oil resources and allowing many former members of the banned Baath Party to return to their jobs, and amendments to Iraq's constitution.
You see? Those are the Bush administration's own benchmarks embedded in H.R. 1591. How can the White House reasonably object to them, unless it really wants to let Iraq get away with ignoring them?

Army General David H. Patreas knows better. While briefing Congress yesterday he declined to do anything to influence the vote on the Iraq War Accountability bill. Instead, he acknowledged that by September it will be possible "to judge whether the troop increase was meeting its goals in quelling the sectarian and terrorism-related violence in Iraq."

In other words, both Congress and Gen. Patraeus think only eighty percent of one more Friedman unit is needed. Then it will be clear whether Bush's escalation has succeeded or failed, whether he can be vindicated or should be vilified.

That's why Bush will veto the bill. He refuses to be held accountable to anyone.

Thurs., Apr. 26 pm

The U.S. Senate today passed the same bill, H.R. 1591, by a vote of 51-46. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) is quoted today as saying, “I believe that this legislation, if people were to just take their time and read it, is the exit strategy that the president ought to be pleased to receive.”

The actual text is right here, above. Take the time. Read it, please.

1 comment:

paperfrog said...

Hmmm ... not a word about the tens of thousands -- some say 100,000 -- mercenary troops contracted through Blackwater Security.

Maybe I missed it. If not: an enormous loophole. The president can still make war through what increasingly functions as the Administration's private army.