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Archive: January 2007
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Blogosphere
Brzezinski Will Say to Senate Foreign Relations Committee
01/31/2007 5:28 PM ET
Steve Clemons over at The Washington Note has gotten his hands on an advanced copy of the opening statement that Zbigniew Brzezinski will be giving at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing tomorrow.

The hearing doesn't appear to be on C-SPAN's schedule for tomorrow, but is supposed to be broadcast live on CNN Pipeline. Brzezinski will be appearing with Brent Scrowcroft.

From the way the statement reads, one could probably assume that Zbig is a little disappointed at the way things have been going lately.

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

And that is just the first point in a very, very long tract. Brzezinski also has a few recommendations for what the U.S. should do:

1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.....

2. The United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.

The third and fourth points predictably urge a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as part of a broader regoinal strategy, and multilateral discussions with ALL of Iraq's neighbors, plus others.

Full Report PDF
Survey of 1,100 Finds Inadequate Supply of Force-Protection
01/31/2007 4:54 PM ET
AMERICAblog has written about Rep. Louise Slaughter's (D-NY) press release regarding a DoD Inspector General's report made public this week, which identified persistent equipment shortages for personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the report's executive summary:

".... Based on responses from approximately 1,100 Service members, they experienced shortages of force-protection equipment, such as up-armored vehicles, electronic countermeasure devices, crew-served weapons, and communications equipment. As a result, Service members were not always equipped to effectively complete their missions...."

Read full report here. dod_ig_equipmentaudit_1_25_07.pdf

The Bush Plan
Bush: "I Do Not Feel Abandoned" By Republicans Working With Democrats
01/31/2007 4:38 PM ET
Reuters reports that Bush remains steadfast as ever on his Iraq stance. Steve Holland writes: President George W. Bush said on Wednesday "I don't feel abandoned" by fellow Republicans in Congress who are working with Democrats to protest his Iraq policy with a congressional resolution.In a television interview, Bush shrugged off criticism of his plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq and said he hoped lawmakers would give U.S. forces what they needed to get the job done. Some of Bush's Republican allies are breaking with him over Iraq as the war becomes more unpopular and his job approval numbers wane. The Senate is poised to take up a resolution opposing Bush's new strategy with a debate expected next week. Bush told Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto, the following: "And what do you expect? When times are good, there's millions of authors of the plan. When times are bad, there's one author, and that would be me."
Blogosphere
Blogger Has 30,000+ Signatures for His NCRC Pledge
01/31/2007 2:21 PM ET
Hugh Hewitt, a blogger over at Townhall.com, has started a blogospheric campaign against any Republican Senator who votes against President Bush's escalation. As he writes:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution.

The NRSC pledge, so named because it directly addresses the National Republican Senatorial Committee, currently has 31,413 signatories pledging to do the same.

DC Scoop
Oversight Committee Panel Assembles Who's Who of Reconstruction
01/31/2007 1:03 PM ET
Former Viceroy Paul Bremer, Blackwater Owner Erik Prince and many others have been called to testify in front of the Democratic Staff Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in their hearings on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.

Day One, on Tuesday, February 6th, promises to be interesting with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the former Administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority headlining, followed by Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Ambassador Timothy Carney, Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq, U.S. Department of State and David Oliver the money man for the CPA.

Day Two is when the fireworks should begin. For the first time (if they appear) Erik Prince will be on the program with the families of the four former employees were were killed in Fallajuh. The families are also part of a well publicized legal action against Blackwater)

Days Three and Four won't have the impact or drama but the Democrats are sending a clear message that they are the new sheriff in town.

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform U.S. House of Representatives Hearings on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

Description: The topic of the hearing will be the United States' involvement in Iraq reconstruction. Ambassador Paul Bremer will testify for the first time since leaving as head of the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority. He will testify about Iraq reconstruction and answer questions about an audit report issued on January 30, 2005, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that concluded that more than $8.8 billion in cash under the CPA's control was dispersed without adequate financial controls or accountability. Ambassador Bremer will also be asked to respond to allegations that the CPA filled positions with unqualified staff who were politically connected. Invited Witnesses: Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Former Administrator, Coalition Provisional Authority Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Ambassador Timothy Carney, Coordinator for Economic, Transition in Iraq. U.S. Department of State

David Oliver, Former Advisor, Iraq Ministry of Finance, Former Director of Management and Budget, Coalition Provisional Authority

Day 2 Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 10:00 a.m. 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing Title: Iraqi Reconstruction: Reliance on Private Military Contractors and Status Report

Description: The topic of the hearing will be oversight of contractors engaged in Iraq reconstruction, with a particular emphasis on private security contractors. Family members of four Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah will testify about what they view as the company's alleged failure to provide armored vehicles and other critical safety equipment. The Committee will also examine in detail Blackwater's security operations in Iraq under multiple layers of contracts and subcontracts that compound costs to the taxpayer. In addition, nonpartisan auditors from the Pentagon and the Government Accountability Office will give a broad overview of progress in key reconstruction sectors and detail billions of dollars in questioned costs.

Invited Witnesses: PANEL ONE - AUDITORS

David Walker, Comptroller General, U.S. Government Accountability Office

Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

William Reed, Director, Defense Contract Audit Agency

PANEL TWO - BLACKWATER FAMILY MEMBERS

Kristal Batalona, Daughter of Blackwater Employee Wesley Batalona

Kathryn Helvenston-Wettengel, Mother of Blackwater Employee Stephen Helvenston

Rhonda Teague, Wife of Blackwater Employee Michael Teague

Donna Zovko, Mother of Blackwater Employee Jerry Zovko

PANEL THREE - CONTRACTORS AND THE PENTAGON

Erik Prince, Chairman, Blackwater, USA

Richard Cousins, Chief Executive, ESS / Compass Group

Jameel A.E. Al Sane, Chairman, Regency Hotel & Hospital Company

William P. Utt, President and Chief Executive Officer, KBR, Inc.

Alan L. Boeckman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fluor Corporation

Tina Ballard, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Procurement, Department of the Army

Stay Tuned
Finding It Impossible To Get Safe Harbor In The U.S.
01/31/2007 12:28 PM ET
Richard Cowan of Reuters writes an article on the millions of Iraqi refugees fleeing violence and sectarian cleansing after the U.S.-led invasion four years ago; they are finding it nearly impossible to get safe harbor in America, including those who risked their lives helping President George W. Bush's war effort. However, he writes: "The new Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress has begun pressuring the Republican Bush administration to open the door to them, especially the Iraqi translators and others who face gang-style execution at home for working with American combat troops. "I think they (the Bush administration) are in the process of moving although I think it's very slow," Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, told Reuters.
Link To Report
U.S. Govt. Audit Blames Violence, Fraud, Chaos in Iraq
01/31/2007 10:33 AM ET
Violence, corruption, and bureaucracy are hindering U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts in Iraq, according to a 579-page U.S. government audit.

The report was produced by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Click here for a link to the full report.

Legislation Would Require Troop Pull Out Within Six Months
01/30/2007 4:48 PM ET
Today in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End War," Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced in his opening statement that he intended to throw his own legislative ideas into the current fray.

"Tomorrow, I will introduce legislation that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after enactment. By prohibiting funds after a specific deadline, Congress can force the President to bring our forces out of Iraq and out of harm’s way.

This legislation will allow the President adequate time to redeploy our troops safely from Iraq, and it will make specific exceptions for a limited number of U.S. troops who must remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism and training missions and protect U.S. personnel. It will not hurt our troops in any way – they will continue receiving their equipment, training and salaries. It will simply prevent the President from continuing to deploy them to Iraq. By passing this bill, we can finally focus on repairing our military and countering the full range of threats that we face around the world."

Though the "power of the purse" has been a topic of much public discussion, Sen. Feingold is the first to harness that exclusive Congressional domain. Though not a political "heavyweight" like Biden, Hagel, or Levin, Feingold has developed a well-earned reputation on the Hill for working quietly to build consensus on issues he feels strongly about.

However, the current environment in Washington is such that even Feingold's particular talents don't make cutting the purse strings a likely end scenario for the Iraq war. Feingold most likely recognizes this and is proposing the measure as a means to expand the debate about options, and/or to negotiate himself into a position of greater political leverage.

Sen. Feingold's office has provided a fact sheet about the impending legislative proposal.

Centcom Chief-Nominee Answers Questions from Senate Cmte Members
01/30/2007 3:57 PM ET
Admiral William Fallon
Admiral William Fallon

Prior to his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Centcom commander-nominee Admiral William Fallon answered dozens of written questions from committee members. Here is the 30-page PDF of the Q & A: Fallon_2001_30_07.pdf

Follow-Up
Two Counts Dismissed Against Him Of Conduct Unbecoming An Officer
01/30/2007 10:51 AM ET
Nelson Daranciang of The Honolulu Star-Bulletin writes of a victory for the Army officer who refused to deploy to Iraq.

An excerpt: The Army dismissed two charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada yesterday, reducing by two years the maximum length of confinement he faces when his court-martial begins next week, his attorney Eric Seitz said.

Watada still faces up to four years' confinement on three other charges.

The two specifications for conduct unbecoming an officer the Army is dropping stem from comments Watada made to reporters, including Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg Kakesako, in interviews June 7.

In exchange, Watada has agreed to stipulate that he made the comments attributed to him by the reporters. That relieves the reporters of responding to government subpoenas seeking their testimony during the court-martial.

"We were never happy about the fact that the reporters got drawn into this," Seitz said. "The statements that he's alleged to have made were accurately reported, and we don't disassociate ourselves. We've never disassociated ourselves from any of the comments that have been accurately attributed to him."

Full Report PDF
Civil War "Spillover" Threatens Regional Stability
01/29/2007 12:22 PM ET
With each passing day, Iraq sinks deeper into the abyss of civil war. President George W. Bush has staked everything on one last-chance effort to quell the fighting and jumpstart a process of political reconciliation and economic reconstruction. Should this last effort fail, the United States is likely to very quickly have to determine how best to handle an Iraq that will be erupting into Bosnia- or Lebanon-style all-out civil war. The history of such wars is that they are disastrous for all parties, but the United States will have little choice but to try to stave off disaster as best it can.

To begin to help provide a solution to that dilemma, today the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy released a new report by Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack--"Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover from an Iraqi Civil War."

This Saban Center Analysis Paper examines the history of some dozen recent civil wars to reveal the general patterns by which such conflicts can "spill over" into neighboring states, causing further civil wars or regional conflicts. Historically, six patterns of spillover have been the most harmful in other cases of all-out civil war: refugees; terrorism; radicalization of neighboring populations; secession that breeds secessionism; economic losses; and, neighborly interventions.

From this history, the authors propose a set of policy options that the United States could employ to try to contain the spillover effects of a full-scale Iraqi civil war. The "baker's dozen" of policy options for the United States are:

1. Don't try to pick winners; 2. Avoid active support for partition (for now); 3. Don't dump the problem on the United Nations; 4. Pull back from Iraqi population centers; 5. Provide support to Iraq's neighbors; 6. Bolster regional stability; 7. Dissuade foreign intervention; 8. Lay down "red lines" to Iran; 9. Establish a Contact Group; 10. Prepare for oil supply disruptions; 11. Manage the Kurds; 12. Strike at terrorist facilities; 13. Consider establishing safe havens or "catch basins" along Iraq's borders.

Transcript
Tells Newsweek Iraq Pullout Would Destabilize Afghanistan, Pakistan
01/28/2007 8:14 PM ET
Interview of the Vice President by Richard Wolffe, Newsweek Magazine The Vice President's West Wing Office January 28, 2007

Q Let's start with Iraq, if I may. There's a lot of skepticism on the Hill, even inside the administration about the Iraqi Prime Minister's abilities, desire to take down the militias. Some people have said the militias have put him into power, so why would he take them down or want to take them down. So what gives you the confidence to think that he can actually be up to the job?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we've got a lot of people who want to judge the success of the Maliki administration after some nine months in office. I think it's a little premature. I think he has been direct and forthright in responding to our concerns. I think there is some evidence that he's already beginning to act in terms of, for example, Iraqi forces rounding up as many as 600 members of the Jaish al Mahdi in the last couple of weeks. His commitment to us is to go after those who are responsible for the violence, whoever they may be -- whether they're Baathist or former regime elements or militia, Shia militia or criminal elements. And I think at this stage, we don't have any reason to doubt him.

Q You don't think it's a token gesture?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's -- people are trying to make a judgment on whether or not this plan is going to work I think far too early. And I think in fairness to the Iraqis, they need to be given an opportunity to follow through on their commitments.

Q The President and I think you also have spoken about the possibility of regional war in case of American withdrawal, a chaos in Iraq, and I think the President referred to it as an epic battle between extremists. What's the basis for thinking that it would be a broader war? What lies behind that kind of analysis in your mind?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's a concern that the current level of sectarian violence -- Shia on Sunni and Sunni on Shia violence would increase, and perhaps break out in other parts of the country. It's pretty well concentrated right now in the Baghdad area.

There are a lot of other concerns, as well, with what would happen if we were to withdraw from Iraq and do what many in the Democratic Party want us to do. It clearly would have, I think, consequences on a regional basis in terms of the efforts that we've mounted not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is a conflict that we're involved in on a wide variety of fronts in that part of the world. And hundreds of thousands of people literally have signed on in that battle to take on the al Qaeda or the al Qaeda types, in part because the United States is there, because we're committed, because we provide the leadership, and because we're working closely with people like President Musharraf in Pakistan, and Karzai in Afghanistan and so forth.

And a decision by the United States to withdraw from Iraq I think would have a direct negative impact on the efforts of all of those other folks who would say wait a minute, if the United States isn't willing to complete the task in Iraq that they may have to reconsider whether or not they're willing to put their lives on the line serving in the security forces in Afghanistan, for example, or taking important political positions in Afghanistan, or the work that the Saudis have done against the al Qaeda inside the kingdom.

All of a sudden, the United States which is the bulwark of security in that part of world would I think no longer -- could no longer be counted on by our friends and allies that have put so much into this struggle.

Q But would that encourage them to take a role in an Iraqi civil war? There's this idea that regional powers would step in.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think -- I think when you look at Iraq, you have to look at Iraq in the broader context. And you cannot evaluate the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq only in terms of Iraq. You've got to look at it in terms of what it means in other parts of the globe, really.

Remember what the strategy is here for al Qaeda. Their strategy is that they can break our will. They can't beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have -- but they believe firmly because they talk about it all the time -- that they can, in fact, break the will of the American people and change our policies if they just kill enough Americans, or kill enough innocent civilians.

And they cite Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 as evidence of that, and then they see the debate here in the United States over whether or not we've got the right policy in Iraq, whether or not we ought to stay committed there as evidence reinforcing their view that, in fact, the United States can be forced to withdraw if they simply stay the course that they're on, that is to say the al Qaeda and the terrorist extremists stay the course that they're on.

So Iraq to some extent is a test of that basic fundamental proposition. Is their strategic view that we won't complete the job correct? Or is our strategic view correct, that we can, in fact, organize people in that part of the world, as well as use our forces in order to achieve a significant victory and defeat those elements that, among other things launched an attack on the United States on 9/11 and killed 3,000 Americans.

Q You've made the case that a collapsed Iraq would become a terrorist haven. The President has also said that. Al Qaeda is essentially --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look at what happened to Afghanistan.

Q But al Qaeda is essentially a new organization in Iraq, a Sunni organization and it has this element of foreign fighters. Isn't there a reason to think that if there was full-blown civil war, the Shia would essentially beat them and neutralize that as being a hostile force as they take control of the country?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What's the basis for that?

Q There are more Shia.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let's look at Afghanistan. In 1996, there were no al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's when bin Laden moved in and found refuge there. A handful of Arabs, foreign fighters, if you will, subsequently opened up training camps, trained somewhere -- estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s, developed a safe haven and a base of operations from which they blew up American embassies in East Africa, attacked the USS Cole, launched the planning and training for 9/11. That all took place in Afghanistan under circumstances that are similar to what you've just hypothesized about for Iraq.

Q Okay. Can we talk about Iran? You've traveled the region, you have extensive contact especially in the Gulf, the Saudis, what are you hearing about their concerns about Iran's rise, its role in the region now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think there's widespread concern throughout the region about Iran, and in particular, Iran under Ahmadinejad. I think a lot of people in the area -- I don't want to attribute this to any one particular government -- but a lot of people in the area feel directly threatened. They're concerned about Iran using surrogates such as the Syrians and Hezbollah, for example, in an effort to topple the government of Lebanon. They're concerned about Iran working through Hamas to prevent any progress of the peace process vis-a-vis Israel. They are concerned about sort of a struggle for leadership of the Islamic world between Shia and Iran and Sunnis elsewhere. They're concerned about Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons. And of course, there's a long history of Iran trying to asset itself as the dominant power in the region. It has been a theme that you can find running back several decades.

And one of the unique things I find now as I talk to representatives of governments from the region is they're all pretty much in agreement on that proposition -- greater agreement if you will among the folks in the region than I can recall on most other propositions in recent years.

Q Is there a concern from those allies that America is too tied down, too overwhelmed with the situation in Iraq to deal or have the capacity to deal with Iran?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen that. I think most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there. When we -- as the President did, for example, recently -- deploy another aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, that sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities, and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat.

Q That deployment I suppose raised another round of speculation inside Washington that military action was being worked on, that something was around the corner, can you see a scenario where air strikes on Iran would be justified?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to speculate about --

Q It's my job.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- security action. You've got to ask, but the fact is we are doing what we can to try to resolve issues such as the nuclear question diplomatically through the United Nations, but we've also made it clear that we haven't taken any options off the table.

Q Can we switch to some politics right now? Politics of Iraq, especially. There has been little open support for the President's plan for extra troops in Iraq from the Republican Party. John Warner has obviously come out fairly strongly against it. Do you worry that the party has lost the stomach for the fight?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- my sense of it is that the election results last November obviously represented a blow to our friends on the Hill, Republicans on the Hill -- to go from majority to minority status. I think a lot of members were concerned or felt that their political fortunes were adversely affected by our ongoing operations in Iraq.

My sense of it is that what's happened here now over the last few weeks is that the President has shored up his position with the speech he made a couple of weeks ago, specifically on Iraq. And I think the speech, frankly Tuesday night, the State of the Union address was one of his best. I think there's been a very positive reaction of people who saw the speech. And I think to some extent that's helped shore us up inside the party on the Hill.

Now, we haven't had a lot of votes yet. The one vote that we've seen was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday where -- with the exception of Chuck Hagel -- the Republicans were united in opposing what Biden and Levin and so forth were suggesting. So I think at this stage, that most members on our side of the aisle recognize that what's ultimately going to count here isn't sort of all the hoorah that surrounds these proposals so much as it's what happens on the ground in Iraq. And we're not going to know that for a while yet.

We've got a very good man in Dave Petraeus going out to take command and I think a credible program. And the ultimate test will be how well it works.

Q Senator Hagel said some pretty harsh things about the administration yesterday. He said, there was no strategy. He said --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's not the first time.

Q Well, he said it was a -- the "ping-pong game with human beings." Do you have a reaction to that kind of comment?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I thought that Joe Lieberman's comments two days ago before -- it was when the Armed Services Committee had General Petraeus up for his confirmation hearings were very important. And Joe basically said that the plan deserved an opportunity to succeed that -- I think this was Joe, if it wasn't Joe, one of the other members did -- that we're sending General Petraeus out with probably a unanimous or near unanimous vote, and that it didn't make sense for Congress to simultaneously then pass a resolution disapproving of the strategy in Iraq.

There are consequences of what Congress does under these circumstances. And I thought Joe was effective in pointing out some of those consequences, both from the standpoint of our people who are putting their lives on the line and for the nation, as well as consequences from the standpoint of our adversaries.

Q So you don't think Senator Hagel -- and now you dodged completely responding to his comments -- but they're not helpful to the cause and to the mission?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let's say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved.

Q May I ask about public opinion here because a series of -- a succession of polls have shown this low level of support for the war, for the President's new plan, looking back, you made some comments before the war talking about being greeted as liberators. You weren't the only one. And of course, the early part of the invasion did go better than people expected. But do you think that people weren't sufficiently prepared, public opinion wasn't sufficiently prepared for the length of this conflict, for the difficulties involved? And do you have any regrets about your own role in preparing public opinion for that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we -- the comments I made were based on the best information we had. I think there's no question but what the struggle has gone on longer than we anticipated, especially in Baghdad, that the events such as the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra a year ago was a deliberate al Qaeda strategy that Zarqawi pursued, and it worked. He finally provoked the Shia to retaliate against the Sunni. Things like that, that have I think constituted setbacks.

It does not, though, lead me to conclude that what we're doing in terms of our overall effort, taking down Saddam Hussein's regime standing up a new democracy in Iraq isn't a worthy objective. I think it is. I think we have made significant progress. There's still a lot more to do -- no question about it.

But I guess, the other sense I have that the conflict we're involved in -- not just Iraq but on the broader basis against al Qaeda, against the threat that's represented by the extreme elements of Islam on a global basis now is going to go on for a long time. And it's not something that's going to end decisively, and there's not going to be a day when we can say, there, now we have a treaty, problem solved. It's a problem that I think will occupy our successors maybe for two or three or four administrations to come.

It is an existential conflict. It is, in fact, about the future of civilization on large parts of the globe, in terms of what's represented by al Qaeda and their associates. And it's very important that we recognize it's a long-term conflict, and we have to be engaged. There might have been a time when we could retreat behind our oceans and feel safe and secure and not worry about what was happening in other parts of the globe. But that day passed on 9/11.

And now, when we face the very real prospect that attacks can be mounted against the United States from various parts of the globe, including Europe -- remember, the last threat was out of the U.K. with airliners to be blown up over the Atlantic -- and where the possibility exists that the terrorists could next time have far deadlier weapons than anything they have used to date, this is a very serious problem. And the United States cannot afford not to prevail.

Q The question about the run-up to war, the weapons of mass destruction, do you feel that, in making -- do you feel that your credibility was hurt by that, and that, in a sense, no matter what the warnings are about this broader conflict, that, in some ways, getting beyond the run-up to the war and the eternal debate about the run-up to war, means it's harder to make the case about the broader threats now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I have my own personal view. Obviously there was flawed intelligence prior to the war. We've seen reports from the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Robb-Silberman commission and so forth -- but that we should not let the fact of past problems in that area lead us to ignore the threat we face today and in the future. It would be a huge mistake.

And the -- in terms of whether or not it adversely affected public opinion, I think it clearly did, but that does not lead me to conclude that we didn't do the right thing when we went into Iraq and took down Saddam Hussein's regime, et cetera.

Q The media has this -- if not the media, public opinion has this caricature of you, the Darth Vader in the bat cave, and various things. You must be very familiar with that. Do you think you get a fair crack from the media?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I don't worry about it a lot. I'm at that stage in my life where I'm not running for any office. I'm here to do a job for the President of the United States. It's important that I tell people what I think -- and I do. And from the standpoint of the decisions the President makes and the way we try to conduct business, we don't worry a lot about the polls, what they say about us --

Q Or the newspapers?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- or the newspapers. If you've been around -- by the time I leave here, it will have been over 40 years since I arrived in Washington, and I've been praised when I didn't deserve it, and probably criticized when I didn't deserve it. And there aren't enough hours in the day for me to spend a lot of time worrying about my image.

Q Let me ask you about events going on at the courthouse down -- not far from here. We think it's fairly unprecedented that a sitting Vice President would testify --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to talk about the trial, obviously.

Q About your decision to testify, about the precedent?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sorry, I'm not going to discuss it.

Q Had to ask. I just want to end -- because we're running short of time -- President Ford, his recent funeral, did it put you in a reflective mood about that period? Do you draw any parallels to now? What was the sort of overwhelming feeling as you thought about then and now, going through all the private and public moments surrounding the funeral?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I did think about, obviously, the President a lot as we went through that, really, week-long period of national mourning. I was, like I think a lot of us who were close to him and worked for him and are part of this administration, delighted to see the outpouring of tributes to his leadership, to what he represented to the country under very difficult circumstances, and praise for the tough, tough decisions he made -- in particular, for example, the pardon.

And I reflected back on where we'd been 30 years ago when, after he made those decisions and, obviously, suffered for it in the public opinion polls and the press, and how history judged him 30 years later very, very favorably because of what he'd done and because he had displayed those qualities of leadership and decisiveness, steadfastness, if you will, in the face of political opposition that became a hallmark of his administration.

Q Is there a parallel to now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There may well be.

Q One other question. Bob Woodward reported that President Ford thought you had justified the war wrongly, and that he agreed with Colin Powell that you developed a fever, I think was the word, about Saddam Hussein, about terrorism. Did you feel that was accurate? Did it surprise you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've never heard that from anybody but Bob Woodward.

Q And other comments that -- criticism from Scowcroft about not knowing you anymore -- people have got quite personal, people you worked with before. You wouldn't be human if it didn't have some reaction.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm Vice President and they're not. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you very much.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

END

Transcript
01/28/2007 10:48 AM ET
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________ Internal Transcript February 28, 2007
INTERVIEW OF A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL BY THE TRAVELING PRESS

Aboard Air Force Two En Route Muscat, Oman

3:07 P.M. (Local)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The reason the President wanted me to come, obviously, is because of the continuing threat that exists in this part of the world on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border -- a threat to Afghanistan, clearly, in our efforts there, the Taliban, cross-border operations; a threat to Musharraf and his government. There were something like seven or eight suicide bombings in the last week or two in Pakistan. And obviously also, the threat to the homeland from the standpoint of operations and activities of al Qaeda in this part of the world -- for example, you go back to the airliner plot last fall, second generation Pakistani militants living in the U.K., but with ties back in al Qaeda areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border. So we've all got an interest, obviously, in trying to address those issues.

Let me just make one editorial comment here. I've seen some press reporting says, "Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them." That's not the way I work. I don't know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn't know what I'm doing, or isn't involved in it. But the idea that I'd go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.

I would describe my sessions both in Pakistan and Afghanistan as very productive. We've had notable successes in both places. I've often said before and I believe it's still true that we've captured and killed more al Qaeda in Pakistan than anyplace else. And I think we're making progress in Afghanistan.

My sense of it was Karzai was more positive and optimistic than I'd seen in my recent visits. That doesn't mean that there's no threat. That doesn't mean -- no rosy scenario. There's a hell of a lot of work to be done. The point is a lot of work has been done. I was struck by the luncheon we had with Karzai, he started reciting all the things that had been accomplished since we moved into Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 -- in terms of economically, socially and so forth. He told a story to the group there about -- this was the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- about meeting with a group of tribal elders in one of the remote parts of Afghanistan. He was trying to get them organized to participate in going after the Taliban and governing Afghanistan. And he said the only question they wanted to ask me was, is the United States with you.

Before we launched into Afghanistan, that was a big item with respect to the attitude of the Afghan people.

Q Sir, did you say, is the United States with you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.

I'm struck also by the extent to which both of these governments signed on as allies in the war on terror. It has real meaning to them in their respective countries. If you look at Karzai, folks in Afghanistan and the fact of the presence of the United States, our military role, the economic aid and assistance we're providing, all of this is absolutely vital to their ability to continue to improve the circumstances on the ground, to train their own Afghan forces, and to take on more and more responsibility, viable functioning governments.

I've often spoken and would reiterate again today, when you think about the debate at home, some of my friends on the other side of the aisle arguing that we need to get out of Iraq, then you go spend some time with our allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you can't help but be convinced that that would have a devastating impact, devastating consequences for what they're trying to do, what they've agreed to do in terms of their ongoing efforts with us as allies in these struggles in this part of the world.

Q Could you elaborate on that just a little bit? What sorts -- do you think they see a lack of will on the part of the United States to stick with them as well?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. One of the reasons I think Karzai was upbeat was because of the United States' economic and financial commitment. We've asked for significant sums for him this year in the budget, the commitment of an additional brigade of troops to beef up what's already there, that's all taken as a sign of our commitment, specifically to Afghanistan. They worry about that. They look over their shoulders, obviously, and if they see weakness on the part of the United States, or an unwillingness to carry through on our commitments, they automatically raise questions about how good our commitment to them is.

In Pakistan, a slightly different situation, obviously. We don't have U.S. forces on the ground in Pakistan. But Musharraf, of course, has been the target of assassination attempts. He's been closely allied with us going after al Qaeda. And, again, you've got people who, in effect, are betting the farm, so to speak, that they can count on the United States to be there, and to support them, and in many cases provide the leadership necessary to prevail in this global conflict with these extreme elements of Islam. And it would be difficult to sustain that conviction on their part if the United States were to suddenly decide that the problems in Iraq are too tough; we're going to pack it in and go home. So there are consequences in this part of the world for a course of action that some people are advocating in the U.S.

Q In your discussions with them, do you still get a sense that they're still not taking responsibility on each side of the border for themselves, and that there's still kind of finger-pointing going on about who is in charge and who is enforcing the border?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there's a certain amount of tension there. No question about it, but we are working hard at getting them to work together. We've had some success in that area. There's clearly more to be done.

Q Do you feel like you made headway on that particular issue in these meetings?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think so, but you don't know -- the test will be in terms of whether or not, we're able to see results on the ground. These are age-old problems. You sit down and talk with Karzai, he'll talk about the history of Pashtun rule in the region for 500 years. He can tell you what the Durand Treaty was all about between Afghanistan and India in 1889 or whenever it was, and why that's important to today's conflict and so forth. So this is not a problem that just sort of developed on the spur of the moment. A lot of Afghans living in Pakistan during the Soviet era because they were refugees. A lot of them have gone home now, but there's still some who haven't. There's still some in those refugee camps. So movement back and forth across that border is nothing unusual, nor is it very recent. It's been going on for ages.

Q How much did the current debate in Congress, all the talk about restricting the surge, or revising the resolution, all of that, how much did that contribute to the necessity of your coming here and now? In other words, absent that debate, would there have been a different scenario? Have they forced you to sort of step forward and say, look, don't worry about what you're hearing?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think so.

Q You've spoken also, though, about some of the things that Speaker Pelosi and Representative Murtha have said how that does play to the hands of --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was asked by one of your colleagues.

Q But your answer was very articulate.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I responded very carefully.

Q And you suggested that they make -- they lend comfort to terrorists, essentially.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I said was that that the al Qaeda strategy is based on the notion that they can break the will of the American people. They know they can't beat us in a stand-up fight. But they do believe -- and I think there's evidence to support this -- that they can, in fact, force us to change our policy if they just kill enough Americans, create enough havoc out there. And they cite Beirut in 1983; Mogadishu, 1993, kill Americans, America changes its policy and withdraws. And Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri believe this. They talk about it. It's not a mystery.

And my point was that if we follow what I believe Speaker Pelosi really wants to do in terms of withdraw, that that would validate the al Qaeda strategy. I was very careful in those words I selected. I didn't say "give aid and comfort to terrorists." I didn't say "unpatriotic." I said it would validate the al Qaeda strategy.

Q Back to meeting with President Musharraf, does he understand the failure of the peace deal with tribal leaders? Were you able to present him with evidence of just how much al Qaeda activity is now present in that region?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would describe it -- I don't want to base this on conversation with him. I don't want to talk about my conversation with him. But he is on record as saying it has produced fewer results than he had expected.

Q But you're sense of him -- but your sense talking to him and showing him the considerable evidence that al Qaeda has gotten -- we're seeing training camps once again in this region, does he understand the depth of the problem?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to go beyond where I am, and I don't want to talk about intelligence.

* * * *

Q Do you expect the spring offensive -- the Taliban has made threats, this is going to be their bloodiest year --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there's always a spring offensive. This is a weather-dominated battlefield. And what usually happens is things quiet down in the wintertime, and then pick up again once the spring thaw comes. And spring and summer are times of considerably more activity. But I think last year we were very successful at meeting that. I think we will be this year, too.

I spent over a hour with our senior military commanders yesterday there in Bagram getting briefed. I think they're ready for whatever the Taliban has to offer.

One more question.

Q If I could change the subject to something that came up earlier in the trip. You've talked about Iran and the other threat the U.S. faces there, to what extent do you think your -- it's been described as hawkish, or you're keeping the military option on the table puts a level of risk into the equation that oil markets, for example, factor in and actually help the Iranian government because they're so reliant on oil? Is there a --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's a bit of a stretch. All I said is what we've said consistently for months, even years now, which is that all options are on the table. We haven't taken any option off the table.

Q If you took the military option off the table, markets around the world -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What do you think would happen?

Q I don't know what would happen. But people say oil prices go down 10 percent or 15 percent and that would start to hurt Ahmadinejad.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't buy it.

All right, thank you all very much.

END 3:25 P.M. (Local)

Transcript
Bush: "I'm the Decision Maker," Way Forward Must Preclude Disaster
01/26/2007 12:51 PM ET
Transcript of statement and Q & A session as President Bush met General Petraeus, Defense Secretary Gates, National Security Adviser Hadley, and General Pace in the Oval Office this morning.

10:20 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I just had a full briefing with General David Petraeus about the way forward in Iraq. I want to thank the Secretary, and General Pace, National Security Advisor, for joining this discussion. Congratulations.

GENERAL PETRAEUS: Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: The Senate confirmed this good man without a dissenting vote. I appreciate the quick action of the United States Senate. I appreciate them giving General David Petraeus a fair hearing, and I appreciate the vote. My instructions to the General is, get over to the zone as quickly as possible and implement a plan that we believe will yield our goals.

I thank the General and his family. I particularly want to thank your family for supporting you and supporting our nation. One of the amazing things about our country is that we've got military folks who volunteer to go into a tough zone to protect the American people from future harm, and they've got families who stand by them. Whether you be a general or a private in the military, there is a U.S. -- there's a family member saying, I love you and I support you.

And so, General, I congratulate you and I congratulate the volunteers and their families for making the hard decisions necessary to protect its people from a grave danger. And you're going into an important battle in this war on terror, and I give you my full support, and wish you Godspeed.

GENERAL PETRAEUS: Thank you, Mr. President. If I could thank the Senate, as well, thank my family, and above all thank those great soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians who are out there on the front lines of the global war on terror.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. I'll answer a couple of questions. Jennifer.

Q Thank you, sir. The other night in your State of the Union address, you asked Congress to give your plan a chance. But lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, didn't really miss a step in starting to turn out resolutions against that plan. Why do you think it's okay to go ahead without their support?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And in that I'm the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster. In other words, I had to think about what's likely to work.

And so I worked with our military and I worked with Secretary Gates to come up with a plan that is likely to succeed. And the implementor of that plan is going to be General Petraeus. And my call to the Congress is, is that I know there is skepticism and pessimism, and that they are -- some are condemning a plan before it's even had a chance to work. And they have an obligation and a serious responsibility, therefore, to put up their own plan as to what would work.

I've listened a lot to members of Congress. I've listened carefully to their suggestions. I have picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed, because I understand, like many in Congress understand, success is very important for the security of the country.

Let's see -- Steven.

Q This policy of going after the Iranians inside Iraq, are you concerned that that could be a provocative act in the region?

THE PRESIDENT: I made it very clear, as did the Secretary, that our policy is going to be to protect our troops in Iraq. It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them. That's an obligation we all have, is to protect our folks and achieve our goal.

Now some are trying to say that because we're enforcing -- helping ourselves in Iraq by stopping outside influence from killing our soldiers or hurting Iraqi people that we want to expand this beyond the borders -- that's a presumption that simply is not accurate. We believe that we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically, and are working to do that. As a matter of fact, we're making pretty good progress on that front. As you know, the Iranians, for example, think they want to have a nuclear weapon. And we've convinced other nations to join us to send a clear message, through the United Nations, that that's unacceptable behavior.

And so, yes, we're going to continue to protect ourselves in Iraq, and at the same time, work to solve our problems with Iran diplomatically. And I believe we can succeed. The choice is the Iranian government's choice. And one of the things that the Iranian government has done, is they've begun to isolate their nation to the harm of the Iranian people. And the Iranian people are proud people, and they've got a great history and a great tradition.

Our struggle is not with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, we want them to flourish, and we want their economy to be strong. And we want their mothers to be able to raise their children in a hopeful society. My problem is with a government that takes actions that end up isolating their people and ends up denying the Iranian people their true place in the world. And so we'll work diplomatically, and I believe we can solve our problems peacefully.

Thank you all very much.

END 10:26 A.M. EST

Unanimous Vote -- 81-0, Gains Fourth Star, Replaces Casey
01/26/2007 10:37 AM ET
Details forthcoming. See IraqTicker in right column for details.
Insight
Iraqi Government Needs Legitimate Political Consensus
01/26/2007 07:00 AM ET
President Bush is renewing his effort to create an Iraq that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and is throwing more resources at the project, Barry Posen of the MIT Center for International Studies writes.

He says: "The first priority must be governance, however, as administration and defense cannot happen without a functioning government. And government cannot function without a legitimate, broad-based, political consensus. Such a consensus has eluded Iraqis since March 2003, and the President's new strategy includes no political program to create such a consensus. Instead, he counts on creating a coalition of existing "moderates," which do not exist, as the intense violence within Iraq clearly demonstrates. Thus, the President's troop increases, economic assistance, and intensified training will likely prove futile."

Analysis
Lib Dem Leader Calls for Full Brit Withdrawal by October
01/25/2007 11:45 AM ET
Dissatisfaction over Tony Blair's Iraq policy blew up into a full-scale political row on Wednesday, with the Prime Minister refusing to attend a scheduled House of Commons debate on the matter, and the leader of the Liberal Democrat party calling for a complete withdrawal of all British troops by October.

During Wednesday's weekly Prime Minister "question time," Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the LibDems--the third largest party in Parliament--raised their proposal for a phased withdrawal of troops, and asked, "Should not the Prime Minister set out his proposals in that debate as well?" What followed was an ostensibly polite, but sharply worded, exchange between the two:

Blair: "As I have already indicated, when the operation going on in Basra that allows us to reconsider the configuration and deployment of our forces is finished, I will of course come to the House and report on future strategy for British forces.... For us to set an arbitrary timetable—that is what it is, and it is arbitrary because it is not attached to the conditions in Iraq and simply says that we will pull British troops out in October, come what may—would send the most disastrous signal to the people whom we are fighting in Iraq. It is a policy that, whatever its superficial attractions may be, is deeply irresponsible—which is probably why it is Liberal Democrat policy."

Campbell: "If the Prime Minister feels that strongly, he should come and debate the issues this afternoon. What can possibly be more important than that the Prime Minister should be here to debate the issue of Iraq at a time when the lives of British forces are at risk every day? Is not that the kind of leadership to which we are entitled?"

Blair: "I am debating the issue with the right honorable and learned Gentleman now. I entirely agree that British forces are doing a fantastic job in Iraq in circumstances of difficulty and danger, but let us remind ourselves why they are there. They are there under a United Nations resolution with the full support of the Government of Iraq— The right hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, but let me remind him that in 2003, after the conflict and the invasion of Iraq, there was a United Nations resolution that specifically endorsed the multinational force. We are there with the agreement of the Government of Iraq. When I spoke to the vice-president of Iraq, himself a Sunni, just a few days ago, he made it clear how disastrous it would be to set an arbitrary timetable for withdrawal. The very way that we can ensure that the sacrifice of our troops has not been in vain is to see the mission through and complete it successfully."

Blair then turned to his next question.

After question time had finished, Blair departed for a meeting with a group of business leaders, while the MPs stayed to debate his Iraq policy.

While unusual for a Prime Minister to not at least sit in during such debates, and though Blair is, as a result, facing a storm of criticism in the British press, this was probably a wise tactical political decision on his part. In doing so, Blair chose to face complaints for his failure to attend--a furor that will last only one newscycle--rather than sit through an expected public reaming that would have lived in infamy for years.

The proposal put forth by Campbell's LibDems has no chance of actually forcing a withdrawal of British troops in Iraq, but that's not likely its primary purpose anyway.

The LibDems have vocally opposed the the invasion from the beginning, and with great success have parlayed the British public's extreme unhappiness with the war into significant electoral advantages for the party. In the 2005 general election, they picked up 10 seats and won 22% of the vote--a level of support the party hasn't known since the mid-1980s in its previous incarnation as the Social Dem-Liberal alliance.

While the lively British parlamentarian debate always provides a circus of entertainment, Wednesday's show in the House of Commons was less about policy change than political advantage. Just as in Congress, it has become increasingly popular to take a position against an unpopular war and the even more unpopular leadership who prosecuted it. But it remains to be seen if all the grandstanding will lead to a positive outcome for the problem it is purported to address.

The House of Commons' Hansard report has a full transcript of Wednesday's debate (Iraq debate starts about a third of the way down), and C-SPAN3 will broadcast a recording of it at noon.

Hagel Calls for Record on Iraqi's 'Service' to the U.S.
01/25/2007 11:39 AM ET
The Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing descended into an uncharacteristic vitriole today when the subject turned to Ahmed Chalabi.

Sen. Joe Biden stated, among other negative assessments of Chalabi, that he had "zero, zero, zero confidence" in the man.

Sen. Chuck Hagel then stepped in out-of-turn to aggressively interject that he agreed with the things Biden was saying, and added that he thought Chalabi was "duplicitous." Hagel went on to request that the State Deptartment send the committee all records on Chalabi, specifically mentioning that he wanted to know what bad information Chalabi had sold the government.

When it was later Hagel's turn to address the hearing, he returned more calmly to the topic of Chalabi, articulating all the information he would like to receive.

What Hagel would like to know:

--the history of Chalabi's relations with the U.S. government

--what contracts he was awarded

--how much money he was paid

--what was required from him in return

--the history of his record of success/failure

--his involvement with the Iranians

And Hagel said he wants records from both the State Department and the Department of Defense.

Chalabi was one of the key figures propelling the invasion, wheeling and dealing in bad information and questionable sources.

Sen. Hagel requesting such an extensive dossier of his potential deviance could indicate a growing impetus for holding future hearings on faulty intelligence and the drive towards the invasion.

State Dept Official Reveals New Numbers in Hearing
01/25/2007 10:59 AM ET
In today's Senate Foreign Relations hearing on Iraq reconstruction, David Satterfield, senior advisor to the secretary of state and coordinator for Iraq, stated that Iraqi firms are currently receiving approximately 80% of the contracts for the reconstruction in Iraq.

In response to a question from Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who asked what percentage of the reconstruction dollars have gone to American firms, Satterfield said that in the early days of the war the reconstruction program was structured so that the vast majority of work went to American and large multinational companies.

However, Satterfield explained that over the past 18 months the reconstruction has transitioned into relying much more heavily on Iraqis, engendering a total reversal in the investment of reconstruction dollars.

Full Report PDF
Little Known Government Office Will Spearhead Private Corps
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 01/25/2007 10:33 AM ET
Many scratched their head and googled when President Bush made note of the new "Civilian Reserve Corps". The idea was that the reconstruction of Iraq will need a major influx of skilled civilians to run the projects expected as part of the final part of Petreaus' three part strategy of "Clear, Hold and Build".

Some might have thought a Civilian Reserve would be a neo-Peace Corp or even a way to defray the high billings costs of mega-rent-a-civilian monsters like DynCorp, Halliburton or other government contractors. But no, it appears that the effort is rooted in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. A direct report (to SecState) State Dept agency whose mission is to "To lead, coordinate and institutionalize U.S. Government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy and a market economy."

Something that sounds more like a front for a CIA intelligence gathering operation than a Roosevelt style local reconstruction effort.

Those with good memories might remember the "Civilian Public Service" a way to employ providing conscientious objectors in World War Two. Those with more recent recall will recall the early Republican initiative to create a domestic "Citizen Corps" in November of 2001 and then an enhanced call for a Citizen Corps" in January 30, 2002 he called for Americans to volunteer 4,000 hours over their lifetimes, and announced a major new citizen service initiative - the USA Freedom Corps.

"Citizen Corps initiatives include the creation of a Medical Reserve Corps, a Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program and a Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS) -- as well as a doubling of the Neighborhood Watch program, and a tripling of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program."

The idea was to enhance local communities by adding over 200,000 participants for community service "including 25,000 new AmeriCorps participants -- who will generate an additional 75,000 local volunteers -- and 100,000 new Senior Corps participants)."

There was a promise to double the then Peace Corp levels with a focus on Afghanistan.

But that was then and Hurricane Katrina and the invasion of Iraq have changed the landscape of volunteering and citizen involvement in Iraq (and Afghanistan). Today's civilian volunteers are more likely to be on the front lines in Iraq than in inner city neighborhoods in the U.S.

Since the role of citizens in a "reserves" and the over tasked military and intelligence divisions has forced Bush's vision to take on a much darker, more military face. For example , the Civilian Linquistic Reserve Corps was created out of the fiscal 2005 budget. It was an attempt to beef up translation services by the Director of National Intelligence. LOGCAP, designed in the early 90's as a short term support concept for expeditionary military activities has become the defacto method for the military to operate and survive in Iraq. The GAO estimates that there are over 100,000 civilians working in Iraq, an internal estimate by the Private Security Contractors Association in Iraq estimates that there are 70,000 private guns for hire in Iraq. A Los Angeles Times article pointed out that there are more contractors working for the CIA and NSA along the border with Pakistan than there are full time employees.

The problem with outsourcing critical support tasks to private citizens are many. Regulation, accountability, consistency and even reliability are issues that yet to be addressed in any major forum.

For now much of this fledging effort can be read in a "working document" called Post Conflict Reconstruction Essentials Tasks Matrix on the State Dept Web site. Clearly, the way forward is not clear.

What is obvious is that the lack of mention for Hurricane Katrina in the context of volunteers was not an oversight. Bush intends to draft citizens to bolster military and intelligence efforts in his War on Terror.

Transcript
Calls It Hogwash That Mistakes Hurt Bush Credibility
01/24/2007 4:19 PM ET
CNN reports that Vice-President Dick Cheney is once again going to bat for Bush's war plan.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, a day after President Bush delivered his State of the Union address, the vice president was told that some Republicans in Congress "are now seriously questioning your credibility, because of the blunders and the failures." To that, Cheney responded, "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash." He added that the mistakes have not hurt the administration will move ahead with troop surge, even in light of Congressional resolution, saying "it won't stop us."

The transcript is posted here.cnn_wolf_blitzer.html

The Bush Plan
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Votes 12-9
01/24/2007 1:54 PM ET
This just in:

The AP reports that: Democrats took the first step toward a wartime repudiation of President Bush on Wednesday, a step designed to condemn the deployment of more troops to Iraq.

In the first formal vote since the Democrats took control over the Senate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a nonbinding measure saying President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq is "not in the national interest of the United States" to send more troops.

"We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the only Republican on the committee to announce support for the measure.

Analysis
Comparing Bush's Previous Speeches
01/23/2007 11:48 PM ET
ABC News runs a story about the promises Bush made in the past. Did the President keep his promises from prior State of the Union addresses or not? Of the concrete promises the president made in his 2006 speech, ABC News found that only one-third of them had been kept.

However, analysts argue that the State of the Union speeches often include long lists of policies the president hopes to see the Congress act upon, rather than measures that lawmakers can reasonably be expected to see passed into legislation. "The speech usually defines the direction of where a president wants to be, but not necessarily what can get passed," said John Fortier, a political scientist and research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

This year, Fortier said, Bush is further hampered by a Democratic Congress, which isn't as likely to pass his priorities as the Republican-led Congress last year. Therefore the president will structure his speech around less contentious domestic issues such as the environment, energy and immigration, Fortier said.

Link To Report
White House Releases Fact Sheets On Initiatives In Union Address
01/23/2007 11:15 PM ET
For those who want to take a closer look at the details of the President's plans discussed in tonight's speech:

The 2007 State of the Union Policy Initiatives book including all of the State of the Union fact sheets are now available in pdf form.

Individual topics are as follows:

OVERVIEW FACT SHEET: The 2007 State Of The Union Address

ENERGY: Twenty In Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security

HEALTH CARE: Affordable, Accessible, And Flexible Health Coverage

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: Building On Results: A Blueprint For Strengthening NCLB

IMMIGRATION: President Bush's Plan For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

HIV/AIDS: Leading The Worldwide Fight Against HIV/AIDS

MALARIA: The President's Malaria Initiative Is Saving Lives

STRENGTHENING OUR MILITARY: Strengthening Our Military

SPENDING REFORMS: Reforms To Spend Tax Dollars Wisely

The Bush Plan
Senator Webb Gives Rebuttal Calling Bush "Reckless"
01/23/2007 10:52 PM ET
Senator Webb, who gave the Democratic rebuttal, began by saying that he hoped that the administration was serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

The full text of the rebuttal is posted on the NY Times website.

He says this about Mr. Bush’s plans for Iraq:

"The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed."

Transcript
"New Strategy in Iraq, and I Ask You to Give it a Chance"
01/23/2007 9:30 PM ET
President Bush's State of the Union Address transcript:

9:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own -- as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Congratulations, Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood. (Applause.)

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together.

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate -- and I congratulate the Democrat majority. (Applause.) Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us. (Applause.)

We're not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on -- as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. (Applause.) Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them to build a future of hope and opportunity -- and this is the business before us tonight.

A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have. We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise. (Applause.)

Next week, I'll deliver a full report on the state of our economy. Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.

First, we must balance the federal budget. (Applause.) We can do so without raising taxes. (Applause.) What we need is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. (Applause.) Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. (Applause.) I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and we can balance the federal budget. (Applause.)

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. (Laughter.) In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session. (Applause.)

And, finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet, we're failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true -- yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and goodwill, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid -- and save Social Security. (Applause.)

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. (Applause.) We must increase funds for students who struggle -- and make sure these children get the special help they need. (Applause.) And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children -- and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. (Applause.) When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. (Applause.) But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

And so tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax -- or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings -- $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans. (Applause.)

My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create "Affordable Choices" grants. These grants would give our nation's governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts. (Applause.) We need to help small businesses through Association Health Plans. (Applause.) We need to reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology. (Applause.) We will encourage price transparency. And to protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America -- with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we're doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists. (Applause.) We'll enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers, so there's no excuse left for violating the law. (Applause.)

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. (Applause.) We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. (Applause.) Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol -- (applause) -- using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. (Applause.) When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target. (Applause.) At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks -- and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it's not going to eliminate it. And so as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. (Applause.) And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Applause.)

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. We have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings. As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty, as well, to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (Applause.)

For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger. Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that the terrorists can cause. We've had time to take stock of our situation. We've added many critical protections to guard the homeland. We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us -- unless we stop them.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled: that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them. (Applause.)

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that's the case, America is still a nation at war.

In the mind of the terrorist, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah -- a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people. (Applause.)

This war is more than a clash of arms -- it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom

-- societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies -- and most will choose a better way when they're given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must. (Applause.)

In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. (Applause.)

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia -- and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory. (Applause.)

We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq -- a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it's time for their government to act. Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad -- and they must do so. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party -- and they need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad. Iraq's leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks -- to achieve reconciliation, to share oil revenues among all of Iraq's citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life, to hold local elections, and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all of this to happen, Baghdad must be secure. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally -- their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you've made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way. (Applause.)

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that's why it's important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It's why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We'll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. (Applause.) Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. (Applause.) A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle because we're not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism. In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We're working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq's government.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. (Applause.) With the other members of the Quartet -- the U.N., the European Union, and Russia -- we're pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. (Applause.) In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda offensive -- the first time the Alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area. Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we're pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur. (Applause.)

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease -- and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) Because you funded our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries. (Applause.)

I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat. And let us continue to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hope for lifting lives and eliminating poverty. (Applause.)

When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people. The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage, and self-sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look -- and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine -- but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. (Laughter.) Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth, or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand new hospital in his old hometown. A friend has said of this good-hearted man: "Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things." And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America. (Applause.)

After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment, and began filming children's videos in her basement. The Baby Einstein Company was born, and in just five years her business grew to more than $20 million in sales. In November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to the Walt Disney Company, and with her help Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she is using her success to help others -- producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julie says of her new project: "I believe it's the most important thing that I have ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe." And so tonight, we are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur -- Julie Aigner-Clark. (Applause.)

Three weeks ago, Wesley Autrey was waiting at a Harlem subway station with his two little girls, when he saw a man fall into the path of a train. With seconds to act, Wesley jumped onto the tracks, pulled the man into the space between the rails, and held him as the train passed right above their heads. He insists he's not a hero. He says: "We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We have got to show each other some love." There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey. (Applause.)

Tommy Rieman was a teenager pumping gas in Independence, Kentucky, when he enlisted in the United States Army. In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire; he used his body as a shield to protect his gunner. He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs -- yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy's position. For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and the gratitude of our entire country. (Applause.)

In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America -- and these qualities are not in short supply. This is a decent and honorable country -- and resilient, too. We've been through a lot together. We've met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence -- because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on. God bless. (Applause.)

See you next year. Thank you for your prayers.

END 10:02 P.M. EST

Transcript
Hour-Long White House Briefing Previewing Bush Speech
01/23/2007 5:37 PM ET
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary January 23, 2007

Press Briefing on the State of the Union Speech Room 450 Eisenhower Executive Office Building

State of the Union 2007

2:01 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Welcome. This is an on-the-record briefing. The material before you, these handouts -- the embargo is now broken on these, so these are reportable.

What we're going to do is to give you a detailed overview of the President's proposals in the State of the Union address. Steve Hadley will lead off with a summary. Let me just give you a description of the address. It roughly breaks down 50/50, domestic and foreign policy. The President will have -- and I will allow Steve to characterize the foreign policy aspects. Joel Kaplan, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, will run through the policy items, what you're going to find in the State of the Union policy initiatives book. Dan Bartlett also will do some communications framing. We will have questions, and we have to be out of here promptly at the top of the next hour.

So, with no further ado, Steve Hadley.

MR. HADLEY: The President had an opportunity to lay out his new approach, new strategy for Iraq here two weeks ago Wednesday. As a consequence, he's not going to replow that ground in the speech tonight. What he's going to do is step back, make the point that the struggle in Iraq is part of a broader struggle between forces of democracy and freedom and the forces of extremism that support terrorism and tyranny. He's going to remind the American people that that is the struggle we see in the Middle East, and that Iraq is a part of that, and it is not just a military struggle, it is a broad struggle that is an ideological struggle between two very different views of the Middle East and what life in the Middle East should be about.

He, in that context, is going to talk about the consequences of failure in Iraq, not only in Iraq for Iraqis, but also the consequences of failure in the Middle East and beyond. He will make the point that it will strengthen extremists and terrorists, potentially give them safe havens from which to attack neighbors and also give them the capability to plan against targets here in the United States. So the security of the American people is very tied up with how we -- how the situation in Iraq plays out.

It would also strengthen Iran, an Iran already emboldened by diplomatic success seeking a nuclear weapon, and the prospect that that could pose for American interests in the region. And it would also undermine those in the region who have stood on the side of freedom and democracy, and have taken severe personal risks to standing up against the terrorists.

So it will be a lot about what is at stake. He will talk a bit about the strategy. He will emphasize the point that it is time for the Iraqi government to act, that he has made that clear, the kinds of things the Iraqis need to do. He will also mention, though, and emphasize the fact that security in Baghdad is essential if we are going to make progress with our overall strategy in Iraq. That is really the key issue that is being debated on the Hill today, and why he continues to believe that security in Baghdad is the key for progress in the region.

He is also going to talk about the broader issues in terms of the war on terror. He is going to mention the effort we are making, and both the successes and challenges that have occurred in Afghanistan; the undertakings to try and move towards peace in the Middle East and to implement the vision of two democratic states living side-by-side in peace and security. He's going to talk about the importance of maintaining the commitment and a clear voice on behalf of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma. He's going to talk about the importance of helping the people in Darfur.

Finally, he's going to emphasize that the foreign policy of the United States is not simply about war on terror, as important as that issue is, but that it is also about confronting the ongoing challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease. He's going to talk about his commitment to his initiative against HIV/AIDS, about the malaria initiative. He is going to call for Congress to continue to fund these initiatives, including funding the Millennium Challenge Account, and make the point that the foreign policy of the United States is not just about making the world safer, it is also about making the world better, and the elements of his program that are directed at that objective.

That's what he'll cover tonight.

MR. SNOW: Joel.

MR. KAPLAN: Thanks, Tony.

On the domestic side tonight, the President is going to lay out a positive, comprehensive vision for addressing real problems, real challenges facing Americans today, and he's going to provide real solutions.

I think you heard already in the past couple of days that the President did not want to do a laundry list-type approach that's kind of become the formula for State of the Union addresses. He wanted to focus on a handful of the most serious, biggest challenges that we face where there's real interest and real opportunity to work together across the aisle to come up with good solutions to those problems on behalf of the American people. And I'll just discuss briefly what those are, and then I guess we'll turn to Dan and some questions.

First of all, the President, because he wants to focus on a handful of key issues tonight, he'll note that he's going to address the state of our economy in remarks next week. He'll focus on three economic reforms that he does want to discuss very briefly related to the budget. The first is, he will reiterate that because of the strong economic growth and the revenues that that's generated, that we now have an opportunity to balance the budget within five years, and to do so without raising taxes on the American people, but rather to restrain the spending appetite of their government.

He'll also touch briefly on the challenge of earmarks and the need to make sure that the Congress reforms the process that allows special interest provisions to be inserted into bills, and to call on Congress to expose all earmarks to the light of day and to a vote of Congress, and to at least cut them in half by the end of this session.

Finally, on the budget, he'll talk about how our improved budget position gives us an opportunity to address the real, long-term fiscal challenge that we face which is in our entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and in particular, the opportunity to save Social Security.

The President will then turn to the four initiatives that he wants to discuss in some detail. The first is health care. You've heard, I think, a fair amount about that in the last couple of days, so I'll try to keep it brief on that. The President will lay out his plan for ensuring available and affordable access to health insurance for more Americans.

There are two related proposals to do that. The first is to reform the incentives in the tax code that work against a fair and efficient health system, in particular two things: The President will propose a reform that -- the current tax code discriminates against those who purchase their health insurance on their own, as in they don't get it through their employer. He wants to eliminate that bias in the tax code. He also wants to eliminate the bias in the tax code in favor of the most expansive and expensive health insurance policies.

The way he'll do that is by proposing a standard deduction for health insurance for anybody who has health insurance, whether they buy it from their employer -- or rather whether their employer provides it, or whether they buy it on their own, and regardless of how much it costs. The deduction is $15,000 for a family, $7,500 for individuals.

This helps three groups of people. Today, if you get your insurance through your employer, the President's proposal for 100 million people, 80 percent of the people in that category, the President's proposal will result in a substantial tax benefit. If you're in the category of people who currently provide health insurance on their own, by eliminating the discrimination in the code that group of people will get a substantial tax benefit. A family of four making $60,000 will get a $4,500 tax benefit. And the proposal will help millions of uninsured for the first time get a tax benefit that will put health insurance within reach.

Now, I say within reach because, while it's a substantial benefit, there are a number of low-income and chronically ill people for whom it will be a big help, on average about $3,300 but still not quite enough. And the President has a second proposal called Affordable Choices. And under that proposal, the Secretary of HHS will work with states that are willing to provide access to private affordable health insurance in their state -- if they're willing to do that, the Secretary of HHS will provide assistance in helping the state make sure that their low-income and uninsured can actually get access to that private affordable health insurance. So that's the health insurance proposal that the President will lay out tonight.

He'll also lay out a bold and ambitious proposal on energy. As the President described in last year's State of the Union, we have an addiction to oil, and he'll talk tonight about how that creates a national security risk for our country because it leaves us vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists.

The President will announce a bold new initiative to reduce our gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years, by 2017. We're calling it 20 in 10. And the way he'll do this is with two proposals. To address our dependence on oil, you have to address the supply side and you have to address the demand side. On the supply side, the President will propose a new alternative fuel standard of 35 billion gallons -- mandatory fuel standard of 35 billion gallons by 2017. That's nearly five times the current renewable fuel standard of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. So it's a very ambitious goal, but it's one we think is achievable.

On the demand side, the President will propose that Congress authorize a reformed and modernized CAFE, fuel economy system for passenger cars, that will allow the Secretary of Transportation to increase fuel economy in the same way we've done for light trucks, and by doing so, save up to 8.5 billion gallons of fuel. Together, the 35 billion gallons from the alternative fuel standard represents 15 percent of our gasoline usage in 2017; the 8.5 billion gallons that we're assuming from the increased fuel economy standards represents 5 percent of the gasoline usage in 2017. Together that will allow us to save 20 percent of our gasoline usage in 2017.

Obviously, that's a very ambitious, but achievable goal. It will -- while it will help address our dependency on foreign oil, it won't eliminate it. And so the President will also call on Congress to step up our production of domestic oil and resources in environmentally sensitive ways, and he will call on Congress -- in order to protect from severe disruptions of our oil supply in the future, he'll call on Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion gallons.

The President will also talk about education and immigration in the speech. On education, the President will call on Congress to strengthen and reauthorize the very successful No Child Left Behind Act, which was a signature, bipartisan achievement of the President's first term. The No Child Left Behind Act is working. It's closing the achievement gap. We've raised standards for students across the country and improved accountability. The President will insist that Congress, in reauthorizing it, strengthen the law, but also make sure that Congress does not water down the law or backslide and call it reform.

Finally, on immigration, the President will call tonight for Congress to engage in a serious and conclusive debate on immigration, so that they can pass and he can sign into law comprehensive immigration reform. He'll again highlight that comprehensive immigration reform requires us to secure our borders by doubling the number of Border Patrol and increasing our investments in infrastructure and technology. It requires improving our work site and interior enforcement. But even those measures alone will not secure the border unless we have a temporary worker program which will take pressure off of the border.

In addition to those three components, the President will talk about the need to address in a rational and humane way the millions of undocumented workers who are currently here, and he'll call on Congress to do that without animosity and without amnesty. Finally, any comprehensive immigration reform will include efforts at assimilation, to make sure that new immigrants to this country share in the values that have made the country great.

MR. SNOW: Dan Bartlett.

MR. BARTLETT: I'll just be real brief since most of this has been covered, and get to the questions. But, in essence, the message to the American people is, want to be a gracious President who welcomes and congratulates a Democratic Congress, but also to speak directly to the American people and say, hey, there are big things we can do together. There are big issues in which the American people expect, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, is to cross that aisle and work together. And the President -- through the policies he will outline tonight and what Joel has just described, we believe gives us a really unique opportunity to try to get some big achievements in the coming legislative calendar.

They're difficult issues. They're ones that have been attempted to solve in the past and have come up short. We go into this process with no illusions about the atmosphere in which we're operating in. But the American people send a signal that they want Washington to act differently, they want their leaders to try to find common ground. And we believe both -- when you talk about the elements of the domestic agenda, as well as many elements of the war on terror, obviously there is a very emotional and highly charged debate when it comes to Iraq -- but there are many elements to this war, there are many elements to this foreign policy in which there has been broad bipartisan support. And collectively, if you look at the agenda the President will outline tonight, we do believe it's one that can serve as a basis for bipartisan outreach.

MR. SNOW: All right, what we're going to do is, as in a press conference, we're going to group the questions by topic. We'll begin with the foreign policy questions. Once we've exhausted those, then we'll march through the policy items.

Q Thanks. How much will he talk about Iran tonight? And how specifically and how tough will the language be about Iran?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think he'll break any new ground on Iran. He'll talk about the challenge that Iran poses in the region. He'll also talk about the extremist challenge, which is both a challenge from groups, Sunni groups like al Qaeda. He'll also talk about the challenge of Shia extremists. And, of course, a number of those are supported by Iran, as you know.

So it certainly is a part of the context in the Middle East. It's one of the things one has to consider about what our actions in Iraq and elsewhere would do toward strengthening and empower Iran and feeding Iran's ambitions in the region. But I think it will be things that you've heard from him before, said in a broader context.

MR. SNOW: Let me suggest if you have questions, keep your hands up a little bit so folks with microphones can identify you. That way we can move a little more quickly.

Q How do you want to support freedom in Cuba and Belarus and Burma?

MR. HADLEY: Well, the President has been very clear. We think that there is -- we hope there is an opportunity for a democratic transition in Cuba, where the Cuban people will have an opportunity really for the first time to take control of their own future and define the kind of government they want going forward. We hope that is an opportunity that is going to come in the imminent succession that we see there.

The President has been very clear about Belarus. He has hosted dissidents and those who support freedom and democracy in Belarus in the Oval Office. He's been very clear that it's time for the Belarusian people again to be able to step forward and to find their own future.

And same in Burma -- I mean, we've been very clear. We were pleased to have an opportunity to get a Security Council resolution. Sorry that it was vetoed by two countries, but again, it put the issue of Burma as an issue for the international community. So it's an ongoing effort.

Q Steve, if you could talk broadly about what he's talking about the global war on terrorism and Iraq. Does he really say anything new in talking about what effect it would have in the region and the world if there was failure in Iraq? And also I know you said he wants to look forward in this, but does he again acknowledge mistakes or failures in the past? Just basically, is there anything new on Iraq and global war on terrorism and the mistakes?

MR. HADLEY: Well, I think it is. I think you'll find it's a very good statement about the consequences in the region. We've been doing a lot of outreach to members of Congress over the last two weeks. And one of the things we've heard is that Americans don't understand the connection between what is happening and the war on terror, and doesn't understand the connection between the outcome of the war on terror and security here at home. And what the President is going to do is sort of walk through those connections. And I think you'll -- I'll let you hear it from the President tonight.

Q Is he going to do the mistakes part? Is he going to talk about any failures in the past again?

MR. HADLEY: Well, he's covered a lot of the specific issues about Iraq, what our strategy was, what we've learned, particularly in terms of describing how the new Baghdad security plan differs from what we did in the past. This is an effort, really, to step back and paint a broader picture. So in some sense, he did that in the speech he gave two weeks ago Wednesday. I think it's a different speech with a different purpose tonight.

MR. BARTLETT: I think just to amplify on that just for a second, Steve, the way he will talk about the kind of -- how this war has transpired, he'll talk about where we went from 2005 to 2006. In 2005, there were a lot of advancements in the democracy agenda -- and Steve can talk more to this -- and in 2006, the enemy fought back across the fronts, whether it be in Iraq, whether it be in Lebanon, whether it be in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And it's a good way to have -- the President can use this as an opportunity to discuss the nature of the enemy we're facing, why it is -- like I said, the interconnectedness between Iraq and the other elements of extremism, whether it be Shia-Sunni, as Steve described. So there will be some difference, some new language and new context to something you've heard him talk a lot about.

Q Steve, back on Iran, if I could. As you know, in the last weeks there's been quite a debate over the degree of Iranian involvement in both the insurgency and the militias in Iraq. Will the President produce new evidence, new information about what Iran is doing in Iraq? And if not, why not?

MR. HADLEY: Well, there's already a lot out in the public on that. You've reported about the detention of Iranians in Iraq engaged in the movement of equipment and other things into the country, and activities that threaten our men and women in uniform, and also Iraqis. So a lot of that evidence is already out. And what we're doing about it is something the President addressed in his speech on Iraq. And you've seen some of the evidences of that over the last two weeks. So I think that issue has already been pretty well framed.

Dan, you want to add anything on that?

MR. BARTLETT: No, I think you're right. I think that, again, that was a specific context to how the new Iraq strategy was going to be specifically outlined. While the President will reiterate key elements of the President's Iraqi strategy, talking about why we need to secure Baghdad, the reinforcements needed to do just that, he'll make that case again, just not at a level of granularity on Iran and other elements that you would hear. But he'll talk about our diplomatic strategy in parts of --

MR. SNOW: And furthermore, Iran does fit into the overall picture of the global terror threat.

MR. BARTLETT: Right.

Q Is the doubling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve tied to foreign policy in that you are afraid that there's going to be an interruption of oil flow from the Middle East?

MR. SNOW: No, it's merely a matter of providing for energy security. This has been American policy for some time. As U.S. consumption has gone up, the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to provide a cushion has, in fact, decreased over the years, and what we're doing is we're rebuilding the cushion. In the -- it certainly does fit into the overall picture of energy security, but it is not specifically designed for that.

Q Real quick follow-up, Dan. You were talking about 2006 being the year when the enemy fought back. If you're listening to this speech, will you, as a listener, get any context of timing in the President's mind, how long Americans are expected his new plan to take, or how long we would expect the enemy to fight back?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, I think -- what I meant when I said the enemy would fight back -- in '05, we saw elections in Iraq, we saw advancements in the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, we saw Afghanistan, assembling of a legislature made up in large parts of women. There were just huge advances made in '05. And as the President will say, the enemy took stock of this, adapted and struck back with quite a fury across-the-board in the Middle East, and obviously, including mostly in Iraq.

And the President has made clear in his speech two weeks ago that a commitment in Iraq is not open-ended, that we have to have a willing party, because, ultimately, Iraqis have to solve many of the difficult problems facing their country. He made the assessment that as they demonstrate their intent to take these on, we have to make sure they have the capability to take them on, and he will speak specifically to that, as well.

But the President has also made very clear, and so have many of the generals and others who have been testifying, to talk about the specific elements of the military campaign it would not be appropriate to say that this is a 90-day or a 120-day campaign, 180-day campaign, because those types of operational predictions feed into the hands of the enemy. But this is going to be a sustained, forceful effort, as General Petraeus testified to this morning.

Q Can you tell me, will the President make any mention of North Korea? And, if so, what will he say? And, also, will he ask for the international community to reach out with regards to Iran or Iraq?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, he will definitely talk about the fact that in order to advance American interests in the world, we can't do this alone, that the civilized world plays a key role. And we have a diplomatic strategy on many fronts, including the six-party talks with North Korea; where it talks about our diplomacy through the United Nations; when it comes to Iran, talking about working with our allies and friends in the region to bring about peace in the Middle East, two states living side- by-side. So he will talk extensively about, and comprehensively about, our diplomatic strategy across many different fronts.

Q But he'll only make a mention, a quick mention of the six-party talks?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, as you know, those six-party talks are underway and he's not going to be doing real-time analysis of that. But he's going to talk about the importance of having many voices speaking to make clear our intentions when it comes to North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Q Will the President respond to the Senate resolutions that are opposing the troop increase?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Is there any mention in the speech of a strategic arms control agenda?

MR. BARTLETT: That is not a part of the speech.

Just to amplify a little bit on what Tony just said there in his answer -- (laughter) -- is that the President is going to articulate why he made the decision he made with this new strategy, why he believes it has the best chance for success, what the ramifications of failure would be. And he's going to ask this Congress to give it a chance to work and to support our troops. And that's an important message, not only for the United States Congress, but there's an important audience with the American people.

He understands and will acknowledge the fact that there is skepticism. He's listened to their views. He understands that there are disagreements when it comes to the decision he made. But he did -- and our administration is doing -- what many people, including the new top military commander who is going to Iraq, has the best chance for success. And he'll make that case tonight.

MR. SNOW: It's important to realize, as the President stressed before, there seems to be substantial agreement on a lot of things: Number one, you can't afford to have a failure in Iraq -- and he will explain more clearly to the American people exactly what that would entail and why it would be disastrous; number two, people want to support the troops; and number three, people want Iraqis in the lead -- all of which he will address. And then he'll make the further point that it is his view -- and he'll explain why -- that having a larger troop presence is essential for success in Iraq.

But there will not be direct engagement on resolutions on the Senate floor. There will be, as Dan pointed out, a forceful and clear argument of why the President, after a very exhaustive process of looking at all options, including some that have been raised on the floor of the Senate and elsewhere, has chosen this particular way forward.

Q Dan, the 2002 State of the Union was, of course, when they used the "axis of evil" phrase for the first time, and it suggested a connection of some kind between the various terror forces and enemies. Is the President going to do anything tonight to suggest that the forces in the Mideast are in some way allied against us, that there is interaction beyond what we've seen in Iran and Iraq?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, I think as you've heard the President articulate, it's more about the forces of extremism against moderation in the Middle East, and that the American -- United States of America has an interest to see that the moderates prevail; that it is a brutal and determined enemy that wears more than one face -- it's not just al Qaeda and Sunni-based extremists like we're facing in many parts of the world, as well as in Iraq, but also a Shia extremism that has to be just as concerning to the American people -- who their agents are, Hezbollah, Hamas; who they rely upon, state actors. Those are things of real concern. But both of those extremist elements are trying to snuff out the moderate forces in the Middle East, and we have a stake in seeing for our own security interests that the moderates prevail. And that's the argument he will make tonight.

Q Nothing about an Iran-North Korea linkage?

MR. BARTLETT: Not in that context, no.

Q Will the President say anything tonight to convince skeptics that Prime Minister Maliki has changed his heart and he is willing to fulfill his end of the deal, and stop political and sectarian interference?

MR. BARTLETT: He'll make very clear that a key element of the new Iraq strategy requires an active and willing partner in the Iraqi government, that they have to take steps to achieve concrete benchmarks that everybody recognizes have to be achieved in order to get political progress on the ground. The President also has made clear that there's not a military solution alone to this problem, that there has to be the type of reconciliation and reconstruction in that country for them to advance toward a more mature democracy that can meet the goals we all have and require less support from the United States.

I think the interesting thing -- and the President won't go into these details tonight -- but that there have been some preliminary but encouraging signs by the Maliki government. If you look at reports talking about Jaish al Mahdi and other extremist elements that have been taken down in the last several weeks, you look at some of -- it looks like there's more progress being made on the oil law and those things. So we're seeing a clear recognition out of Baghdad that the Iraqi government must make these types of advances in order to continue to have the support of the United States.

Q Thank you. Will the President elaborate more on the benchmarks for the Iraqi government and the consequences of not meeting those benchmarks?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, we've talked extensively, and he will list, specifically, many of the benchmarks that not only the United States expects them to meet, but the Iraqi people expect them to meet. And this has been a topic of conversation for the last two weeks, about linking and consequences for benchmarks. I think the Iraqi political system, the democracy you have on the ground there, as well at the democracy here, demonstrates that there will be consequences if these benchmarks are not met.

Everybody recognizes -- the President said that our commitment is not open-ended. So he'll make clear there are specific, measurable benchmarks both on the security front, and the political and economic front that the Iraqi government must make progress on. And the good thing is they recognize that, too. Their own electorate expects them to make similar progress.

Q Dan and Tony, the President made, I believe, five speeches in the runup to the election in which he cast the global war on terror as the decisive ideological struggle of our time. He talked about Iraq as the central front in that war. Now you're saying that the public does not get the connection between what's happening over there and what might happen here. So why do you think, after all those speeches, the public still doesn't get that connection? And what is the President going to say tonight that is different, that he believes will change the public's mind?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what the President understands is that the public wants to see progress. And he is going to talk about the way -- not only in the context of the way forward in Iraq, but also, once again linking up -- because there does seem to be a sense that the war in Iraq somehow can be segregated, for instance, from al Qaeda. Quite often you'll hear people say, well, why don't you go after al Qaeda, as if that is a separate threat, where, in point of fact, it is part of a larger war on terror and Iraq does remain the central front. He will talk about that. He will cast it as the defining ideological struggle of our time.

But it is important from time to time to go through and talk with the American people about what the stakes are and how it fits into a larger strategy of keeping America safe and defending American interests. Just because -- he gave speeches in September and they were well received, and it's important to talk about that again.

MR. BARTLETT: Just to add to that, Sheryl, I think where the disconnect comes, or where people may lose sight of that is because of the increased nature of the sectarian violence that has taken place in the last quarter -- half and quarter of this past year, is that appearance to the American people that this is just Iraqi-on-Iraqi, this doesn't have to do with the war on terror. And what is incumbent upon the administration and others is to explain how very much it has an element to the war on terror because the instigators of the sectarian violence, the ones who have a stake in seeing one extremist side of the sectarian violence prevail -- whether it be al Qaeda or former Saddamists on one side, or Shia extremists on the other side -- who are using innocent Iraqis on both sides of the sectarian divide as essentially cannon fodder in a much broader extremist movement. And it's a very unsettling development in Iraq.

And the calculation the President had to make is that, should we help in a sustained way the Iraqi government to break this current level of sectarian violence going on in the capital? And our judgment is, yes. And if we didn't, it will have severe consequences on every element of the war on terror, both inside Iraq and outside of Iraq.

But that is, I think -- some of the things that have happened over the course of the last several months is because of the sectarian nature of this violence, is almost expected to think that the American people would lose sight of the broader context of this war.

MR. SNOW: Okay, let's do a couple more on foreign, and then we need to get to domestic.

Q I was going to domestic.

Q Just a follow-up --

MR. SNOW: Well, first, let's let -- Elaine I think has a question.

Q To kind of follow up on Sheryl's question, is he going to use the phrase "the new way forward" tonight in describing the strategy? Because as I recall -- I could be wrong, but I don't believe he used that phrase during his Iraq prime-time address. It was on all the fact sheets, correct?

MR. BARTLETT: You're stumping me here. I'll get back to you on that.

MR. SNOW: Yes, we'll have to go back and look. It's still -- we're still talking about the same, it is a new way forward. I don't know if it appears in the speech.

MR. BARTLETT: We thought that was an important point -- there was a lot of -- in the confirmation hearing for General Petraeus, there was a lot of talk about what is just 21,000 more troops to do, that's not -- and General Petraeus I think eloquently talked about it's not just how many, it's how you use them, and underlined the fact that this is a different strategy, expecting different results.

MR. SNOW: And also with a different role for the Iraqis, which is the key and pivotal element.

Q I guess I'm describing it as sort of the certainty. By using that phrase or not using that phrase, is that reflecting the lack of control that the --

MR. SNOW: No, you're reading too much into it.

Q Dan, that's the strongest I've heard you talk about actual benchmarks. In fact, I think you and the President have kind of gone out of the way to not say there were specific benchmarks, other than there were to be consequences if some troops didn't -- will he use the word "benchmarks," there are benchmarks in this?

MR. BARTLETT: Yes, as he did two weeks ago.

Q He did two weeks ago?

MR. BARTLETT: We used the term "benchmarks" two weeks ago.

Q But specifically, will he say, this has to happen by this date, that has to happen by that date? I think I'm still vague --

MR. BARTLETT: He's not going to use dates, no, but he's going to talk --

Q But that's your line you won't cross -- he won't talk about dates, but are there dates?

MR. BARTLETT: Oh, sure.

Q Specific dates, and specific benchmarks?

MR. BARTLETT: He used a date two weeks ago, when he said that of all -- handing over the security of all the provinces to Iraqi lead by November of 2007. That's a specific date.

Q But that's sort of a vague -- if troops don't -- right, handing it over by then. But if troops don't arrive by X date, this date, if we don't have an oil deal by X date -- are they that specific?

MR. BARTLETT: We are not doing what others have done, is say, if this doesn't happen, we're going to withhold this funding, or if this doesn't happen, we're going to withdraw troops from here. And that is not a part of our strategy.

Q Okay, so I don't get what the difference between that and benchmarks. I don't --

MR. BARTLETT: To clearly articulate, and very publicly, in a very transparent way, the indicators and the measurements we will use to see if the Iraqi government is succeeding in doing the things that the Iraqi people and the American people and the international community expect them to do, as I said, on the military front, on the reconstruction front, the reconciliation front -- this goes to the oil law, it goes to the provincial elections, it goes to reconstruction dollars being evenly distributed, even to Sunni provinces. It goes to a lot of different -- reform the de-Baathification law. These are things that everybody recognizes as the benchmarks that need to be met.

And the President generally has said, this is not an open-ended commitment, you have to make progress in these. There are others who say you should get more specific, and tying specific consequences to specific benchmarks. The President won't do that tonight.

MR. SNOW: We are not doing ultimatums.

Deb, Jim and then we go domestic.

Q Why was the decision made not to directly address the resolution? This is a huge issue before Congress. Did he deliberately decide not to --

MR. BARTLETT: I think what you're seeing is that there is multiple ideas, multiple resolutions. There's a

-- the House of Representatives has ideas; the United States Senate has ideas; there's five senators here, there's seven senators here. There's a lot of debate going on in the United States Congress, which is important. And they have a role to play and they're going to make their views known.

But what the President feels obligated to do, not only speaking to the Congress, but to the American people, is to articulate the strategy that he has chosen and explain why he believes it will work and what he thinks will be the consequences if we fail in Iraq.

Q I just want to follow up on what Martha was asking, because maybe I took the wrong note here, but I thought you said the President will list specific benchmarks and consequences. So what consequences are we talking about?

MR. BARTLETT: I apologize if I misspoke. What I was saying was that there will be specific benchmarks he will articulate, as I just said -- reconciliation on the side of reform, de-Baathification laws, talking about an oil law; those things.

The consequences I said will be the fact that the Iraqi people and the United States of America do not expect an open-ended commitment to a government that is not meeting these goals. In a general sense, I am trying to make -- to clarify to both of you -- and I'm not saying that there are specific ultimatums or consequences tied to each of these benefits -- these benchmarks. But what I am saying is that everybody recognize that this is the decisive period for the Iraqi government. This is the period where they have to step up and make key advancements on the political front, the reconstruction front and the security front. And their own elected people are going to hold them -- their own political process is going to hold them to account and the President has made clear to the American people that we expect them to make progress on those accounts.

MR. SNOW: And to add to that, there have been some signs -- one does not want to leap to conclusions based on those -- you have seen more aggressive and forthright action against Shia militias. We all not only have the captures, but we also have movement. You have changes in behavior on the part of Muqtada al Sadr in terms of the kind of public stance he's taking in also telling his people to go back to the Council of Representatives. That made possible a quorum that's going to enable the legislature to move toward passing such things as oil laws and de-Baathification reform.

So again, we don't want to make too much of it, but on the other hand, you're starting to see some movement. There have been reports of brigades beginning to make their way toward Baghdad. All of those things that the American people ought to keep an eye out for.

Q Dan, I wonder if you could talk about the overall political context for this speech. He's arguably in worse shape than he's ever been for one of these speeches. How is that reality reflected in this? How does it change his goals? Does he have to show he's relevant, especially on domestic issues?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, I think it demonstrates that the power of ideas can transcend partisan differences in Washington. And if you talk about the issues the public cares about, and you put forward innovative, bold ideas that the American people, regardless of what the polls say that day, will say, this is worth study, this is worth engaging the Democratic Congress on. And the Democratic Congress, understanding its new responsibilities to demonstrate that they can be just not the party of opposition, but to reach out and govern, that these are areas we think that you can find common ground. If you peel back all the rhetoric and all the campaign talk, these are issues on education, immigration, energy and health care, that the American people expect to see progress made by their leaders in Washington.

What the President will do, I believe in a very gracious way, is say, congratulations, now here are some big -- you know, it doesn't matter what side of the aisle we sit on, let's come together and work on these issues. Here are my ideas to how we can advance our goals in these areas.

MR. SNOW: And furthermore, the assumption in the question is talking about being in bad shape, he understands that as President, he has the ability to articulate issues and he's got a responsibility for dealing with them. And he's doing so, I think, in a refreshing and innovative way. These are bold proposals. You take a look at the health care and energy proposals, and they really do have incredible potential for transforming two areas of concern for the American people.

And as the debate proceeds and as people begin to grasp precisely what he's talking about, I think they're going to get a sense of a President here who really is being bold and visionary when it comes to dealing with these issues. And it's going to place -- it's going to create an opportunity for members of Congress who came to town saying, we want to demonstrate that we can work with the President and we can get things done -- you can get some very serious and constructive things done. And the President doesn't lay it out as a challenge or a confrontation, but in fact, as an opportunity to work together.

Q This is for Joel on the energy question, one factual question and then a broader question. The factual question: Is it your position that Congress needs to pass legislation on CAFE standards? That's not something that you guys can do on your own, that the Secretary of Transportation can't just order an increase in the standards?

And number two, just philosophically, are you able to discuss to what extent the President has -- in sort of the first part of his presidency, he really focused a lot on supply, on energy and drilling in ANWR and stuff, and this speech obviously seems like it's much more of a focus on the demand side. And if you could just explain how the President philosophically has shifted on that issue.

MR. KAPLAN: Thanks, Mike. It's been such a long time since I spoke, I'm just going to do my whole presentation again as a refresher. (Laughter.) But, no, the two issues --

MR. BARTLETT: Don't scare them. (Laughter.)

MR. KAPLAN: On CAFE, our understanding of the law and the Department of Transportation's understanding of the law is that we could, today, simply increase the fuel economy standards for cars, but we couldn't reform the program in the way that we did for light trucks. And it's been the President's view for a long time -- it was the National Academy of Sciences' view when they looked at this issue that it would be a mistake to try to increase fuel economy within the current broken CAFE system that we have. It's not cost-effective. It encourages gaming. And most importantly, if you look back historically over the life of the program, it's contributed to a number of -- a very significant number of fatalities on the road.

So it is important to reform the system, and once we do so and Congress gives us that authority -- which we don't believe exists under the law -- then the President believes we'll be able to increase fuel economy on the demand side, and do it in a way as to save up to 8.5 billion gallons, which is a very significant increase. We've proven the effectiveness of this type of reform in the light truck context over the last couple of years. We want to extend that into the passenger car fleet.

The second issue, look, it doesn't seem to me that the President is just discovering this issue. He's the one in the State of the Union last year who said that we're addicted to oil. In his national energy policy five years ago he proposed a whole suite of tax incentives for renewable energy. We've spent billions of dollars -- I think it's $12 billion -- I'll have to check my figure on that to be sure -- $12 billion through this budget year on all kinds of advanced energy technologies. And as a result of those investments, and as a result of investments in the private sector, most importantly, we're on the cusp of some very exciting technological breakthroughs that will help us achieve the President's goal of reducing our gasoline usage by 20 percent.

So this is something the President has been focused on for a long time, and as a result of that focus and the ingenuity of the American people, we're very close to being able to do something we haven't in the past.

MR. SNOW: But, Mike, just to make a second point, when he talks about innovation, that's also talking about supply. It's simply talking about supply of alternative sources. He will also talk about environmentally responsible extraction of resources, such as ANWR. This also follows on -- this is an administration that has twice raised CAFE standards on light trucks. The President is not new to either of these and this really is an extension of principals he's been talking about for some time.

Q On the CAFE standards, the one measure you've got in here aimed at consumption is a measure that will impact a struggling industry and a struggling sector based in a struggling state. And I wonder, A, whether or not there was any consideration of looking at other industries or other ways at affecting energy consumption, and B, whether or not there's anything either in the speech or coming later that might soften the economic impact that that's going to have on the auto industry.

MR. KAPLAN: A couple of points. First of all, the President is talking about this issue in the terms of national security and what our dependence on oil -- what the impacts that has for our national security. As opposed to 30, 40 years ago, where we used oil in lots of sectors in our economy, right now transportation sector is the one that uses 97 percent of the oil. So if you're trying to reduce your dependence on foreign oil, you've got to deal with the transportation sector.

The President obviously recognizes some of the challenges the domestic automakers have been facing. He had a very productive meeting with CEOs of the Big Three a couple of weeks, a month or so back. And the President has got very bold economic policies that -- from his tax policy to, importantly, his health care policies. One of the big challenges that all businesses have these days is rising health care costs. That's particularly true in the manufacturing sector, and the automotive industry in particular.

The proposal the President is discussing -- proposing in the health care area will have a dramatic effect in reducing the overall cost of health care by reversing the inflationary pressures that exist today because of the incentives in the tax code to purchase the most expensive health care policies possible.

So there are a number of policies in place -- opening up markets overseas -- there are lots of policies the President is pursuing that address the concerns of struggling industries. We do think it's important, if you're going to address a dependence on foreign oil, that you've got to address both the supply side and the demand side.

Q Tony, yesterday you were a little reluctant to divvy up the pie about how this speech will break out. Can you talk a little bit more about the structure of the speech, domestic and foreign policy?

MR. SNOW: Yes, it begins with a section on -- first he will great the new Speaker -- it is an historic opportunity, so there will be some comments on the new Congress and the new Speaker. Then he will talk about the domestic policy sections. And then the back half of the speech -- roughly 50/50 -- the back half of the speech will be on Iraq, but also on the larger war on terror.

In addition, the President will be talking about diplomatic efforts; as Dan was pointing out earlier, that's an enormously important part of what we do. And the President also will talk about humanitarian elements, whether it be with regard to addressing malaria or AIDS, also is an important national security concern. So it's going to be a broad and thoughtful discussion of foreign policy. It is not simply half the speech on Iraq. Iraq certainly will come up, but to give people a sense of how all the pieces of foreign policy fit together, and that will also involve about half of it.

Q One follow. Is Hurricane Katrina recovery mentioned in this?

MR. BARTLETT: Not specifically.

MR. SNOW: No, not specifically.

Q Will he be breaking any new ground at all on immigration? Or is this just going to be recasting of the longstanding proposal on that issue?

MR. KAPLAN: Well, what's new ground is that we've got a new Congress, and it's a Congress that we're hopeful will be very eager to take up in a serious, and as I said at the outset, conclusive way, this issue. The President is going to recognize that this is an issue on which convictions run very deep. But he thinks now is the time for the administration and the Congress to work together. He's laid out the principles of reform that, when packaged together, make up the type of comprehensive reform that's essential to really fix the problem. And I think he's hopeful, and we're all hopeful, that this new Congress is going to want to take up the challenge.

Q In reference to stem cell research, is the President going to talk about new medical advances made in the reference to amniotic fluid?

MR. KAPLAN: He's not going to mention that in the speech tonight. As I mentioned at the outset, the President wanted to focus this speech on a handful of specific issues. Obviously, there's a broader agenda that the President will continue to talk about. He had a very important -- we had a very important statement in the statement of administration policy when the stem cell bill was on the floor of the House. And we'll continue educating the American people and the Congress about the technological breakthroughs there, as well.

Q How will the President address the issue of going to 35 billion gallons of biofuels with today's limited infrastructure? And will he address the issues of hybrids and hybrid research funding?

MR. KAPLAN: Yes, he will mention, again, as he did last year, the importance of continuing the research and development, and hopefully very soon, commercialization of plug-in batteries and the things that are needed to take the next step in hybrid and electric vehicles.

I'm sorry, what was the first part of the question?

Q How you address the issue of going to 35 billion gallons --

MR. KAPLAN: Yes, thank you. As I said in the outset, what the President is announcing is an ambitious, but we think, achievable goal. But it's a technology push. Basically, as I mentioned, we're on the cusp of some very important technological breakthroughs, in particular, in cellulosic ethanol. As it stands now, we've seen a very dramatic increase just in the last couple of years in the use of corn ethanol. So, as a result, even though it was just a year or two ago that the 7.5 billion gallon mark was set for 2012, we're coming up quickly on that mark and we're going to surpass it within a year or so.

So we're going to be continuing to increase the amount of corn ethanol. But to reach the goal of 35 billion gallons equivalent in 2017, we're going to need to see some technological breakthroughs. And that's why the President is setting this goal so that investors, venture capitalists, researchers, scientists are all focused on that goal and can expedite and accelerate that technology. And we're optimistic that it can happen. And when it does, we'll be able to meet that goal.

MR. SNOW: I'm going to apologize. We are not going to be able to get to all the questions because -- at least I have to break out of here at 3:00 p.m., and I think these guys also have commitments, so we're --

MR. BARTLETT: Hey, Tony, can I just add one point to this?

MR. SNOW: Yes, please.

MR. BARTLETT: The other thing that Joel made a little comment on, but the President will also make clear the benefit the environment will gain by this policy of a very ambitious pushing of the envelope on technology in an alternative space, and that it does help us address what he will call the serious challenge of global climate change.

MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, at the end of the decade there will be -- the carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and other such sources will actually stabilize and begin to decline in future years. So that's a very significant goal.

Q Actually, to follow on that, the fact sheet mentions that you expect that the CO2 emissions will be reduced about 10 percent a year from the energy initiatives. Should we look for any new language on climate change, any sort of philosophically new acknowledgments of the scope of the problem or what needs to be done to address it?

MR. KAPLAN: The President has acknowledged that global climate change is a serious challenge, and he'll acknowledge that again tonight. Most importantly, he'll acknowledge that the proposals that we've been discussing here on renewable fuels and increased fuel economy standards will have a dramatic effect on reducing the projected emissions of CO2.

So those things have an important effect, as do the continued investments we're making in clean coal technology. Just a month or so ago -- highly-efficient clean coal technology -- a month or so ago, it wasn't widely reported, but the Energy Department and the Treasury Department released about a billion dollars in tax credits to support the construction of nine next-generation, highly efficient clean coal, which is what's going to be essential in the future to reduce CO2 emissions further.

And the President will continue and will mention in his speech his support of safe, clean nuclear power, which if you're serious about climate change, you have to be -- you have to support clean, safe nuclear power, because that's the only source we've got today in ready supply that provides power with net zero emissions. So the President will continue to support those initiatives that have actually had a tremendous amount of success so far.

MR. SNOW: It's also worth noting that as early as 2001 the President was acknowledging a manmade component to global climate change, and has been making these commitments for a long time. There seems to be the notion that he's never discussed it before. He's actually been discussing it throughout the presidency.

We've got Paula, then Jim, then Deb, and I think that's probably going to wrap up what we can do.

Q A follow-up on climate change. There's a growing number of CEOs from a wide spectrum of industries that significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions who are calling for mandatory cap in trade, and have indicated that without that, what you're suggesting will not be enough, it will not be done quickly enough to reduce greenhouse gases before you reach actual environmental -- dire environmental and economic consequences. So why are you opposed to regulating industries that are calling for regulation?

MR. KAPLAN: Well, first of all, again, I want to just reiterate the President is putting on the table tonight something that will have very significant effects on the level of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. We can do that because we've made significant improvements and significant enhancements in the technology for the next-generation of ethanol, in the technology for our automobiles; the CAFE standards we're talking about can be reached, we think, with technology that's literally on the shelf today.

So when you look at how you regulate and how you interact with industries, you need to focus on where they are in the technology development and what the costs will be on our economy. The President is announcing some regulations tonight that he thinks will have the benefits -- energy security benefits and the climate benefits, while not having harmful effects on our economy.

It's also important to note that under this President's climate change policy, we're making significantly more progress than any of our friends and allies who have adopted some kind of national carbon trading system. In between 2000 and 2004, while our economy was growing 10 percent, our carbon emissions grew by 1.7 percent, as compared to the European Union, which had economy growth of 7 percent and carbon emissions growth of 5 percent. So we've been making good progress under this President, and we'll continue to make progress with the types of energy policies the President is talking about tonight.

Q This is maybe for Joel and for Dan, but congressional reaction to the health care proposals that have been out since, I guess, Friday night has been almost withering. Labor groups have been very critical. Are you confident you're going to be able to get these changes through Congress? And have you had back-channel talks with them where you have important leaders lining up with you? Because on the surface, it doesn't appear that you do.

MR. KAPLAN: Well, first of all, I wouldn't say that's the case of congressional reaction. That has been the case of some members of Congress. One member of Congress who is obviously very important on the Democratic side in anything we do here is the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, who have very -- who indicated, at least in the comments I saw, interest in the proposal.

Look, this is a bold, new proposal. It's going to take some time for people to absorb it and to understand it. I'll let Dan answer in a second. I, for one, am confident that when the new leadership in Congress takes a look at a proposal that improves the economic condition of more than 100 million Americans who currently have health insurance through their employer and focuses the majority of that benefit on the lower and middle income, a proposal that dramatically improves the economic condition of people who currently buy health insurance on the private market, which again, will have the most benefit for people in the lower and middle income quintiles, and most importantly, that helps uninsured for the first time -- to be honest, it's hard for me to see how anybody who seriously is interested in reforming our health care system and is concerned about the difficulties that people in low and middle income, in particular, face today with rising health care costs and the difficulty of obtaining insurance, it's hard to see how folks wouldn't want to have a conversation about that, learn more about it, and I think ultimately will see the wisdom of it and understand why it's a proposal that is in the best interests of all Americans.

And, as well, I should mention the second part again, of the Affordable Choices that the Secretary of HHS will be working on with governors and members of Congress. This is a very important announcement and a proposal for the federal government to help the states that are innovating in a way to get private basic insurance in the hands of their citizens, and in particular, their citizens who need it most.

So we've seen some initial reactions. Some of the reactions I've seen are better than the one you described. But this is a new, bold policy and I think when people -- for instance, a couple of editorial pages that don't often give us as much support that I think took some time to appreciate the proposals have I think recognized that this is a very serious and important proposal. And Congress, we're hopeful, will take it up.

MR. BARTLETT: Yes, I think there's a lag. The conversations we're having both with Republicans and Democrats, that there's a lot of interest in this proposal. It is very complicated, as I've learned over the last couple weeks, and you'll learn over the next couple weeks. It's very complex dealing with the tax code. But I think as this unfolds, people will give it serious consideration. And that's -- I think across -the-board, Jim, I think when you talk about the relationship with the new Congress, is that what the American people expect is to see an honest and civil exchange of ideas and proposals. The President is putting forth some pretty big ones tonight. The Democrats have put forward some specific proposals in the last two weeks. As they accomplish that work, they'll be now asked to look at other big issues, and the issues that the President is putting on the table.

So there's an opportunity here. And there will be times where people will be opposed. But they have a greater responsibility to put things forward that will actually -- can get signed into law. So it's the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.

MR. KAPLAN: Just one other point on the complexity of this proposal. The truth is, what's complex is the current code. Most people don't have any idea how employer -- excuse me, how their health insurance is treated by the tax code and the fact that these incentives exist. The actual proposal is very simple. And so when people have a chance to absorb it, I think they'll appreciate that. People understand a standard deduction. And when everybody gets the same standard deduction, whatever the source of their insurance and whatever the cost, that ultimately is a more simple tax system. Although I admit--

MR. BARTLETT: I'm not going to take a shot, Joel, that I didn't understand -- (laughter.)

Q On the earlier question about how the CAFE standard change would affect a struggling state like Michigan, Joel, you had brought up the health care issue. Could you do two things? One is, could you explain how you think this health care proposal would help the big three in terms of mitigating some of the obvious challenges it will present? And two, how do you address the issue of why companies aren't going to start decoupling health care when they can just say to employees, well, you get a tax credit for that, and we'll give you something else? You buy it out on the market.

MR. KAPLAN: Yes, okay, on the first question, one of the problems that's caused by this -- the way the tax code treats health in the complex manner that I just referred to is that it creates an incentive for people to buy the most expensive health insurance they possibly can, because they can get tax benefits, no matter how expensive it is for health insurance, when they can't get that tax benefit for other forms of compensation, like wages. So people buy the most expensive health insurance that they can, which means, by and large, first-dollar coverage and things like that. As a result, what you have is inflationary pressures on health care, that drives up the cost of health insurance for everybody -- for everybody in the system. And one of the biggest challenges that employers have -- big and small -- is the cost of health care.

So I described earlier a lot of the direct effects on individuals of this proposal. One of the most important things is the indirect effect it will have on reducing the overall cost of health care. I think our estimates -- and Kate Baicker from CEA is here -- but our estimates are that over the intermediate term, it would reduce the overall cost of health care in the economy by about, what is it, 3 percent of GDP? By 3 percent, which is half a percent of GDP, which is a very significant cost savings. And that cost savings will be to the benefit of employers and to employees and individuals. So that's the answer to the first part of your question.

On the second part of your question, I think if you talk to a lot of employers, they'll say that one of the things they need to do to be competitive is to offer health insurance. A lot of people are still going to want to get their health insurance through their employer -- they're used to it, they understand how that works. So I think you'll see employers retaining their health care

Transcript
Tells Senate Committee: "Foreign Occupations Do Not Work"
01/23/2007 3:39 PM ET
TESTIMONY OF CONGRESSMAN JOHN P. MURTHA

Before the

SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE

110th Congress

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar and distinguished members of this Committee,

For the past five years, the U.S. has had, on average, over 130,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The Pentagon reports that the Iraqi Security Forces have grown in number, nearly reaching their goal of 325,000 trained and equipped. The Iraqis have a Constitution and have held national elections. These milestones have been met, yet security in Iraq continues to deteriorate. The past four years of the Iraq War have been plagued by mischaracterization based on unrealistic optimism instead of realism. Reality dictates that conditions on the ground are simply moving in the wrong direction.

There are limits to military power. There is no U.S. military solution to Iraq's civil war. It is up to the Iraqis.

Beginning in May 2005, after two years of mischaracterizations and misrepresentations by this Administration, the Defense Appropriations sub-committee required the Department of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the facts necessary to measure stability and security in Iraq. Since July 2005, we have received these reports. They are dismal and demonstrate a clear lack of progress in vital areas of concern. Electricity, oil production, employment and potable water remain at woeful levels.

The average weekly attacks have grown from 430 in July 2005 to well over 1000 today. Iraqi casualties have increased from 63 per day in October 2005 to over 127 per day.

The latest polls show that 91 percent of Sunni Iraqis and 74 percent of Shia Iraqis want the U.S. forces out of Iraq. In January 2006, 47 percent of Iraqis approved of attacks on U.S.-led forces. When the same polling question was asked just 8 months later, 61 percent of Iraqis approved of attacks on U.S-led forces.

The support of the American public continues to erode and there is little confidence in the current strategy. Today less than 30 percent of Americans support the war and only 11 percent support the President's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. A February 2006 poll showed that 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq believed U.S. should exit Iraq within the year and 42 percent said their mission was unclear.

Wars cannot be won with slogans. There must be terms for measuring progress and a clearly defined purpose, if success is ever to be achieved. General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of the United States Army, said in a recent hearing that in order for a strategy to be effective we "have to be able to measure the purpose." Yet the President sets forth a plan with no defined matrices for measuring success and a plan that in my estimation is simply more of the same plan that has not worked. A new strategy that is based on redeployment rather than further U.S. military engagement, and one that is centered on handing Iraq back to the Iraqis, is what is needed. I do not believe that Iraq will make the political progress necessary for its security and stability until U.S. forces redeploy.

In order to achieve stability in Iraq and the Region, I recommend

1) The redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq

2) The execution of a robust diplomatic effort and the restoration of our international credibility

3) The repairing of our military readiness and the rebuilding of our strategic reserve to face future threats.

Redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq

To achieve stability and security in Iraq, I believe we first must have a responsible phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq. General William Odom (U.S. Army, Retired) recently testified, "We are pursuing the wrong war."

Stability and security in the Region should be our overarching strategy, not a "victory in Iraq." I agree with General Odom and believe that Regional Stability can only be accomplished through the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Who wants us to stay in Iraq? In my opinion, Iran and Al Qaeda, because we intensify the very radical extremism we claim to be fighting against, while at the same time depleting our financial and human resources.

As long as the U.S. military continues to occupy Iraq, there will be no real security. Maintaining U.S. troop strength in Iraq or adding to the strength in specified areas, has not proven effective in the past (it did not work recently in Baghdad) nor do I believe it will work in the future. The Iraq war cannot be won by the U.S. military, predominantly because of the way our military operates. They use overwhelming force, which I advocate to save American lives, but it is counter to winning the hearts and minds of the people.

How to Re-deploy

I recommend the phased redeployment of U.S. forces, first from Saddam's palaces, then from the green zone. Next, from the prime real estate of Iraq's major cities, out of the factories and universities, and finally out of the country all together. We need to give communities back to the Iraqis so they can begin to self govern, begin economic recovery and return to some type of normality. I recommend the adoption of a U.S policy that encourages and rewards reconstruction and regional investment and one that is dictated and administered not by the United States, but by the Iraqis themselves.

Restoration of International Credibility

I believe that a responsible redeployment from Iraq is the first step necessary in restoring our tarnished international credibility. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, our international credibility, even among allies, has plummeted. Stability in Iraq is important not only to the United States, but it is important to the Region and to the entire world. Just this morning, the BBC released a poll showing that nearly three-quarters of those polled in 25 countries disapprove of U.S. policies toward Iraq. More than two-thirds said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East does more harm than good. Just 29 percent of respondents said the United States has a general positive influence in the world, down from 40 percent two years ago.

How do we Restore our International Credibility

In order to restore international credibility, I believe it is necessary for the U.S to completely denounce any aspirations of building permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq; I believe we should shut down the Guantanamo detention facility; and we must bulldoze the Abu Ghraib prison. We must clearly articulate and demonstrate a policy of "no torture, no exceptions" and directly engage countries in the region with dialogue instead of directives. This includes allies as well as our perceived adversaries.

Repairing of our Military Readiness and Rebuilding our Strategic Reserve to Face Future Threats

Our annual Defense spending budget is currently in excess of $450 billion. Above this amount, we are spending $8.4 billion dollars a month in the war in Iraq and yet our strategic reserve is in desperate shape. While we are fighting an asymmetric threat in the short term, we have weakened our ability to respond to what I believe is a grave long term conventional and nuclear threat.

At the beginning of the Iraq war, 80 percent of ALL Army units and almost 100 percent of active combat units were rated at the highest state of readiness. Today, virtually all of our active-duty combat units at home and ALL of our guard units are at the lowest state of readiness, primarily due to equipment shortages resulting from repeated and extended deployments to Iraq. In recent testimony given by a high ranking Pentagon official it was reported that our country is threatened because we lack readiness at home.

Our Army has no strategic reserve, and while it is true that the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force can be used to project power, there is a limit to what they can achieve. Overall, our military remains capable of projecting power, but we must also be able to sustain that projection, and in this regard there is no replacement for boots on the ground.

How do we Repair Readiness and Rebuild our Strategic Reserve

We must make it a national priority to re-strengthen our military and to repair readiness. I advocate an increase in overall troop strength. The current authorized level is below what I believe is needed to maintain an optimal military. In recent testimony to the Defense Subcommittee that I chair, the Army and Marine Corps Commanders testified that they could not continue to sustain the current deployment practices without an adverse effect on the health and well-being of service members and their families.

For decades, the Army operated on a deployment policy that for every one year of deployment, two years were spent at home. This was considered optimal for re-training, re-equipping and re-constituting. Without relief, the Army will be forced to extend deployments to Iraq to over one year in country and will be forced to send troops back with less than one year at home. The Army reported that a 9-month deployment was preferable. Medical experts testified that in intensive combat, deployments of over 3 months increased the likelihood for service members to develop post traumatic stress disorders.

We must invest in the health and well being of our service members by providing for the right amount of troops and for appropriate deployment and rotation cycles.

Our military equipment inventories are unacceptably low. The Services report that at least $100 billion more is needed to get them back to ready state. In doing so, we must not neglect investment in military technologies of the future. While we remain bogged down in Iraq, the size and sophistication of other militaries are growing. We must not lose our capability to deter future threats.

Let me conclude by saying historically, whether it was India, Algeria or Afghanistan, foreign occupations do not work, and in fact incite civil unrest. Our military remains the greatest military in the world, but there are limits to its ability to control a population that considers them occupiers. I have said this before and I continue to say that there are essentially only two plans. One is to continue an occupation that has not worked and that has shown no progress toward stabilization. The other, which I advocate, is to end the occupation of Iraq, redeploy and re-strengthen our military and turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.

Commanders Expect to Face Aggressive Taliban Spring Offensive
01/23/2007 11:44 AM ET
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff, and Gen. James T. Conway, Comandant of the Marine Corps, are currently testifying about force readiness to the House Armed Services Committee.

In response to a question, Gen. Conway very reluctantly admitted that commanders in Afghanistan have told him that it would be helpful to receive a fresh surge of manpower in advance of the Taliban offensive they are anticipating for Spring. He emphasized that the fight for Baghdad would not take away from the commitment to Afghanistan, as he said, it "will impact, but will not interfere to the extent that it would preclude it."

When pressed for more information on how the influx of troops into Iraq could negatively impact the needs of commanders in Afghanistan, Conway insisted that the U.S. military could rise to whatever challenge the circumstances required. He explained that "impact" does not necessarily mean "hinder." He cited service extensions and compressed training schedules as methods that can be used to ramp up troop levels quickly.

When Conway referred to Schoomaker for further comment, Schoomaker said only that he agreed with Conway's assessment that the U.S. military could rise to any challenge, but added that when you're talking about "impact" of troop deployments, "the price is always paid on the backside."

Transcript
Puts Burden on Iraqis, Notes 20 US Mistakes in Iraq
01/23/2007 10:54 AM ET
Included below:
-- Transcript of General Petraeus's opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
-- 27-page PDF of pre-testimony Committee questions and Petraeus answers.

The confirmation hearing for Lieut. Gen. David Petraeus is underway in the Senate's Armed Services Committee.

Petraeus made it clear in his opening statement that he supports Bush's plan for surging troops into Baghdad, and said that he would expect to have indicators on the potential success or failure of the new plan by late summer.

He also went to great lengths to explain that the Iraqis will be the biggest determinants of the outcome, and stressed that they will be required to meet benchmarks to mark their own progress.

Emphasizing that the new plan is much more than simply an influx of 20,000, it will be, as he said, "what they will do and how they will do it that will be important."

As one of the foremost experts in counterinsurgency, Petraeus knows well that a military solution is inadequate to address the complicated forces driving an insurgency. In his testimony, he cited the importance of job creation, re-construction, and protecting the security of the civilian population, among other critical political and economic elements of the plan.

In written responses to 56 written questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, by far the longest, most detailed Petraeus comment came when asked what mistakes the U.S. had made in Iraq. He noted 20 U.S. mistakes. The written questions and responses were released this morning by the Armed Services Committee. Here is a PDF of the 27-page Q & A: Petraeus_01_23_07.pdf

Last year, Petraeus published an article in Military Review, Learning Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Soldiering in Iraq. The article should be required reading in its entirety, but his 14 key points in particular should become a mantra for U.S. military leadership.

Observations from Soldiering in Iraq
1.“Do not try to do too much with your own hands.”
2. Act quickly, because every Army of liberation has a half-life.
3. Money is ammunition.
4. Increasing the number of stakeholders is critical to success.
5. Analyze “costs and benefits” before each operation.
6. Intelligence is the key to success.
7. Everyone must do nation-building.
8. Help build institutions, not just units.
9. Cultural awareness is a force multiplier.
10. Success in a counterinsurgency requires more than just military operations.
11. Ultimate success depends on local leaders.
12. Remember the strategic corporals and strategic lieutenants.
13. There is no substitute for flexible, adaptable leaders.
14. A leader’s most important task is to set the right tone.

A few other highlights from the hearing, reported by AP:

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a leading proponent of Bush's troop build up plan, asked Petraeus how long he thought the U.S. build up could be sustained. "I am keenly aware of the strain" on the Army and Marine Corps, Petraeus said, adding that he welcomes Bush's proposal to increase the size of the land forces over the coming five years.

"I wonder whether the clock has already run out," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a sponsor of a GOP-led resolution saying the Senate disagrees with the build up. She said she was worried that U.S. troops in Iraq are already perceived "not as liberators, but as occupiers."

Sen. Edward Kennedy asked him why an extra 21,500 would make a significant difference. Petraeus replied that the important factor was how extra troops are used, not their numbers. Their main focus, he said, will be on securing the civilian population of the capital rather than killing insurgents. Kennedy also asked how long the extra troops would remain in Iraq. "I don't know what the time limitation is," Petraeus replied, adding that it would be reasonable to give the Iraqi government more time to gain its political footing and to make the tough decisions needed to quell sectarian violence.

A few other choice quotes from ABC News:

General Petraeus's opening statement:

LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. I'd like to begin this morning by briefly reviewing the situation in Iraq, explaining the change and focus of the new strategy and discussing the way ahead. This statement is a bit longer than usual, but as I discussed with you last week, Mr. Chairman, I believe it is important that the committee hear it, and I appreciate the opportunity to present it.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated significantly since the bombing this past February of the Al-Askari mosque in Samarra, the third Shia Islamic shrine. The increase in the level of violence since then, fueled by the insurgent and sectarian fighting that spiraled in the wake of the bombing, has made progress in Iraq very difficult and created particularly challenging dynamics in this capital city of Baghdad.

Indeed, many Iraqis in Baghdad today confront life or death, stay or leave decisions on a daily basis. They take risks incalculable to us just to get to work, to educate their children and to feed their families. In this environment, Iraq's new government, its fourth in three and a half years, has found it difficult to gain traction.

Though disappointing, this should not be a surprise. We should recall that after the liberation of Iraq in 2003, every governmental institution in the country collapsed. A society already traumatized by decades of Saddam's brutal rule was thrown into complete turmoil and the effects are still evident throughout the country and Iraqi society.

Iraq and its new government have been challenged by insurgents, international terrorists, sectarian militias, regional meddling, violent criminals, governmental dysfunction and corruption. Iraq's security forces and new governmental institutions have struggled in this increasingly threatening environment and the elections that gave us such hope actually intensified sectarian divisions in the population at the expense of the sense of Iraqi identity.

In this exceedingly difficult situation, it has proven very hard for the new government to develop capacity and to address the issues that must be resolved to enable progress.

The escalation of violence in 2006 undermined the coalition strategy and raised the prospect of a failed Iraqi state, an outcome that would be in no group's interest save that of certain extremist organizations and perhaps states in the region that wish Iraq and the United States ill. In truth, no one can predict the impact of a failed Iraq on regional stability, the international economy, the global war on terror, America's standing in this world, and the lives of the Iraqi people.

In response to the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, a new way ahead was developed and announced earlier this month. With implementation of this approach, the mission of Multi-National Force Iraq will be modified, making security of the population, particularly in Baghdad, and in partnership with Iraqi forces the focus of the military effort.

For a military commander, the term "secure" is a clearly defined doctrinal task, meaning to gain control of an area or terrain feature and to protect it from the enemy. Thus, the task will be clear cut, though difficult. Certainly, upcoming operations will be carried out in full partnership with Iraqi forces, with them in the lead whenever possible, and with arms-length when that is not possible.

Transition of Iraqi forces and provinces to Iraqi control will continue to feature prominently in the coalition plan and, as recommended by the Iraqi Study Group, the adviser effort will be substantially reinforced.

The primacy of population security in the capital will mean a greater focus on that task, particularly in the most threatened neighborhoods. This will, of course, require that our unit commanders and their Iraqi counterparts develop a detailed appreciation of the areas in which they will operate, recognizing that they may face a combination of Sunni insurgents, international terrorists, sectarian militias and violent criminals.

Together, with Iraqi forces, a persistent presence in these neighborhoods will be essential. Different approaches will be required in different locations. Whatever the approach though, the objective will be to achieve sufficient security to provide the space and time for the Iraqi government to come to grips with the tough decisions its members must make to enable Iraq to move forward.

In short, it is not just that there will be additional forces in Baghdad. It is what they will do and how they will do it that is important.

Some of the members of this committee have observed that there is no military solution to the problems of Iraq. They are correct. Ultimate success in Iraq will be determined by actions in the Iraqi political and economic arenas on such central issues as governance, the amount of power devolved to the provinces and possibly regions, the distribution of oil revenues, national reconciliation and resolution of sectarian differences and so on.

Success will also depend on improvements is in the capacity of Iraq's ministries, in the provision of basic services, in the establishment of the rule of law and in economic development.

It is, however, exceedingly difficult for the Iraqi government to come to grips with the toughest issues it must resolve while survival is the primary concern of so many in Iraq's capital.

For this reason, military action to improve security, while not wholly sufficient to solve Iraq's problems, is certainly necessary and that is why additional U.S. and Iraqi forces are moving to Baghdad.

The way ahead is designed to be a comprehensive approach. Indeed, the objectives of helping Iraqis increase the capacity of their governmental institutions, putting Iraq's unemployed to work and improving the lot in life of Iraqi citizens requires additional resources, many of which will be Iraqi.

In carrying out the non-kinetic elements of the strategy, however, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians down range must get all the help they can from all the agencies of our government.

There is a plan to increase that assistance and it is hugely important. This clearly this is time for the leaders of all our governmental departments to ask how their agencies can contribute to the endeavor in Iraq and to provide all the assistance that they can.

Our military is making an enormous commitment in Iraq. We need the rest of the departments to do likewise to help the Iraqi government get the country and its citizens working and to use Iraq's substantial oil revenues for the benefit of all the Iraqi people.

Having described the general approach, I would like to offer a word on expectations. It will take time for the additional forces to flow to Iraq, time for them to gain an understanding of the areas in which they will operate, time to plan with and get to know their Iraqi partners, time to set conditions for the successful conduct of security operations, and of course, time to conduct those operations and then to build on what they achieve.

None of this will be rapid. In fact, the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy and there undoubtedly will be tough days. We face a determined, adaptable, barbaric enemy. He will try to wait us out. In fact, any such endeavor is a test of wills and there are no guarantees.

The only assurance I can give you is that if confirmed, I will provide Multi-National Force Iraq the best leadership and direction I can muster, I will work to ensure unity of effort with the ambassador and our Iraqi and coalition partners and I will provide my bosses and you with forthright, professional military advice with respect to the missions given to Multi-National Force Iraq and the situation on the ground in Iraq.

In that regard, I would welcome opportunities to provide periodic updates to this body. Beyond that, I want to assure you that should I determine that the new strategy cannot succeed, I will provide such an assessment.

If confirmed, this assignment will be my fourth year or longer deployment since the summer of 2001, three of those to Iraq. My family and I understand what our country has asked of its men and women in uniform and of their families since 9/11.

In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the American people for their wonderful support in recent years of our men and women in uniform. Tom Brokaw observed to me one day in northern Iraq that those who have served our nation since 9/11 comprised the new Greatest Generation. I agree strongly with that observation and I know the members of this committee do, too.

Over the past 15 months, I have been privileged to oversee the organizations that educate our Army's leaders, draft our doctrine, capture lessons learned and help our units prepare for deployment. This assignment has provided me a keen awareness of what we've asked of our soldiers and of their families.

In view of that, I applaud the recent announcement to expand our country's ground forces. Our ongoing endeavors in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are people intensive and it is heartening to know that there will be more soldiers and Marines to shoulder the load.

I recognize that deploying more forces to Iraq runs counter to efforts to increase the time at home for our troops between deployments. I share concerns about that. However, if we are to carry out the Multi-National Force Iraq mission in accordance with the new strategy, the additional forces that have been directed to move to Iraq will be essential, as will, again, greatly increased support by our government's other agencies, additional resources for reconstruction and economic initiatives, and a number of other actions critical to what must be a broad, comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to the challenges in Iraq.

"The escalation of violence in 2006 undermined the coalition strategy and raised the prospect of a failed Iraqi state, an outcome that would be in no group's interest, save that of certain extremist organizations and perhaps states in the region that wish Iraq and the States ill," Petraeus told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"In truth, no one can predict the impact of a failed Iraq on regional stability, the international economy, the global war on terror, America's standing in the world and the lives of the Iraqi people," he said.

"None of this will be rapid. In fact, the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and there undoubtedly will be tough days," Petraeus said. "We face a determined, adaptable, barbaric enemy. He will try to wait us out. In fact, any such endeavor is a test of wills, and there are no guarantees."

"The only assurance I can give you is that if confirmed, I will provide Multinational Force - Iraq the best leadership and direction I can muster," Petraeus said. "I will work to ensure unity of effort with the ambassador and our Iraqi and coalition partners; and I will provide my bosses and you with forthright, professional military advice."

Actions critical to what must be a broad, comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to the challenges in Iraq.

Many of the e-mails I've received in recent weeks have had as their subject line, "congratulations, I think." I understand the message they are conveying. I know how heavy a rucksack I will have to shoulder in Iraq if confirmed. I am willing to take on the position for which I have been nominated because I believe in serving one's nation when asked, because I regard it as a distinct honor to be able to soldier again with those who are part of the brotherhood of the closed fight and because I feel an obligation to help the Shabala (ph) Iraqi, the people of Iraq, the vast majority of whom have the same desires of people the world over, security for themselves and their loved ones, satisfaction of their basic needs and an opportunity to better their lot in life.

In closing, the situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. Progress will require determination and difficult U.S. and Iraqi actions, especially the latter, as ultimately the outcome will be determined by the Iraqis.

But hard is not hopeless. And if confirmed, I pledge to do my utmost to lead our wonderful men and women in uniform and those of our coalition partners in Iraq as we endeavor to help the Iraqis make the most of the opportunity our soldier, sailors, airmen and Marines have given to them.

Thank you very much.

(endit)

ABC News: Coalition Forces Raid Safe House, Find Plan
01/22/2007 8:09 PM ET
ABC News reports that insurgents possibly tied to al Queda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil.

Pierre Thomas writes that: "Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently testified that documents captured by coalition forces during a raid of a safe house believed to house Iraqi members of al Qaeda six months ago "revealed" AQI was planning terrorist operations in the U.S."

At the time, Maples offered little additional insight into the possible terror plot. ABC News, however, has learned new details of what remains a classified incident that has been dealt with at the highest levels of government.

Contractors, Employees Feud Over Workers' Comp Claims
01/20/2007 10:53 AM ET
The Boston Globe reports U.S. judges are forcing U.S. contractors to ante up in a big way in response to a record number of workers' compensation claims from civilian employees who say they suffered injuries in Iraq ranging from back pain to post-traumatic stress disorder. Here's the full story.

New Technology to Get Test-Run in Iraq
01/18/2007 4:46 PM ET
Noah Shactman over at Defensetech.org has a good summary of an Aviation Week article showcasing the newest high tech toys that will be deployed along with the latest surge into Iraq.

Among other things, troops in Iraq are going to get a new tool in the fight against IEDs--a Northrop system "designed to identify and locate enemy emitters and jam signals that can be used to remotely detonate explosive devices,"--and BAE's latest Suter network exploitation programs, designed to "break into enemy networks to hear communications, see what enemy sensors are seeing and, in some circumstances, become the systems manager with the ability to manipulate enemy sensors."

Presidential Hopeful Proposes Cap on Troop Levels
01/17/2007 7:00 PM ET
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today announced legislation which would limit the President’s authority to escalate U.S. military involvement in Iraq absent a new Congressional authorization to do so. Specifically, the bill would prohibit U.S. combat forces being increased beyond current levels without advance approval by Congress.

In his press conference this afternoon, Sen. Dodd stated that the authority given by Congress in 2002 to intervene in Iraq never contemplated that U.S. troops would end up engaged in a civil war, and the President must now come back to Congress to seek authorization for this new and ill-conceived mission. Sen. Dodd’s bill would also cap the number of troops at the level of troops present on January 16, 2007.

As Dodd said, “I do not believe that the authorization provided by the Congress in 2002 gives the President the unlimited authority to send additional troops to Iraq for a mission which is totally different than the one the President himself articulated in March 2002 shortly after committing US forces to Iraq.

“Leadership demands that I and others who think the President is on the wrong track not simply stand up and say so, but act to stop it from occurring by enacting legislation to require that Congress specifically authorize any augmentation of US forces in Iraq.”

Senator Dodd will offer his bill as an amendment to whatever resolution the Senate is expected to take up in the coming weeks.

Full Text
Hagel, Levin, Biden Resolution Makes Big Waves in Washington
01/17/2007 5:48 PM ET
It's fun to imagine the panic rippling through the West Wing, or the hushed tones of political wrangling on Capitol Hill, in response to the proposed anti-surge resolution.

Even though the resolution would have no legally binding powers, it makes clear that the president has a huge political problem on his hands.

Biden, Hagel, and Levin's official statements are below, and full text of the resolution is attached.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE): "I believe that when a President goes way off course on something as important as Iraq, the single most effective way to get him to change course is to demonstrate that his policy has waning or no support - from both parties. This resolution says what we, Democrats and Republicans, are against: deepening America's military involvement in Iraq by escalating our troop presence. It also says what we are for: a strategy that can produce a political solution to stop the violence."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): "The resolution we are introducing today is responsible, forward-looking, bipartisan and constructive. The Iraq war is the most important issue facing America today and the Congress must be engaged in this debate. This resolution engages the Congress in that debate."

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI): "The resolution would send a clear, bipartisan message that Congress does not support the plan for escalation because it is based on the false premise that there is a military solution to the violence and instability in Iraq, when what is needed is a political solution among the Iraqi leaders and factions."

Iraqbipartisanresolution_1.011707.pdf

Follow-Up
Judge Ruled Legality of War No Justification Not To Go
01/17/2007 2:57 PM ET
The Seattle Times reports on the case of an Army officer who refused to go to Iraq.

Hal Bernton writes: In a major blow to the court-martial defense of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a military judge has ruled that the Fort Lewis Army officer cannot try to justify his refusal to deploy to Iraq by raising questions about the legality of the war.

The ruling released Tuesday sets the stage for a Feb. 5 court-martial trial, where Watada faces up to six years in prison for his failure to join his brigade in Iraq last June and his outspoken attacks on the Bush administration conduct of the war.

Defense attorneys had hoped to argue that the war is illegal, in part, because it violated Army regulations that call for wars to be launched in accordance with the United Nations charter.

But in a ruling, Lt. Col. John Head said that "whether the war is lawful" is a political question that could not be judged in a military court.

Head, citing federal court precedents, also rejected defense attorneys' claim that Watada's First Amendment rights shielded him from charges relating to his criticism of the war.

Senators Hagel, Biden, and Levin in Bipartisan Sponsorship
01/17/2007 1:05 PM ET
CNN just reported that Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Joe Biden (D-DE), and Carl Levin (D-MI) are planning to issue a non-binding resolution opposing Bush's proposed surge. Interestingly, the excerpt read on CNN essentially stated that it is not appropriate for the U.S. government to go against the will of the American people.

Though the resolution--expected to be introduced on the Senate floor later today--would not be anything more than a statement of principals, it is a major embarassment for Bush to have such a strongly-worded text co-sponsored by an influential member of his own party. If the resolution draws extensive Republican support, it could be viewed as a full-blown political mutiny against his leadership.

This resolution will re-draw the battle lines over this fight and may set a new tone for the next two years. By next week, the concerned public should have a better sense of how lame a duck the Bush Administration will be for the rest of his term.

While Hagel, Biden, and Levin are canvassing the Hill to drum up extensive bi-partisan support for the measure, Bush has been inviting Republican senators with wavering support for the war over to the White House.

UPDATE: Press conference coming at 2:30.

Follow-Up
Service Members Urge Congress to Withdraw Troops
01/17/2007 12:47 PM ET
The Marine Times reports on the Appeal For Redress. Rick Maze writes that: A letter from about 1,000 active-duty, Guard and reserve members calling for Congress to end the war in Iraq was delivered to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

An excerpt: Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., who accepted what in legal terms is known as an appeal for redress — because service members are prohibited from petitioning Congress — said the call for an immediate end to U.S. military operations in Iraq will be turned over to the clerk of the House of Representatives and published in the Congressional Record so it can be read by all members of Congress.

The letter contains just three sentences: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

“We urge Congress to listen to its active-duty troops and veterans,” said Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, one of the organizers, who urged Congress to stop funding the war because troops “are dying while our politicians are squabbling.” California Army National Guard Sgt. Jabbar Magruder, who also came to Washington to deliver the letter, said the drawn-out conflict is taking its toll on troops, their families and the employers of mobilized Guard and reserve members. “Families take the brunt of it,” Magruder said, complaining that the new plan announced Jan. 10 by President Bush does away with the previous promise that reservists would be mobilized just once every five years. “That has gone up in smoke,” he said.

Full Report PDF
New Harvard Study Estimates $350-700 Billion Required
01/17/2007 12:36 PM ET
Linda Bilmes, on the faculty of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, has just released a working paper: Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits.

From the abstract:

"This paper analyzes the long-term needs of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and the budgetary and structural consequences of these needs. The paper uses data from government sources, such as the Veterans Benefit Administration Annual Report. The main conclusions of the analysis are that: (a) the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is already overwhelmed by the volume of returning veterans and the seriousness of their health care needs, and it will not be able to provide a high quality of care in a timely fashion to the large wave of returning war veterans without greater funding and increased capacity in areas such as psychiatric care; (b) the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is in need of structural reforms in order to deal with the high volume of pending claims; the current claims process is unable to handle even the current volume and completely inadequate to cope with the high demand of returning war veterans; and (c) the budgetary costs of providing disability compensation benefits and medical care to the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of their lives will be from $350 - $700 Billion, depending on the length of deployment of US soldiers, the speed with which they claim disability benefits and the growth rate of benefits and health care inflation. Key recommendations include: increase staffing and funding for veterans medical care particularly for mental health treatment; expand staffing and funding for the “Vet Centers,” and restructure the benefits claim process at the Veterans Benefit Administration."
Stay Tuned
More on Senate Hearings on Refugees
01/16/2007 5:37 PM ET
Just when it seemed today's testimony couldn't be anymore heartbreaking, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent took the microphone to tell the story of Nour al-Khal. Ramaci-Vincent is the widow of Steven Vincent, the freelance journalist kidnapped, beaten, and killed by insurgents in Basra in August 2005. Nour was his translator who, though kidnapped along with Steven, miraculously survived the three gunshot wounds inflicted by their attackers.

What happened to Nour next only perpetuated the tragedy that befell her life beginning in August 2005. Ramaci-Vincent's prepared statement is excerpted below (emphasis added) and is available in full on the Senate Judiciary Committee's website.

For Nour's sake, let's hope the public spotlight of a Senate hearing will lead to a rapid resolution of her current status.

"Two days prior to his death, Steven had an op-ed piece published in the New York Times in which he broke the story of how the Iraqi police force was being systematically infiltrated by Iranian-backed fundamentalists and Shiite militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr rather than to the central government. He also wrote of the "death squads" that roamed Basra in police cars and trucks filled with uniformed men who snatched their victims off the streets and murdered them with utter impunity. When one of those vehicles came for him in broad daylight, his translator, fixer and friend Nour al-Khal bravely stood by him as five men in police uniforms descended on them and wrestled Steven into the truck to take him to his death. From what I was later told by the FBI, the thugs who targeted my husband had no interest whatsoever in Nour; they repeatedly pushed her away, telling her to leave. But she would not abandon Steven; she kept inserting herself into the struggle until they took her as well. She had no idea what her kidnappers planned to do, where they would be taken, what, ultimately, the end would be. For all she knew she was going to her death, yet she did not hesitate for a moment, this tiny, 5-foot-tall woman, to try and protect the man who had hired her to be his guide. Incredibly, she retained the presence of mind, before she was thrown into the truck, to drop her ill on the street so the authorities would know who she was.

She and Steven were bound, gagged and held for 5 hours, during which time he was savagely beaten - the medical examiner at Dover Air Force Base even found human bite marks on his leg. They were then thrown back into the truck, driven to the outskirts of town, set free, told to run - and shot from behind. Steven was hit at close range and in a final act of God's mercy died instantly; Nour, who had been let go first, was farther from the truck, so even though she was shot in the back three times, she survived. The men fled without killing her when a contingent of "good" police showed up; they contacted the British, who handed her over to the FBI, who took her up to the Green Zone for medical treatment. There she was held incommunicado for three months while I tried to contact her via cellphone and email. During that time she was repeatedly interrogated; she is reticent about her treatment at the hands of our government, but from what little she was willing to tell me it sounds like a nightmare scenario. She was treated as if she were a co-conspirator of the killers, mentally and emotionally bullied, threatened, told she would never be given a visa to come to this country. And when those holding her decided she had no more information to offer and was medically fit enough, they gave her two thousand dollars and threw her out into Baghdad's Red Zone, alone, where she knew no one, had no family, no job, no resources, nowhere to turn. She was too afraid to go back to Basra, where she was born and grew up, knowing her would-be assassins were still roaming the streets; besides, her family wanted nothing further to do with her, fearing she would be a lightning rod for further trouble. Luckily she was able to contact me, and through various machinations I was able to get her out of Iraq and into relative safety in a location she has asked me not to divulge. However, since she has no work papers and is not a legal immigrant, for the most part she has to stay in her apartment, living off the money I send her and doing some occasional translating work for assorted NGOs....

In some small attempt to repay her for her dedication, bravery and selflessness, I have spent the last year trying to get Nour into America. I have dealt with officials at the Baghdad embassy and the State Department. I have filled out forms. I have made countless calls, sent innumerable emails. I have pledged to stand financial security for her. I have gotten a promise from the UN Bureau Chief of Al-Arabiya that he will hire her when - if - she gets here. And each path I have gone down has proven fruitless. I have been told she does not qualify for refugee or asylum status because Iraq is now a democracy, hence there should be no reason she would need to flee. I spent months working with embassy people who assured me they were extremely touched by her plight, would move heaven and earth to see she got "special treatment" and who then, in the end, told me she needed to go to Amman and apply for a visa like every other Iraqi. I was told the U.S. government was no longer accepting Iraq's S-passports because supposedly there are so many forgeries it's impossible to know who is really holding them, so we won't take any of them. The embassy in Amman is no longer accepting applications from Iraqis; the Jordanian government is beginning to crack down, stopping Iraqis on the streets who then run the risk of being deported; Egypt is now demanding that before Iraqis come they get a letter of invitation from a certain government official. The noose is tightening, and soon there will be no place in the region where Nour will be able to feel safe. She sits and waits, still hopeful, but the reality is her hope is dwindling, as is mine."

Blunder
Ayman Alshammare Returns Home to Chicago
01/16/2007 5:21 PM ET
Just as he predicted, Ayman Alshammare is back home in Oak Brook, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) after a December 17th jail break from the Green Zone in Baghdad. Although charges laid by the predominately Shia government against the former Baath member were thrown out, he was expected to stand trial in further charges that involved up to two billion dollars in misappropriated funds.

He told WTTV TVthat he was glad to be home and does not fear for his safety. He escaped to Amman Jordan and was last seen at the U.S. Embassy. Alshammare says he does not think Interpol or the Iraqis will come looking for him.

Slogger sources say that DynCorp contractors may have been involved in his second escape from an Iraqi jail. His first attempt to avoid jail was abetted by two DynCorp contractors wero were fired from their job of protecting Alshammare after they drove him from court to the U.S. Embassy.

Stay Tuned
Disturbing Accounts in Senate Hearing on Refugees
01/16/2007 4:05 PM ET
On C-SPAN 3, Ted Kennedy is currently leading the hearing on Iraqi refugees for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship. The rest can be watched live now on C-SPAN's website, or in full later when they post the video.

The first hour was fairly dry, with Ellen Sauerbrey, asst. secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, making the standard official statements professing America's humanitarian concern for Iraqi refugees, and committing to "remain vigilant" in "monitoring" the situation.

The big highlight of her testimony came in response to Ted Kennedy's first question. He inquired about the possibility of granting 'special status' to Iraqi refugees, much like the U.S. did for Vietnamese who had cooperated with Americans during the war, any Cuban who could get to American soil, and Jews fleeing the post-Soviet Eastern bloc.

Sauerbrey agreed to Kennedy's request to begin serious discussions on this issue at State, and indeed confirmed that she had already talked to consular affairs about it this morning. The conferrence of special status would be a major development for displaced Iraqis, and we plan to keep a close eye on this debate.

The most riveting segment of the hearing, however, comes in the testimony of two anonymous Iraqi refugees, who both had to flee after being threatened with death (and the murder of their families) for working in support of the Americans.

Their stories detail the violence and suffering of Iraqis who supported U.S. efforts in Iraq and add a human element to the everyday sacrafice of Iraqis. Their segment will begin about an hour into the video, or the transcript of their prepared statements are here and here.

Currently 50 Iraqi translators are allowed asylum in the U.S each year.

Arab Summit May Embarrass SecState with Demand for Palestine
01/15/2007 7:23 PM ET
One has to have some sympathy for Condoleezza Rice as she has been preparing to face a gathering of none-too-happy Arab diplomats tomorrow in Kuwait. Now on the eve of that critical meeting, word has leaked out that Arab leaders intend to propose U.S. cooperation on Palestine as the appropriate return favor for their cooperation on Iraq. AP quotes one anonymous Arab diplomat as saying, "She will listen to one voice that if the United States wants Arabs' help in Iraq they should help them in Palestine."

In the early days of his administration, President Bush made a point of disengaging the United States from its longtime role as negotiator-in-chief for the Arab-Israeli peace process. One can almost forgive the naivete of a new president thinking it not in the core interests of the United States to continue shuttling the two countries down the path toward negotiated settlement, but with so many key problems (al Qaeda, Iraq, Iran, Syria) hingeing on the Israel-Palestine question, six years of experience has hopefully taught him that the U.S. needs to stay intimately involved.

Blogosphere
Does Congress Care if Saudis Pushed the Case for Surge?
01/15/2007 6:26 PM ET
BooMan ties together a sequence of seemingly disparate events and commentaries from November and December to make the case that the Saudis were working furiously behind the scenes to inject their demands into the deliberation process for Bush's new Iraq strategy.

Booman makes a solid case and concludes by wondering why the question has yet to be raised in any Congressional hearing. Indeed, their absence of curiousity on this matter seems odd.

Latest Fighter Will be Part of Battle for Baghdad
01/15/2007 1:21 PM ET
Aviation Week . The Pentagon and aviation specialists say "the F-22 with its advanced electronic surveillance and analysis capability is being considered for deployment into theater from Okinawa this year during the stealth fighter's first air expeditionary force assignment." Experts say the main task of the F-22 "will be focusing on are electronic emitters, primarily communications used by insurgents." Expected to arrive this summer, it will be the first deployment of the Raptor in Iraq. The F22A Raptor began official service in January 21st, 2006 and has yet to be used in combat.

Other high tech players to appear in Baghdad are Boeing's 250-lb. Small-Diameter Bomb (SDB) and the Focused Lethality Munition (FLM). Both are smart, small-impact range munitions designed to work in urban environments.

Defeating IEDs will be a big part of the high tech push. Grumman's carrier launched EA-6Bs equipped with the latest Northrop Grumman ICAP III electronic attack systemand the U.S. Air Force's EC-130 with Compass Call electronics will be used to detonate IED's along main routes.

L-3 Communications' Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting (NCCT) system and operational versions of the BAE Systems-developed Suter communications network are being sent in country.

The article also points out a number of potential problems as Baghdad is saturated with multiple electronic warfare tools and the inability of the Raptor to deal with other systems.

Transcript
Says Iran "Fishing in Troubled Waters" in Iraq, Must Stop
01/14/2007 4:19 PM ET
Click here for the transcript of the "Fox News Sunday" interview with Vice President Cheney.

Excerpts
Defends Invasion, Says "We Could Have Done Things Better"
01/13/2007 4:19 PM ET
Bush with Pelley at Camp David Friday
CBS
Bush with Pelley at Camp David Friday
CBS News is previewing its exclusive Sunday "60 Minutes" Bush interview segment by sharing a few key nuggets, including Bush telling correspondent Scott Pelley that U.S. mistakes have made Iraq more unstable. Here is the CBS report with interview highlights. "60 Minutes" airs at 8pm et Sunday.

Transcript
Challenges Critics to Come Up with a Better Iraq Plan
01/13/2007 3:58 PM ET
President Bush's weekly radio address today was mostly a re-hash of his Wednesday night Iraq policy address. A key quote from the radio address:
"Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible."

Here's the full transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Wednesday night, I addressed the Nation from the White House to lay out a new strategy that will help Iraq's democratic government succeed.

America's new strategy comes after a difficult year in Iraq. In 2006, the terrorists and insurgents fought to reverse the extraordinary democratic gains the Iraqis have made. In February, the extremists bombed a holy Shia mosque in a deliberate effort to provoke reprisals that would set off a sectarian conflict. They succeeded, and the ongoing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad, is making all other progress difficult. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. Their leaders understand this, and they are stepping forward to do it. But they need our help, and it is in our interests to provide that help. The changes in our strategy will help the Iraqis in four main areas:

First, we will help the Iraqis execute their aggressive plan to secure their capital. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of Baghdad. The new plan to secure Baghdad fixes the problems that prevented previous operations from succeeding. This time, there will be adequate Iraqi and U.S. forces to hold the areas that have been cleared, including more Iraqi forces and five additional brigades of American troops committed to Baghdad. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter neighborhoods that are home to those fueling sectarian violence. Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference with security operations will not be tolerated.

Second, America will step up the fight against al Qaeda in its home base in Iraq -- Anbar province. Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists, so I've given orders to increase American forces in Anbar province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to increase the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan, and we will not allow them to reestablish it in Iraq.

Third, America will hold the Iraqi government to benchmarks it has announced. These include taking responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November, passing legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis, and spending $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction projects that will create new jobs. These are strong commitments. And the Iraqi government knows that it must meet them, or lose the support of the Iraqi and the American people.

Fourth, America will expand our military and diplomatic efforts to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. We will address the problem of Iran and Syria allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. We will encourage countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states to increase their economic assistance to Iraq. Secretary Rice has gone to the region to continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

My national security team is now making our case on Capitol Hill. We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical. Some say our approach is really just more troops for the same strategy. In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead.

Others worry that we are pursuing a purely military solution that makes a political solution less likely. In fact, the sectarian violence is the main obstacle to a political solution, and the best way to help the Iraqis reach this solution is to help them put down this violence.

Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.

Whatever our differences on strategy and tactics, we all have a duty to ensure that our troops have what they need to succeed. Thousands of young men and women are preparing to join an important mission that will in large part determine the outcome in Iraq. Our brave troops should not have to wonder if their leaders in Washington will give them what they need. I urge members of Congress to fulfill their responsibilities, make their views known, and to always support our men and women in harm's way.

Thank you for listening.

END

Blogosphere
Praises Bloggers, Says New Info Indicates No Jamil Hussein
01/12/2007 10:23 AM ET
In an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio program yesterday, White House Spokesman Tony Snow praised bloggers for seeking the ground truth in Iraq, and he re-ignited the controversy about supposed Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein by raising the issue and saying the latest information is that Jamil Hussein is non-existent. Here's background on the Jamil Hussein case. Snow didn't cite a source for his non-existent report, but it's likely these reports/claims. Here is the relevant transcript from the Hugh Hewitt show:
HH: All right, yesterday, the President also mentioned that there will be lots of carnage on television screens. Is the administration, and especially the Pentagon, prepared to fight the new media war when that starts to happen, Tony Snow?

TS: We’ve been fighting it. I mean, it’s not that it has started to happen, it’s been going on for some time. What is interesting, Hugh, and you know this as well as anybody else, you’re also starting to see little glimmers of guys like Michael Yon and others who get over there and they basically embed themselves in Iraq, and Michelle Malkin’s over there now.

HH: Bill Roggio, you bet. They go over and do first hand reporting.

TS: And what ends up...I think what’s likely to happen over time is that people there, and you and I have both seen forces come back completely disheartened and disgusted by the kind of reporting that goes on here, I would not be surprised to see some of those people not going out in the field, but maybe back at barracks, turning on the video camera, shooting a picture, and saying you know what? Let me tell you what’s really going on here, and why, and how I see it. That sort of stuff gets on a Youtube, or a Livelink, or any of these other things. It’s going to get out. I mean, there are many different ways now for people to get a glimpse of what’s actually happening. And the new media war can take many different fronts, and while Al Jazeera or Al Arabia, or even Al Houra, which is financed by the U.S. Government, they all have cable presence there. But you know, in this day and age, it’s exploding more rapidly, and more people are just pulling their news and pulling their video off the internet.

HH: As we saw during the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, Tony Snow, Hezbollah went to such lengths as to stage atrocities, buildings blown up, and victims left in there.

TS: Yeah.

HH: Are you, as the head of the White House communications operation, prepared to immediately get out there and quarrel with that and stop those sorts of stories from metastasizing?

TS: Yeah, I am looking forward to meeting Captain Jumil Hussein, but other than that, yes. You’ve seen the latest on that, right?

HH: No, I haven’t. I haven’t read today. Is he back and not existing again?

TS: He’s back to non-existence.

HH: (laughing) But that’s the new media war...

TS: Yeah.

Unwitting Candor: "Don't... Want to Beat Their Brains Out"
01/11/2007 7:23 PM ET
Click here for details.
Corporal Jason Dunham's Selflessness Saved Lives
01/11/2007 2:12 PM ET
Bush presents medal to parents Dan and Deb Dunham
Bush presents medal to parents Dan and Deb Dunham
President Bush has awarded the family of Marine Corporal Jason Dunham with a Medal of Honor at the White House today. The transcript is below:

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor a President can bestow. The Medal is given for gallantry in the face of an enemy attack that is above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal is part of a cherished American tradition that began in this house with the signature of President Abraham Lincoln.

Since World War II, more than half of those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor have lost their lives in the action that earned it. Corporal Jason Dunham belongs to this select group. On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his own life so that the men under his command might live. This morning it's my privilege to recognize Corporal Dunham's devotion to the Corps and country -- and to present his family with the Medal of Honor.

I welcome the Vice President's presence, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Senator Ted Stevens, Senator John McCain, Senator Craig Thomas -- I don't know if you say former Marine, or Marine. Marine. Congressman Bill Young and his wife, Beverly; Congressman Duncan Hunter; Congressman John Kline, Marine; Congressman Randy Kuhl, Corporal Dunham's family's United States Congressman is with us. Secretary Don Winter; General Pete Pace; General Jim Conway and Annette; Sergeant Major John Estrada, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.

I appreciate the Medal of Honor recipients who have joined us: Barney Barnum, Bob Foley, Bob Howard, Gary Littrell, Al Rascon, Brian Thacker. Thanks for joining us.

I appreciate the Dunhams who have joined us, and will soon join me on this platform to receive the honor on behalf of their son: Dan and Deb Dunham; Justin Dunham and Kyle Dunham, brothers; Katie Dunham, sister; and a lot of other family members who have joined us today.

I appreciate the Chaplain for the Navy -- excuse me, for the Marine Corps. I didn't mean to insult you.

I thank Major Trent Gibson -- he was Jason Dunham's commander -- company commander; First Lieutenant Brian Robinson, who was his platoon commander. I welcome all the Marines from "Kilo-3-7" -- thanks for coming, and thanks for serving.

Long before he earned our nation's highest Medal Jason Dunham made himself -- made a name for himself among his friends and neighbors. He was born in a small town in upstate New York. He was a normal kind of fellow, he loved sports. He went to Scio Central School, and he starred on the Tiger basketball, soccer, and baseball teams. And by the way, he still holds the record for the highest batting average in a single season at .414. He was popular with his teammates, and that could be a problem for his mom. You see, she never quite knew how many people would be showing up for dinner, whether it be her family, or the entire basketball team.

He grew up with the riches far more important than money: He had a dad who loved to take his boys on a ride with him when he made his rounds on the dairy farm where he worked. His mom was a school teacher. She figured out the best way to improve her son's spelling was to combine his love for sports with her ability to educate. And so she taught him the words from his reading list when they played the basketball game of "horse." He had two brothers and a sister who adored him.

He had a natural gift for leadership, and a compassion that led him to take others under his wing. The Marine Corps took the best of this young man, and made it better. As a Marine, he was taught that honor, courage and commitment are not just words. They're core values for a way of life that elevates service above self. As a Marine, Jason was taught that leaders put the needs of their men before their own. He was taught that while America's founding truths are self-evident, they also need to be defended by good men and women willing to stand up to determined enemies.

As a leader of a rifle squad in Iraq, Corporal Dunham lived by the values he had been taught. He was a guy everybody looked up to. He was a Marine's Marine who led by example. He was the kind of person who would stop patrols to play street soccer with the Iraqi schoolchildren. He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to "make sure that everyone makes it home alive." Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good.

In April 2004, during an attack near Iraq's Syrian border, Corporal Dunham was assaulted by an insurgent who jumped out of a vehicle that was about to be searched. As Corporal Dunham wrestled the man to the ground, the insurgent rolled out a grenade he had been hiding. Corporal Dunham did not hesitate. He jumped on the grenade, using his helmet and body to absorb the blast. Although he survived the initial explosion, he did not survive his wounds. But by his selflessness, Corporal Dunham saved the lives of two of his men, and showed the world what it means to be a Marine.

Deb Dunham calls the Marine Corps her son's second family and she means that literally. Deb describes her son's relationship to his men this way: "Jay was part guardian angel, part big brother, and all Marine." She remembers her son calling from the barracks, and then passing the phone to one of his Marines, saying, "I've got a guy here who just needs to talk to a mom." Now it's the Marines who comfort her. On special days, like Christmas or Mother's Day or her birthday, Deb has learned the day will not pass without one of Jason's fellow Marines calling to check on her.

With this Medal we pay tribute to the courage and leadership of a man who represents the best of young Americans. With this Medal we ask the God who commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves to wrap his arms around the family of Corporal Jason Dunham, a Marine who is not here today because he lived that commandment to the fullest.

I now invite the Dunhams to join me on the stage. And, Colonel, please read the citation.

(The citation is read. The Medal is presented.) (Applause

Transcript
Durbin Calls for US Troop Drawdown, Iraqis to Step Up
01/11/2007 00:39 AM ET
Here is the transcript of the official Democratic response to Bush's address to the nation on Iraq. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Majority Whip:

Good evening.

At the end of October, President Bush told the American people: Absolutely, we're winning the war in Iraq. He spoke those words near the end of the bloodiest month of 2006 for U.S. troops.

Tonight, President Bush acknowledged what most Americans know: We are not winning in Iraq, despite the courage and immense sacrifice of our military.

Indeed, the situation is grave and deteriorating.

The president's response to the challenge of Iraq is to send more American soldiers into the crossfire of the civil war that has engulfed that nation.

Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election. Instead of a new direction, the president's plan moves the American commitment in Iraq in the wrong direction.

In ordering more troops to Iraq, the president is ignoring the strong advice of most of his own top generals. General John Abizaid -- until recently, the commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan -- said, and I quote, "More American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future," end of quote.

Twenty thousand American soldiers are too few to end this civil war in Iraq and too many American lives to risk on top of those we've already lost.

It's time for President Bush to face the reality of Iraq. And the reality is this: America has paid a heavy price. We have paid with the lives of more than 3,000 of our soldiers. We have paid with the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. And we've paid with the hard-earned tax dollars of the families of America.

And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government. We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.

Now, in the fourth year of this war, it is time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation. The government of Iraq must now prove that it will make the hard political decisions which will bring an end to this bloody civil war, disband the militias and death squads, create an environment of safety and opportunity for every Iraqi, and begin to restore the basics of electricity and water and health care that define the quality of life.

The Iraqis must understand that they alone can lead their nation to freedom. They alone must meet the challenges that lie ahead. And they must know that, every time they call 911, we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers.

As Congress considers our future course in Iraq, we remain committed, on a bipartisan basis, to providing our soldiers every resource they need to fight effectively and come home safely.

But it's time to begin the orderly redeployment of our troops so that they can begin coming home soon.

When the Iraqis understand that America is not giving an open- ended commitment of support, when they understand that our troops indeed are coming home, then they will understand the day has come to face their own responsibility to protect and defend their nation.

Thank you.

Is It A Surge Or A Search For A Plan
01/10/2007 10:34 PM ET
Democrats have already voiced their skepticism to the Bush plan in the following article in the New York Times.Some have voiced doubt whether Bush's plan is a new way forward, or simply a search for a mission.
Video
Address To The Nation
01/10/2007 10:18 PM ET
Click here for the 19-minute video.

Transcript
Says "Situation Unacceptable," Deploying 21,500 More Troops
01/10/2007 9:59 PM ET
President Bush Addresses Nation
White House photo by Eric Draper
President Bush Addresses Nation
January 10, 2007
President Bush’s Address to the Nation

The following is the transcript of President Bush's address to the nation:

Good evening. Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people - and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq. Security

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Now, let me explain the main elements of this effort. The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi army and national police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations; conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents - but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods - and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people - and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The prime minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation."

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet, over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace. And reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible. Iraqi aid

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi army division.

We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders - and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And, as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan - and we will not allow them to re- establish it in Iraq.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity - and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. Diplomacy

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists - and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors - and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an international compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region - to build support for Iraq, and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy - by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom - and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists - or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security. Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue - and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world - a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them - and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren.

This new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States - and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad - or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces.

We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration. It will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas - where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us. These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary - and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time. They serve far from their families, who make the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table. They have watched their comrades give their lives to ensure our liberty. We mourn the loss of every fallen American - and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can and we will prevail.

We go forward with trust that the author of liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.

Transcript
Official Who Refuses to be Identified Previews Bush's Plan
01/10/2007 6:00 PM ET
Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
Room 450
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:25 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Hello, everybody. The ground rules are this is a background briefing by a senior administration official. We have promised some documents to you; those are still in production. We will notify you as soon as they are ready, but they will be ready for you well in advance of the President's speech tonight. They'll lay out a lot of the basics of the policy. Obviously, feel free to contact us with any questions you have afterward.

But in order to frame it up, I introduce SAO.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to try and give you a little feel for what the President is going to say tonight, but I'm going to try to do it in a way that walks you through the logic of the strategy review we've been through, and a little bit, the logic of the President's thinking and how I think you'll hear it tonight.

He will talk about the hopes we had at the end of 2005 for progress in 2006 on the political side, against the violence, and the prospects even for beginning to reduce our troops. He will say that that was dashed in 2006. And really what happened was sectarian violence got out ahead of Iraqi forces, it got out ahead of American forces, and it overwhelmed the political progress that we expected.

And he will then conclude that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to the American people and it's unacceptable to him. He will make clear that our current strategy in Iraq is not working; that he has conducted an extensive review to develop a new strategy; that in the course of that review, two things became clear and really almost reflected a consensus, whether it was congressional leaders, foreign leaders, or the Iraq Study Group, and that is two things -- one, there are no silver bullets here, and secondly, America cannot afford to fail, but we must succeed.

So the challenge, then, is, what is a strategy for success? And you have to start that with, what is the diagnosis of the problem? And the problem, at this point, is the challenge of sectarian violence. It is synonymous with security in Baghdad since 80 percent of the sectarian violence occurs within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad. So the challenge is dealing with sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad.

He will say very clearly that Americans, the coalition cannot do that; the challenge of dealing with the sectarian violence is a challenge to the Iraqis, the Iraqi people, who will have to decide whether they want to live together in peace, and to the Iraqi government, whom the Iraqi people expect to bring security to them in Baghdad. And he will make clear that the Iraq government needs to step up and do that.

The good news is that the Iraqi government has -- they have come forward with a plan. This was first given to the President when he was in Amman, Jordan, and met with Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki's security people, the government security people, and our commanders have been working on that plan. The good news is that they believe that the plan fixes the problems that plagued our earlier efforts to bring security to Baghdad and is a plan that will work. And he'll describe it in some detail. I can do that, but I'd like to do it at the end, because otherwise, we're just going to go right down the details, and I want to give you a little bit of the framework.

The plan fixes a number of -- it is different from what we've done before in four respects. One, it's a different and better concept of operations, which I'll go through. Secondly, it will be adequately resourced. We did have not enough forces before. Front and center, it will be additional Iraqi forces. Iraq will add three army brigades to Baghdad. They will end up having nine Iraqi brigades and nine Iraqi national police, as well as local police.

Second -- first of all, then, it is an Iraqi plan, and it's Iraqi led. Secondly, it will be adequately resourced first and foremost by the Iraqis. Third, those forces will operate under rules of engagement. And that's probably a misnomer. Let me put it this way; prior to now, Iraqi security forces in Baghdad got a lot of political and, in some sense, sectarian instruction and interference. And Prime Minister Maliki and the members of his government have made clear that that will end, and that the Iraqi commanders, once given this responsibility, will be given the full authority to carry it out and will be free of political and sectarian influence. We think that those things taken together give a different situation and allow for the prospects of success.

And the last thing I would say is that if the prior strategy was to clear, hold and build, we cleared but did not hold, and the build never arrived. And so a piece of this plan is to follow on the military operations with economic assistance and putting people to work.

Our commanders have said that the Iraqis clearly would like to do this themselves, but their commanders -- their security officials and our commanders have concluded that their resources are not adequate. And therefore, the military has recommended that additional U.S. forces go into Baghdad. The President, in response to that, has committed five additional U.S. brigades to Baghdad to go into Baghdad. They will move into the theater over time as they get developed, but they will operate very much in support of Iraqi forces.

And let me just describe briefly, then, how the Iraqi forces are going to operate in Baghdad. There will be an overall Iraqi commander. That Iraqi commander will have two deputies, one for each side of the river. They will then have authority over the nine districts of the city. In each district there will be an Iraqi commander. That Iraqi commander will have authority over all Iraqi army units, Iraqi national police, and local police in that district. They will operate in a coordinated way.

They will operate out of police stations in the district, and their job will be to go out in the community, to patrol, to do any necessary checkpoints, and to go door-to-door, not to kick the door in, but to talk to the residents and make it clear that they understand that Iraqi forces are now providing security in the country.

The U.S. role will be to support that effort and help the Iraqis provide population security in Baghdad. To help that, in each district, there will be a U.S. army battalion -- that's 400 to 600 folks -- working in and closely with the Iraqi forces. Those forces, of course -- our forces will remain under U.S. command, but they will work with and in support of the Iraqi forces.

They will do it in several ways. One, there will be U.S. forces embedded with Iraqi units, and one of the things resulting from the strategy review is an expansion of our embedding. That is a good way to supplement the training we've been doing, training that gets the force up and into the field. It is embedding that will help that force, the Iraqi force, be effective in bringing security, but it's also -- think of it as an on-the-job training, a way to ensure that the Iraqis are better and more effective, both in their job and develop more effectiveness over time.

So our forces will do some embedding. They will be there to counsel the Iraqi forces, and, of course, if the Iraqi forces get into trouble, they will be there to help them in extremis. But my point overall is this is an Iraqi plan with an Iraqi lead that we believe will fix the problems that have plagued earlier efforts, and our forces will be in support.

There are other features of this. One of the things is that the President will say very clearly that it is time for the Iraqis to step forward; that there is no indefinite commitment to U.S. presence in Iraq; that our presence is there to enable the Iraqis, but that works only if the Iraqis step forward and step up. And he's made it very clear that if the Iraqis do not do that, they will lose the support of the American people. And the Iraqi people are making it clear that they will also lose the support of the Iraqi people, because the Iraqi people have made very clear they're sick of the violence in Baghdad and they want their government to provide security.

The purpose of all this is to get the violence in Baghdad down, get control of the situation and the sectarian violence, because now, without it, the reconciliation that everybody knows in the long-term is the key to getting security in the country, the reconciliation will not happen. The Sunnis do not know whether -- and do not have confidence this government is going to survive in the long-term, and the Shia are skeptical of the government because it is not providing them protection. So the President's judgment is the first step of a successful strategy in Iraq has to be helping the Iraqis bring security to Baghdad.

As that occurs, we have made very clear that the Iraqi government needs to meet the benchmarks it has set in order to do the things on which a broader reconciliation are required. And you all know them. They're the oil law; they're deBaathification, narrowing the limitations of the deBaathification law; they're provincial elections to bring the Sunnis back into the political process at the local level. There is also continuing, and we would hope even accelerating the transition of security responsibility to Iraqis elsewhere in the country and in Baghdad, because if this works it will actually enable Iraqis sooner to provide security in Baghdad. And we have -- would like, and the Iraqis have made clear that one of their benchmarks is to take responsibility for security in the whole country by the end of the year.

So this is a vehicle for bringing security, encouraging and supporting Iraqis in the broader reconciliation that they need to do. The President will talk about a number of ways where we can support this broader effort. He will talk about ways we can support and accelerate the training of Iraqis through greater embedding, through greater provision of equipment, through supporting Iraqi plans to expand the size of the Iraqi army -- they intend to put greater reliance on the Iraqi army for security.

There are also things that we can do to support them economically. They've announced a $10-billion reconstruction and infrastructure effort. We can complement that. And finally, the Secretary of State will be talking in her testimony about the expansion of provincial reconstruction teams, doubling the number of Americans that will be out in the provinces, basically helping Iraqis build their government from the bottom up, focusing on local reconciliation efforts, local economic assistance efforts, and the like.

He will also talk about the broader regional context, the importance that the effort in Iraq not fail; that the experiment in democracy is a piece of a broader struggle in the Middle East between the forces of moderation, the responsible forces committed to democracy, and those extremist forces that are using terror as an instrument for their own agendas; and the consequences of failure in Iraq for all our allies and friends and supporters in the regions that are moderate and are pursuing democracy. He will talk about some of the things that we are doing to strengthen our commitment and capability in the region.

He will also talk about things that we need to be doing over the long-term to strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies to deal with the war on terror over the long-term. He'll talk about expanding the Army and the Marine Corps. He'll talk about trying to find a way to get Americans able to go overseas in post-conflict situations to help struggling democracies build the infrastructure of democracy -- the police forces, the court systems, the effective administration -- all the things these countries need to go from post-conflict situations to successfully providing services to their people.

Finally, one of the thematics he will talk about is the importance of trying to -- of improving and strengthening relations with Congress. He will have some ideas how to do that to institutionalize contacts between the executive branch and the Congress on dealing with the issue of the long war, and his desire -- and his -- understand there will be questions that will be raised about the President's strategy, and he welcomes those, he welcomes the debate. We hope that people will have time for that debate to occur before taking preemptive action, if you will, and asking that those -- he believes that success is essential and he has a plan for success. He's prepared to defend it, but those who criticize it have, in some sense, a burden to come forward with an alternative path that they think will succeed.

I should make one other note, and then I'll stop. He will also talk about Anbar Province. This is in the west on Iraq. As you know the problem there is not sectarian violence; it is a struggle against al Qaeda. Anbar is basically al Qaeda's base of operations in Iraq. There is an opportunity there because local Sunni tribes have turned against al Qaeda and are going after al Qaeda there. Our local commander believes that a couple additional U.S. battalions, basically a plus-up -- net plus-up of about 4,000 would enhance our ability to help the Iraqi forces there exploit the opportunity, and he will announce that in his speech, as well.

That's what I've got for you. I'd be glad to take any questions.

Q At the start of the war, some of the generals were saying more troops were needed, and the President, at that time, did not listen to that advice. Now the generals are very wary about sending more troops, and, yet, the President is making a decision to send more troops. Why is it that he believes this is a wise course of action after the history of how things have gone in terms of troop levels?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the rationale for it I've really given you. I think, though, I see the history a little different. One of the issues is the Iraqis -- every time we get in discussions with Iraqis about more troops, they generally said, if we need more troops, they need to be Iraqi troops, so please train more Iraqi troops. This is -- Iraqis really want to take more responsibility.

They have concluded -- that is to say, the security people advising Prime Minister Maliki and our commanders have decided that in order to make this plan work -- and everybody believes it is essential that it work -- they need more troops. This recommendation and this plan, in terms of the troops, has the support of General Abizaid, General Casey, General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon, Pete Pace and the Joint Chiefs. This has been a lengthy process that has brought forward this strategy going forward, and it has the support of both the old and the new commanders. So it's just -- it is something that we have all come together on and that has the support, as I say, of the military.

Q The President long said that he didn't want any timetables, that he would not abandon the Iraqi people, and you're talking about it not being an indefinite commitment. So describe for us that change and how he now will accept benchmarks that have time associated with them.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he hasn't got time lines, he's got benchmarks -- benchmarks that the Iraqis have set for themselves. And he's basically saying, look, it is time for them to perform.

On the one hand, you can say this is a government that has been in power only nine months, an experiment in democracy in a place that's known tyranny for 30 years. On the other hand, it is clear that the Iraqi -- that the patience of the Iraqi people is running out, and, quite frankly, the patience of the American people is running out. And he's been very clear to the government leaders he's spoken to -- he spoke to a number of them this morning -- it is time for this government to perform.

They have concluded that, as well. They have set forward this plan. They have brought forward these benchmarks. And what the President is saying is, fine, we will judge you now less on your words and more on your performance.

Q How do you compel that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's -- I think there's two things. One, I think the Iraqi people are compelling it. This is, after all, a democracy. There is, as you can tell, unhappiness in Iraq that this government has not made the decisions it needs to make. And I think they will hear from the President tonight that the patience of the American people is not unlimited, and they're not oblivious to what is going on on Capitol Hill and the kinds of statements that you've been hearing from Leader Pelosi and others. I think they've got it clear.

Q Underpinning this seems to be a supreme confidence in Prime Minister Maliki to take the lead, despite problems that you've articulated, despite a lack of control in that country. What is that confidence based upon, and isn't it a gamble to put that much faith --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the premise of your question is wrong. There's a lot of skepticism in the country about Prime Minister Maliki. I think, in some sense, a lot of people in the United States share that skepticism. We've been very clear about it. The point is, this is an elected government, it is a unity government. They have come forward with Prime Minister Maliki as the Prime Minister. We will, of course, work with the elected officials of the Iraqi government, but we will, at the same time, say it is time for this government to perform.

Why are -- what is the basis for thinking they can do it? One, that the statements are different. There seems to be an expression of will. Secondly, there seems to be within the Iraqi political system a recognition of the imperative to act. Third, they have come forward with plans that are credible, and they have made commitments to resource those plans. We will see over the next several months whether they begin to make good on those commitments. And I think there is obviously skepticism, and the President has made that very clear to this government: People are skeptical -- your people are skeptical, our people are skeptical. I will support you, but you need to perform.

Q So are the troop deployments directly tied to those benchmarks? Has the President said, or will he say to the Iraqi government, unless X happens, he won't deploy more troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he won't say that, and part of it is because when you're trying to empower a government, you don't talk to them in those terms -- you must do this, or else. This is a government we're trying to strengthen, and trying -- and basically to make clear that they are doing this for their own reasons. And that's what Maliki says -- I'm doing it for my own reasons because it needs to be done for my country.

So we will not be structured in that way. But I think it's very clear that they have made some commitments. We have said very clearly, this is your responsibility, you have -- it is your plan, you need to execute that plan. We can come in behind, but we're not going to come out in front. They're going to need to step forward. And we are going to have to see that they are beginning to implement their plan.

David.

Q Well, can I just follow up? On the benchmarks, then, I can't see what's new with the benchmarks. As you said, we all know what those benchmarks are. And those were part of the original Baghdad security plan. It was a plan that said, we want you to do this, that, and the other. And they didn't do it. The plan was clear, hold and build. It didn't happen. So --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, well --

Q -- is this just a more hopeful plan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I described in some detail is how the Baghdad security plan is different, and why we think this plan has a better prospect of success. That, of course, requires Iraqis to do some things. We will have to see whether they do those.

I'm not saying -- I did not claim that everything under the sun here is new. My premise is, as everyone says, there's no silver bullet, there's no magic plan out there. We've all known that in order to solve the problem in Iraq, you've got to do something about security, you've got to do something about the politics, you've got to do something about economics. Sure, benchmarks have been around. What I think is different is a new seriousness by the Iraqis and the United States that they need to be met.

David.

Q Following up on Martha's thought, there seems to be a tension between the implicit statement the President has that our commitment is not open-ended, which is to say if they don't perform, at some point in the future American commitment to this may begin to pull back, and the President's oft-repeated statement that he can settle for nothing short of victory, which would seem to suggest we're there until we win. So can you reconcile those two? And can you tell us whether the President is going to use the phrase "victory" the way he did in his "victory in Iraq" speeches in the end of 2005, and whether he defines it the same way that he did then?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you'll see it in the speech. I think we're in -- you'll see what he says in the speech tonight. I think you'll see some words like "success" and "victory," but we're in a very different context, we have a very different strategy. And I think you'll find that that will affect how he uses those terms. But I think on that piece, I think we ought to wait until the speech tonight.

Secondly, there is broad consensus that we cannot fail in Iraq. The President has gotten the strategy that he believes will succeed and is the best prospect of success. Now, everybody is going to want to say, well, what if it doesn't work, what is plan B, and all the rest. And I think, for obvious reasons, for the President and for senior administration officials, we're going to focus on what we need to do to make this plan work.

This would be a three-for for The New York Times; let's go to The Washington Post.

Q Didn't Prime Minister Maliki make a pledge that he would crack down against Moqtada al Sadr, specifically? Did he pledge that he would move into Sadr City? And do you envision, under this partnership between U.S. and Iraqi forces, that U.S. troops might be acting against the Mahdi Army?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Maliki has said publicly that this is about the rule of law, and that this is about bringing the rule of law to all groups who act outside the law -- whether Sunni, Shia. And everybody knows, and he has said explicitly, that the militias have to be dealt with, because they are operating outside the law. He said very clearly that that includes the Shia militia. And I think everybody in that -- without going into details of presidential conversations -- everybody understands that the Mahdi Army and Sadr have to be dealt with.

What was your third part of your question?

Q And do you envision the partnership between U.S. and Iraqi forces leading U.S. troops to be up against --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He has said that the commander will be free to go after those who act outside the law wherever they are in Baghdad. Maliki has made that very clear. That would include Sadr City.

Obviously, the whole premise of this, as I've described, is Iraqis in the front and we in support. And that model applies everywhere in the city, including Sadr City. Obviously, the details of where you start, how you do it, what's the order of the neighborhoods, how do you deal with an issue of Sadr City, that's something our commanders, Iraqi and U.S., are going to have to work out.

Q But could it theoretically envision or include U.S. troops being --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's not do hypotheticals. I can't be any more clear. We've got an operational concept, it's going to apply through the whole city --

Q But in principle, it could.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- we're going to have to see how it goes.

Q But in principle, it could.

Q In Amman, the President was very clear that Prime Minister Maliki was the man for the job in Iraq. Is the President going --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say one other thing -- I'm trying to -- on Robin's question. One of the things you've heard from Maliki is he feels it's very important that Iraqis be in the lead, particularly on the issue of militias. And so I think when you see that issue, that's going to be one area in particular where the Iraqis are going to want to be in the lead, with us in support.

I'm sorry.

Q That's okay. I'm just wondering what the President's -- what he will express in the speech, specifically about Prime Minister Maliki, his confidence in Maliki being the right man for the job, in the same way that he expressed it very clearly in Amman, or has the President undergone rethinking about the confidence level in Maliki?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He continues to think that Maliki is the right man for the job; one, because he's the man that the Iraqis have put in the job, but secondly, because he has had a number of exchanges -- Prime Minister Maliki has been very clear to the President on what his intentions are with the plan, very clear about these ground rules of rules of engagement, to let this security plan work, let the Iraqi commander do the job of bringing security everywhere in the city, operating without political interference and continuing until the job is done. So again -- but he has also said to Prime Minister Maliki, this is the right plan, these are the right words. Now we need to see you perform.

Q So does the speech implicitly put Prime Minister Maliki on notice?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it makes it

-- calls it like it is, which is that they have a plan, they have good statements, it's time to perform. And that's the message he's getting from his own people, that's the message he's getting from the President, and that's the message that he's getting from the American people.

Q What has changed in the last two months? Two months ago, the President said we were winning, and now you're saying that the President made clear the current status is not working. What is the single catalyst for that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's really what we've seen over the last year. The big trigger was obviously going after the Golden -- the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara. I think it's true that the Iraqis did look into the abyss. Two months later, they did -- had a unity government. The Iraqi security forces, particularly the army, did not fracture.

But over the spring and summer, that sectarian violence did not abate, but it continued to build. And I think it led people to conclude that what we were doing wasn't working. And obviously, you don't want to declare a strategy dead until you have a new one to put in its place.

And so -- and about two, three months ago, the President asked -- these reviews started, very informally, and then, as you know, the President asked they be brought together in an NSC system and done in a systematic way. And he's been pretty public about that review over the last two or three months.

Q And last question, how is the President going to justify to Congress the additional need for troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: By explaining the problem, emphasizing and I think playing on the fact that most congressmen understand that we can't afford to fail, that -- he will explain why this, as he will tonight, why this is a plan that he believes will succeed and is most likely to succeed, but that it requires the additional troops in order to be successful.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's got someone waiting for him in the Roosevelt Room. I'll pick up the baton.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q Your colleague just said that the Iraqis want to control security by the end of the year. What are the prospects for that happening?

Q Background for this part?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, everything is still on background. Again, it fits into the larger architecture of what the Iraqis have been talking all along about doing, which is assuming primary responsibility for combat operations. They already do it in three of the provinces.

And again, rather than trying to ask a prospective question, it's something that we're going to work toward achieving. Because, Peter, what you're asking me is, what's going to transpire in the next 10 months. I can't give you a precise answer on it, but the whole -- the way this plan has been put together is in such a way as to work with the Iraqis so that you get away from some of the problems that rendered the Baghdad -- the first two Baghdad plans ineffective, one of the key elements there being rules of engagement that effectively tied the hands of those who are going after bad actors within the city of Baghdad.

You also now have real responsibility on the part of the Iraqis, as we've also been discussing. It is a democratically elected government that's under pressure. The Iraqi people are tired of this, as well. And so there is real pressure within Iraq, even though most of the violence -- sectarian violence is focused around Baghdad, and virtually all of the violence around Baghdad and Anbar; even though 14 provinces have very low levels of violence, nine of them have less than one violent incident per day. It is clear --

Q So is the assessment --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just finish here. That has still had -- even in those areas, the violence in Baghdad has had an effect on confidence in the government, itself. This is a time where the Iraq government has to demonstrate to the Iraqi people its own ability to do the basics. And we are going to do what we can to support and assist it in that effort.

Q He has said that they want to control their security by the end of the year. We've heard this before. So there is no -- going into this, no assessment on whether that's achievable?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course, there is. Absolutely. But I don't know -- precisely how would you have me answer the question?

Q Well, I mean, you've been consulting --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me put it this way.

Q -- with the Iraqis. They've been telling you what they think their capabilities are. Do you think they have that capability?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. We wouldn't be talking about this if we didn't think they had the capability. Furthermore, there has been a pretty clear assessment -- and you'll see this reflected in some of the fact sheets that you will get -- in some of the problems with some of the Iraqi military and some of the police force: absenteeism, those sorts of problems. So there's been a very clear-eyed look at what it takes to make it more professional. So there is training, there is embedding -- one of the Baker-Hamilton commission recommendations was considerably more embedding. And so what you're going to see is U.S. forces embedding deeper down to the company level, so that you are going to be working on the real basics, in terms of fitness and professionality and that sort of thing within the forces.

So this is an effort where we're going to be working at much closer levels, making sure that they're properly equipped -- Barry McCaffrey has talked about that. So there are a whole lot of different pieces here. This is not simply U.S. forces going in following the Iraqis. There are much more determined efforts, in terms of training, coordination, development of capability when it comes to logistics, communications, intelligence on the part of the Iraqis; and also, again, underlined three times, the importance of coming up with rules of engagement that are going to be consistent with making it clear that the law applies to everybody, and furthermore, the forces are going to be able to do the essential jobs, because you cannot move on to complete the political business until you've taken care of the security situation.

Q One more. Are any other countries adding to their forces levels there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Other countries are going to be involved, and the President will be -- he will not be talking about other countries' military commitments, but it is clear that a very important part of what's going on here is the continued engagement and involvement of other countries in the region, because this, again, is the central front in the war on terror, but there are important other considerations. And I think people in the neighborhood increasingly understand the importance of a successful Iraq.

Q -- are you talking about Iran and Syria?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President will talk about Iran and Syria, absolutely.

Q I was referring to the current coalition countries -- are any of --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, no announcements on anything like that, and that's not part of the discussion.

Q Is there a specific request for additional funding from Congress in the speech?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. But there are -- I think we've briefed you a little bit -- there will be in the supplemental the incremental funding necessary. That will be $5.6 on the military side. That will include, I think, $414 million for provincial reconstruction teams. It will include $350 million for the CERP program -- Commander's Emergency Response Program -- and $400 million for quick response funds, which are also part of the Department of State.

Q Can you address the premise that some lawmakers who have met with the President about this plan are calling it the "last chance"? We've talked about that in the briefing room, but now, more freely, can you address this overall premise?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think when you go into a planning process like this, you focus on what are the problems and how do you succeed. And that is the attitude. Now, part of succeeding here is making sure that the Iraqi government stands up and does what its people want, what it says it wants, and what the American people want. But I think uses of terms like "last chance," they create a sense of brinkmanship that is not constructive and I don't think reflects the way in which ones goes about trying to address these problems.

Q Again, what compels the Iraqis to -- what happens if they don't meet the benchmarks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you're going to have to ask them. Again, you want us to talk about "what if," and the moment we talk about that, everybody defaults to that position. That also tips your hands to terrorists and others working in the country. We're simply not going to talk about the "what if" scenario.

Q Sure, but in a country that is tired of listening to, the Iraqis are going to do this, and they never make it there --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, here's -- but you're going to have to -- you're going to have some opportunities to judge very quickly. The Iraqis are going to have three brigades within Baghdad within a little more than a month. They have committed to trying to get one brigade in, I think, by the first of February, and two more by the 15th. When it comes to benchmarks, they are talking about, in a fairly short span of time, addressing some of the key legislative business, including the hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification reforms, and election/constitutional reforms.

So people are going to be able to see pretty quickly that the Iraqis are or are not stepping up. And that provides the ability to judge.

Q The senior administration official was talking about two brigades in Anbar Province and five in Baghdad. Are we talking about 14,000 --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what we're talking about is -- actually, it's two Marine battalions in Anbar, which comes to 4,000 troops, five army brigades in Baghdad. Together, you total them up, it's somewhere in the 21,000-22,000 total.

Q Can you talk about the jobs program? The senior administration official had mentioned a $10-billion effort for Iraqi jobs. I'm assuming that's Iraqi money.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is Iraqi money. The Prime Minister, in his speech last week, they took $10 billion out of the $11 billion that they have in spendable surplus funds, and they've committed that to a reconstruction program that the Prime Minister announced last week.

Q And then the senior administration official said that we can complement that. What does that mean? Does that mean that the $1 billion, in terms of our own, creating another --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Keep in mind -- the other thing is that other countries in the neighborhood, as part of the Iraq Compact -- and it's worth mentioning this -- they're hoping that within the next few weeks, they'll also be able to conclude work on the Iraq Compact, which includes commitments by the U.N. -- U.N. member states and people in the neighborhood also to make commitments when it comes to contributions within Iraq. So those negotiations are moving very rapidly toward a point of conclusion. So do not assume that each and every bit of funding that's going to be expended on reconstruction is U.S. or Iraqi. There are going to be others contributing to that effort.

If you take a look at the provincial reconstruction teams, and also now what we're calling provincial support teams, which will be, essentially, provincial reconstruction teams embedded within some of the combat units -- those are going to be efforts to help train Iraqis in everything from building to putting in place the basics for civil society -- rule of law, court system, that kind of thing. So a lot of those efforts are sort of ongoing. And when we get these fact sheets out to you today, you'll be able to see a little more of that detail.

Q So is that part of the billion-dollar plan that people are talking about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, what people -- the best I can tell is when people are using the billion-dollar figure, what they are doing is that they are aggregating the accounts that I mentioned before, which would be the provincial reconstruction team money, the CERP money, and also the quick response funds. You put that together, that's in excess of a billion dollars. Those are different accounts, but they tend to be used. And what you're going to see is a much more coordinated effort to use DOD folks out in the provinces, as well as civilian and state folks working out in the provinces to try to develop greater capabilities on the part of local governments and individuals.

Q What does he have to say specifically about Iran and Syria and the talk of a new diplomatic offensive which the Baker-Hamilton proposed --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is nothing about a new diplomatic offensive. What it does is it makes it clear to Iran and Syria the importance of playing constructive roles.

Q Let me follow on Suzanne's question. So what you're saying is the President is going to call for boosting the U.S. reconstruction commitment by more than a billion dollars?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I think what you're talking about is -- if you want to aggregate it that way, your answer is, yes. But I would caution you that this reconstruction effort -- and this is -- General Petraeus has written within the last month a handbook on counterinsurgency. Part of counterinsurgency is not merely doing the military operations, but also confidence-building in provinces. And what we're talking about here is primarily beefing up in the four most dangerous provinces outside of Baghdad -- or the four most violent provinces -- greater capability for locals to be able to deal with civil affairs, which include the capacity for building businesses and getting schools operating properly and doing that. So it's not merely construction, but it really is kind of the nuts and bolts also of getting the civil institutions in shape.

Q Is there a micro loan program in there, as well?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know what, you're going to have to ask the guys who are doing the line item stuff.

Q Do you have an overall cost estimate to this whole package?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've just given it to you.

Q No, I'm talking about the military --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The military piece is $5.6 billion.

Q I thought that was just the down payment that's going to be in the supplemental.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's in the supplemental -- you understand -- I think the question you have -- I've got to go in a couple of minutes -- you're asking a question that anticipates my knowing exactly when everything is over. I don't.

Q Well, is there any end point to the mission for these additional troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll find out. I mean, the end point is, we hope that we're going to have -- let me put it this way: You have the mission, and the mission right now is you deal with the security problems, you create breathing space so that the political institutions can continue that business of doing national reconciliation and also addressing very important fundamental needs, whether it be infrastructure in places like Baghdad and other major urban areas, or continuing the business of building civil institutions and economic capacity out in the provinces. All of those things are the things that we're talking about.

Q How does the embedding work, in terms of who gets to decide where these troops go? And the question of Sadr City came up. Is that an Iraqi decision, yes, we're going to take on Sadr City and the Americans follow along? Do the Americans make that decision? Who decides --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Iraqis are going to be in the lead here, and the United States in support roles, as the senior administration official said.

Q -- that the Iraqi commanders could essentially commit U.S. troops --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, U.S. troops, again, will be working under U.S. command and they will be working jointly. There is not going to be an opportunity for Iraqis to be giving direct orders to the United States.

Q But if Iraqis have tried to take on Sadr City, and U.S. troops are embedded, does that mean U.S. troops --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're confusing a couple of things also. Just because you have embedded forces and you're doing training does not mean that everybody sort of trails along on each and every mission. As the senior administration official said, of particular interest for the Iraqis is taking the lead in places like Sadr City.

Two more, and then I've got to go.

Q Will the benchmarks in the President's plan be associated with dates? And what's the span under which those --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but the benchmarks are the ones that the Iraqis themselves have set. What he's saying is -- to the Prime Minister, you have set your benchmarks, you need to meet them.

Q Will he say --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I believe so. If not, our supporting materials all do.

Q After the American people hear the speech or absorb it, will the President be saying that with this plan there is increased risk, expect more casualties, that will happen?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think -- it is certainly a possibility. Common sense would dictate, especially if you're going into areas where you have a dug-in enemy and you're saying, we're going to take you on now, there is a real possibility of -- in the short run -- more violence. We do not want people to think that the enemy simply is going to run away. This is going to be a time where Iraqi and U.S. forces are going very seriously after those who have tried to destabilize the democracy -- Al Qaeda in Anbar, a variety of different groups and organizations within Baghdad proper. So we are certainly

-- we're going to acknowledge the fact that this creates a prospect of greater violence in the short run.

Q The President, himself, is not going to measure success based on increased violence that may occur, and he doesn't want the American people to do that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but I think -- what ultimately -- you've got a whole series of things. First, let's take a look at Iraqi commitments and fulfilling those. Let's take a look, also, at what happens on the civil front. Then you're going to have to take a look at the fact that knowing that there is likely going to be some increased violence in the short run, are we going to lead to the point where you end up subduing those who are committing acts of violence, and at the same time, forcing those who might either be inclined not to play active roles in supporting the government, or might be inclined to try to go along with the bad actors -- have them -- force them to make a choice.

That has been part of the calculus all along. But the problem is, there has not been consequence for bad behavior in many cases, and now there has to be consequences, and those consequences have to be clear, and they have to be clear enough that people are going to make decisions on their own about which path they're going to pursue.

In many cases, the failure to provide security within Baghdad encouraged people to make their own deals -- either to say, we think this militia is going to be more effective, we think this criminal band is going to be effective, this group of rejectionists -- they're going to protect me. That is an unacceptable situation. Ultimately, it is absolutely essential to build the confidence in the security forces, including the police, so that people will make the choice to support the government, rather than to cast their lot with those who are actively undermining.

Q To clarify, what is "short run"?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What do you mean short run?

Q In the President's mind?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what is short run in your mind? It's one of those --

Q It doesn't make any difference to me. The American people -- said they're skeptical, there's lack of patience.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. And the President is going to talk about that. But if you're trying to define a term that vague, I think it's less useful. What's going to be primarily useful -- and again, I apologize --

Q He's Commander-in-Chief. He has to have a --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me finish the answer, and then I hope it will be useful to you. The fact is there is not going to be a fact sheet that says "the definition of short run is." We're already telling you that on February 1st we expect there to be a brigade, an Iraqi brigade in Baghdad, and two more by the 15th. You can expect to see operations.

As a matter of fact, you've already seen in recent days stepped up activity led by the Iraqis within Baghdad. And that's the kind of thing you're going to need to see. So I think what you're asking -- I honestly don't know how to answer the question because, to me, it's less on point than, what does the President propose to do, how does he see these pieces fitting together. And it's really answering the questions, why do you think it's different this time around; how do you expect it to work -- these are questions that we're going to be getting a lot of.

I apologize. I've got to get going here in a minute. But let me make a couple of points to everybody, and you can feel free to contact us during the course of the day because we want to be as helpful as possible. We'll get fact sheets out because we've really scratched the surface of a lot of things that are going on.

Let me just back up to what my colleague did at the beginning. There has been a long process of taking a very hard look and looking at each and every alternative -- every alternative -- and people have spent a lot of time looking through them. And they've come up with a comprehensive plan that deals with a lot of different elements of the situation in Iran , including regionally, locally, economically, diplomatically and so on -- sorry, Iraq. Thank you. And as a consequence there's going to be a lot to chew on when you do get these sheets. And I'm sorry they're not ready yet.

Last one.

Q Is this a rejection of the Iraq Study Group's report?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. As a matter of fact, you're going to find that an enormous percentage of what the Iraq Study Group has proposed is in here. Just giving you, for instance the notion of embedding -- as a matter of fact, it was interesting, because there was apparently rejected in -- or changed in a very late draft of the Iraq Study Group report something that said, we think you ought to -- a lot of the things in terms of embedding and doing these things may require increases in troops to be effective.

So I think you're going to find that -- as a matter of fact, we should have something available soon that matches up a lot of the ISG stuff. A lot of that is reflected -- as a matter of fact, a lot of the comments and a lot of the suggestions people have made have been incorporated into this report and we have valued a lot of the input.

I apologize, I have another obligation I have to meet. Feel free to call and get in touch with us and we'll get stuff to you soon.

Q How long is it? How long is the --

Q Will there be excerpts?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are hoping -- we will get excerpts -- we're going to try to get things to you earlier than you're accustomed to receiving them, but I will not make a direct promise on times at this juncture.

Q How long is it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Length of the speech looks to be --

Q Twenty.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Twenty, yes, it's about 20.

Q And tomorrow you're going to do briefings, too?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow we'll have some briefings that will be useful to you.

END 1:16 P.M. EST

Full Report PDF
White House Releases 11-Page Deck Explaining Changes
01/10/2007 5:56 PM ET
iraq_strategy011007.pdf.

The Bush Plan
White House Provides Nuggets; Democrats Plan Protest Vote
01/10/2007 4:08 PM ET
AP provides this bullet point summary.

The NY Times provides details.

Democrats say the Bush plan is a mistake, and they say they'll call for vote in the Senate and House on the merits of the Bush plan.

Say Politicians Are "Gambling In A No-Win Situation In Iraq"
01/09/2007 5:22 PM ET
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones in the military. Membership currently includes over 3,000 military families.

Today, their members issued a statement on a surge in Iraq, saying that: "Many of these families expect that their loved ones can or will be affected by any escalation in troop strength in Iraq, either because they will be extended beyond their scheduled return date or because they will be deployed early."

“As politicians in Washington, DC, including President Bush, scramble for ways to extract themselves from the political fallout of the war in Iraq, they are doing the unconscionable: gambling in a no-win situation with the lives of our loved ones and the loved ones of others,” said Nancy Lessin, a co-founder of Military Families Speak Out.

“It is incumbent upon Congress to now use their power of the purse to stop funding for continuing the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and use the funds necessary to bring our troops home quickly and safely.”

“De-funding the war is not, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and others have suggested, ‘abandoning the troops’ or ‘decreasing financing for American troops’; it is the most supportive thing that Congress can do,” said Charley Richardson, another co-founder of Military Families Speak Out. “If they fail to act to support our troops in this way, and vote for funds to be used to continue the war, then this will no longer be George Bush’s war – it will be the Democrats’ war. If they buy it again, they will own it.”

“Going through my son’s first deployment to Iraq – to a war that should never have happened – was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and he is still irreparably scarred,” said Tina Smarro of Cohoes, NY whose son is in the Army. “Now there’s talk that he may have to go back as part of Bush’s troop ‘surge’, and for what? There are no new troops for this so-called ‘surge’ – it’ll be the back-door draft all over again. Troops currently in Iraq, due to come home, will be extended, and those who have already been through so much will be re-deployed.”

Determined to Force Issue & Introduce Legislation For Change
01/09/2007 3:00 PM ET
Scott Lehigh of The Boston Globe reports: "Today the Massachusetts senator will introduce legislation to prevent the president from increasing US troop levels in Iraq without specific authorization from Congress. And in a speech at the National Press Club one day before the president outlines his new Iraq plans to the nation, Kennedy will take aim at the idea of sending more troops."

"In the election, the American people made it very clear they wanted a change in direction," Kennedy said in an interview yesterday. "The president has been going in the wrong direction -- and we are going to do everything we can to get accountability."

Blogosphere
Andrew Sullivan: "Political Cover or Something That Works?"
01/08/2007 2:46 PM ET
Andrew Sullivan asks in his blog The Daily Dish if we should give the President another chance in Iraq, say six months, and then see where we are?

He writes: "At least then we will not have to endure the taunts from those who'll declare the Democrats lost the Iraq war, or the predictable stab-in-the-back chorus (take it away, Sean Hannity!) At the same time, isn't it basically immoral to send young Americans to die for a piece of political cover that no one seriously believes can work? Isn't it immoral to ask young Americans to perish in brutal street-fighting so that we won't have to endure the crowing of the stab-in-the-back right? This is, of course, a central feature - again! - of the decision we have to make on Iraq. Is this president proposing something that he genuinely believes will work? Or is this political cover until he is out of office? Can we, in other words, trust him?"

Sullivan continues, saying that, "I'm sure some advocates of a two-year permanent surge with sufficient troops to make it work are completely sincere. Their position is respectable, if somewhat unpersuasive. Their laudable goal now is simply to prevent a completely failed state in the Middle East. I'm not so sure, however, about the president's motives. I don't believe he's ever been serious about the war in Iraq - because he has never committed sufficient resources to match his rhetoric, and took his eye off the ball in the critical period in 2004 and 2005. In the end, you observe what a man does, not what he says. And everything Bush has actually done (forget the highfalutin rhetoric) is to telegraph a clear message: Iraq is not that big a deal; my ego comes before candor; as president, I can do what I want anyway. We will soon be faced with an excruciating choice between what looks like another half-measure and trying to make the best of a swift exit via Kurdistan. Under both scenarios, we will have the current president, who is obviously incapable of the kind of deft diplomacy and military focus that we desperately need in either case."

Foreign Relations Committee Holds Extensive Hearings
01/08/2007 2:11 PM ET
Incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) and ranking member Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) have announced a tentative schedule for upcoming Iraq hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The blitz of hearings will include some of the top experts on Iraq, including former Secretaries of State and Defense and National Security Advisors, former Ambassadors, directors of think tanks, and other. A few of the topics will include: troop surge, current assesments, regional diplomatic strategy, alternative plans, oil and reconstruction strategy, to name a few.

Incoming Committee Chairman Senator Joe Biden said in a press release that, “I, along with Senator Dick Lugar, will hold over the next four weeks intensive and extensive hearings on Iraq in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The purpose of these hearings will be to seek an answer to the question currently dominating the national debate: what options remain to secure America’s interests in Iraq? Where do we go from here?”

“It is important that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continues to hear from the top experts in and out of government on how we move forward in Iraq. We had an excellent bipartisan spirit during the more than 30 Iraq hearings I chaired during the last four years, and during the hearings chaired by Sen. Biden in 2002 before the war began. The Committee has benefited from hearing the broadest possible points of view, and I know this will continue under Sen. Biden’s leadership,” the Committee’s Republican leader Dick Lugar said.

“We will hear from the Bush administration and from experts left, right and center,” said Senator Biden. “Our purpose is not to revisit the past, but to help build a consensus behind a new course for America in Iraq. The Bush Administration, as well as important private groups and experts, have developed plans for Iraq. It is the unique responsibility of Congress, starting with the Foreign Relations Committee, to evaluate those plans in public and to help our citizens understand the choices before us. That is the best way to secure the informed consent of the American people, without which no major policy can long be sustained.

“I will continue to work closely with my Republican counterpart, Dick Lugar and with all of our colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee in developing these hearings, pursuing what I believe will be an important inquiry into the national interest,” added Sen. Biden.

The tentative schedule includes:

SFRC Iraq Hearings – Schedule as of 1/5/07

**Subject to Change**

(Room Locations are TBA)

Week of January 8

Tuesday, January 9, 2006 2:30-5 PM

Closed Intelligence Community Briefing

Wednesday, January 10, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Where We Are – A Current Assessment of Iraq and the Region

Witnesses:

• Phebe Marr, Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and author of The History of Iraq

• Mike O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution

• Yahia Said, Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and consultant to the United Nations on the Compact with Iraq

• Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia

Thursday, January 11, 2006 10:00AM

Topic: The Administration’s Plan for Iraq

Witnesses:

• Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Thursday, January 11, 2006 2:00 PM

Topic: Alternative Plans -- Troop Surge, Partition, Withdrawal, Strengthen the Center.

Witnesses:

• Peter W. Galbraith, U.S. Ambassador and Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

• Frederick W. Kagan, American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar

• Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at the CATO Institute

• Dan Serwer, vice president of the Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations and the Centers of Innovation at the United States Institute of Peace

Week of January 15

Wednesday, January 17, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Regional Diplomatic Strategy

Witnesses:

• Vali Nasr, professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and adjunct senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

• Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations

• Dennis Ross, U.S. Ambassador, counselor to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Ziegler distinguished fellow

• Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations Secretary General's former envoy to Afghanistan and to Iraq (pending)

Thursday, January 18, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Military Strategy

Witnesses:

• Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University

• General Joseph P. Hoar (Ret.), former Commander in Chief of United States Central Command

• General Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret.), Adjunct Professor at the United States Military Academy and NBC and MSNBC Military Analyst

• General Jack Keane (Ret.), Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (pending)

Thursday, January 18, 2006 2:00 PM

Topic: Alternative Plans Continued, Session 2: The Iraq Study Group

Witnesses:

• Lee H. Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, member of the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council, and former United States Representative

• Other members of Iraq Study Group (pending)

Week of January 22

Tuesday, January 23, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Oil and Reconstruction Strategy

Witnesses:

• Jim Placke, Senior Associate, Cambridge Energy Research Associates

• Reconstruction/Economy Experts (pending)

Wednesday, January 24, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Alternative Plans Continued – Session 3 – Federalism, Side with the Majority, Strategic Redeployment, Negotiate

Witnesses:

• Les Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (pending)

• Edward N. Luttwak, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies

• Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Senior Adviser to the Center for Defense Information

• Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group

Thursday, January 25, 2006 9:30 AM

Topic: Political Strategy

• Laith Kubba, Senior Director for the Middle East & North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy (pending)

• Ahmed Hashim, Associate Professor of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy. (pending)

• Qubad Talabani, Washington spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (pending)

• Toby Dodge, Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (pending)

Week of January 29 (Exact Dates Pending)

Topic: The View from the Region

Witnesses:

• Briefing with ambassadors (Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) (pending)

• Briefing from Baghdad (U.S. Ambassador Dr. Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Lieutenant General Peter W. Chiarelli, others) (pending)

Topic: Iraq in the Strategic Context

Witnesses:

• Former National Security Advisers – pending

Witnesses: (Former Secretaries of State and Defense)

• Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (pending)

• Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

• Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger (pending)

Protests "Inhumanity" of US Imprisonment of Terror Suspects
01/08/2007 08:08 AM ET
Cindy Sheehan in Havana
Cuban News Agency
Cindy Sheehan in Havana
Anti-Iraq war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, is in Cuba on a week-long tour during which she'll march to the gates of the U.S. Guantanamo Bay base to demand the U.S. military close the prison where 400 terror suspects are held. While in Cuba voicing concern for U.S.-held prisoners with alleged links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, there's no word whether she'll speak out against human rights abuses in Castro's Cuba. Here's the full story.

Link To Report
AEI Report: "Choosing Victory: A Plan For Success in Iraq"
01/06/2007 2:00 PM ET
Mark Benjamin of Salon writes: "Hawks gathered in the plush, carpeted suites of the conservative American Enterprise Institute on Friday to discuss a new course in Iraq they say should be spearheaded by tens of thousands of new troops camped out in Baghdad neighborhoods in active combat roles well into 2008."

He writes that: "The plan is not to be dismissed. Unlike the much ballyhooed Iraq Study Group, these are the people President Bush listens to, many of them the same influential voices who were predicting in 2002 that the war would establish a flower of democracy in the Middle East. Sitting in the overheated, standing-room-only conference hall, a Department of Homeland Security official leaned over to me to note the irony that reporters had paid so much attention to the workings of the Iraq Study Group, as opposed to the troop-surge plans being cooked up at AEI. "This is the Iraq Study Group," he quipped"

The think tank's plan is not for the lighthearted. The glossy 47-page AEI report, titled "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq," envisions sending 25,000 additional troops to clear Baghdad house by house. Then, as report author Frederick W. Kagan put it, those soldiers would not pull back to their bases but remain stationed in Baghdad neighborhoods, providing security for civilians. "We can clear and hold critical terrain in Baghdad," Kagan told the crowd.

Choosing Victory: A Plan For Success in Iraq can be found on the AEI website.

Prosecutors Spar If His Motives Mattered
01/06/2007 10:17 AM ET
The Seattle Times reports on the hearing Thursday at Fort Lewis about 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who last June refused to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. Defense and prosecutors sparred much of the afternoon about whether Watada's motives for opting out of the war should affect the outcome of a February court-martial trial that could result in a six-year prison term.

The article continues: "Watada says he believes the war is illegal and he was duty-bound not to fight. The defense seeks to introduce evidence to prove that belief. Prosecutors said such arguments should never be raised at the trial, where Watada's guilt or innocence will be determined by a panel of officers."

Within the next week, military Judge Lt. Col. John Head is expected to issue a written decision on whether to hold a special hearing on evidence about the U.S. conduct of the war. At Thursday's hearing, he appeared troubled by the prospect of putting the war on trial in his courtroom.

"Where do I have the authority, and where is the case law that gives me the authority to discuss — to consider — whether the war in Iraq, or any war for that matter, is lawful?" Head asked.

Watada also faces charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, with prosecutors citing four public statements he made in speeches and interviews.

Send Joint Letter To Bush: "We Need A Change In Direction"
01/05/2007 4:05 PM ET
Today Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a joint letter to Bush opposing escalation of troops. In their letter they state that the start of the new Congress "brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark. The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people."

To read the letter:

pelosi_and_reid_oppose_war.pdf

Transcript
To be Deputy Secretary of State, Dir. of Natl Intelligence
01/05/2007 12:05 PM ET
President Bush flanked by Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Mike McConnell
White House photo by Paul Morse
President Bush flanked by Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Mike McConnell

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Vice President, thank you. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate Ambassador John Negroponte to be our next Deputy Secretary of State, and Vice Admiral Mike McConnell to be America's next Director of National Intelligence.

Under the leadership of Secretary Rice, the men and women of the State Department are working to expand freedom and defend America's interests around the world. The Deputy Secretary of State is a key role in shaping American foreign policy and in guiding our diplomats deployed around the globe. The Deputy Secretary also helps our nation's chief diplomat manage the State Department, and helps coordinate with other federal agencies so that America speaks to the world with one voice.

I have asked John Negroponte to serve in this vital position at this crucial moment. John Negroponte knows the State Department well. After all, he started there in 1960 as a Foreign Service Officer in the administration of President Eisenhower. In the four-and-a-half decades since, he has served our nation in eight Foreign Service posts, spanning three continents. He served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Reagan. He represented America at the United Nations. He served as our first ambassador to a free Iraq. And for nearly two years, John has done a superb job as America's first Director of National Intelligence.

John Negroponte's broad experience, sound judgment and expertise on Iraq and in the war on terror make him a superb choice as Deputy Secretary of State, and I look forward to working with him in this new post.

Ambassador Negroponte leaves big shoes to fill as the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI has become a core part of our national security team. The DNI determines the national intelligence budget, overseas the collection and analysis of intelligence information, ensures that intelligence agencies share information with each other, and creates common standards for intelligence community personnel. The vigilance of the DNI helps keep the American people safe from harm.

Admiral Mike McConnell has the experience, the intellect, and the character to succeed in this position. He served as Director of the National Security Agency during the 1990s. He was the intelligence officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Admiral McConnell has decades of experience, ensuring that our military forces had the intelligence they need to fight and win wars.

He's worked with the Congress and with the White House to strengthen our defenses against threats to our information systems. He has earned our nation's highest award for service in the intelligence community. As DNI, Mike will report directly to me, and I am confident he will give me the best information and analysis that America's intelligence community can provide.

I thank John and Mike for taking on these new challenges. I appreciate their service to our country. Each of them will do good work in their new positions. And it is vital they take up their new responsibilities promptly. I'm confident the United States Senate will also see the value of these two serving in crucial positions. And I would hope that they would be confirmed as quickly as possible.

Congratulations to you both. Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Thank you very much, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rice, Admiral McConnell. It's been a great honor, Mr. President, to serve as your first Director of National Intelligence. I will always be grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to help achieve the goals that you and the Congress set for intelligence reform.

During the past 20 months, I believe that our intelligence community has embraced the challenge of functioning as a single unified enterprise, and reaffirmed the fact that it is the best intelligence community in the world, second to none. That's to the credit of the hundreds -- the thousands of intelligence professionals who serve this nation around the globe, many in harm's way. They and their families make great sacrifices to keep America safe. It has been a privilege to lead them, and it is because of them that I leave the post of the Director of National Intelligence with regret.

But I am heartened to know that the intelligence community now will be led by Admiral Mike McConnell, a man whose exceptional accomplishments as an intelligence professional will ensure wise stewardship and success as the Director of National Intelligence. Admiral McConnell will continue to drive forward the reforms we have initiated, fully integrating the domestic, foreign and military dimensions of our national intelligence enterprise.

Now for someone who started his career as a junior foreign service officer in October of 1960, the position, Mr. President, to which you are now nominating me is a -- an opportunity of a lifetime. If confirmed by the Senate as Deputy Secretary of State, I look forward to supporting Secretary Rice in carrying out your foreign policy goals. I particularly welcome the opportunity to help her provide leadership to the thousands of Americans and foreign nationals who work in the Department of State here in the United States, and in the more than 270 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions the Department maintains overseas.

Whether in Baghdad, Kabul, Kosovo, or elsewhere, these dedicated professionals are on the front line of advancing America's commitment to freedom. It will be a great privilege for me to come home to the Department where I began my career and rejoin a community of colleagues whose work is so important and of whom the nation is so justly proud.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Good job. Thank you. Michael.

VICE ADMIRAL McCONNELL: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rice, Ambassador. Thank you very much, sir, for your kind remarks and your vote of confidence in asking me to become your second Director of National Intelligence. If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to serving you, Mr. President, the nation's senior leadership and all the great men and women of our national security and homeland security communities.

I understand these people rely on timely and useful intelligence every day. After spending most of my adult life in the intelligence community, focused on getting the right information to the right decision-maker in the right time and format, I'm excited about returning.

Fortunately, my work over the past 10 years after leaving government has allowed me to stay focused on the national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left. I have followed the issues and the initiatives, and I hope to be quickly and directly relevant to build on the many accomplishments of Ambassador Negroponte and his team.

Unlike just a decade ago, the threats of today and the future are moving at increasing speeds and across organizational and geographic boundaries. This will require increased coordinated responsiveness by our community of intelligence professionals. I plan to continue the strong emphasis on integration of the community to better serve all of our customers. That will mean better sharing of information, increased focus on customer needs and service, improved security processes, and deeper penetration of our targets to provide the needed information for tactical, operational and strategic decision-making.

Public service has always been my passion. I look forward to serving this great nation as we continue to fight on the global war on terrorism and to face the many new challenges of the new century.

I want to thank my wife, Terry, and my wonderful family and our grandchildren for their support as I take on these new challenges.

Thank you again, Mr. President. All the best, Mr. Ambassador, for your new leadership role at the Department of State.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.

END 9:55 A.M. EST

Still No Victory Against Biggest Killer of U.S. Troops
By ROBERT Y. PELTON, ANNA SHEN 01/05/2007 12:02 PM ET
Federal Computer Week reports on the problems caused by counter IED systems.The Naval Sea Systems Command is looking to develop a small device that will prevent the powerful jamming radio signals from shutting down military tactical communications in the immediate area.

"Navsea, which is asking for industry input on mitigating the problem, said IED jammers, known as Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) systems, can cause the “loss of all communications” from co-located or nearby tactical radio systems."

The Race for a Solution

It brings attention to the nagging reality that U.S. forces and the massive technology community have not found a solution to the problem of improvised explosives devices. Deadly ad hoc killers that range from hijacked aircraft to booby trapped dead bodies. The most common form is the roadside IED, typically made from Saddam-era artillery shells and simple detonators. Car bombs or VBIEDs are the most deadly version in Baghdad and the simple but deadly technology has spread to Afghanistan with increasing effectiveness.

Number One Killer

Currently IEDs are the number one killer of US troops in Iraq. Depending on the month around 70% and higher of fatalities are IED related. There is also the sad statistic of increased use of body armor keeping soldiers alive but horribly disfigured or handicapped for life. U.S. responses range from multi billion technology investments, to a direct-report task force led by retired General Montgomery Meigs. But for every advance there seems to be a mirror image advance in either higher or lower technology. The latest horror is an old enemy, the shaped charge. Essentially an IED that is focused much like a shotgun focuses a shell or an RPG can be used to disable a tank by focusing its force and heat.

EFP's: Upping the Ante

The shaped charge is aimed (typically at the front corner of the vehicle) and is made of a concave copper end, often encased in a steel tube. When detonated the explosion turns the copper into a a molten plasma with a shock wave in front of it.

The shock wave breaks the armor and the plasma cuts right though detonating explosive devices inside the vehicle. The EFP is estimated to hit vehicles at up to 8,000 meters per second with extremely high pressure. The charge will also be packed with shrapnel and form its only solid plug if it travels too far.

Originally the military required retrofitted armor kits to deal with the threat But is now delivering equipment with better built in armor protection. It is still common to see US still using sandbags on the floor of their humvees to add some further level of protection. Iraq is just beginning to see the new generation of heavily armored vehicles arrive.

Heavily uparmored trucks like the Cougar, Cheetah and Buffalo.. The demand for these vehicles has propelled Force Protection into one of the fastest growing companies in South Carolina.

Cheetah
www.ForceProtection.com
Cheetah
. There are currently about 300 of the new vehicles in Iraq with more investment from the DoD to produce more and better bomb proof transport. As developments progress stateside, the EFP or Explosively Formed Projectile or shaped charge devices are taking out larger and heavily armed vehicles. A British contractor contacted IraqSlogger with the story of one of his factory armored Toyota Landcruiser being thrown 400 feet, killing all inside.

The current standard countermeasure is the Warlock system modified from a Gulf War era proximity fuse jamming device. Currently jamming devices are dependent on power, ranging from single vehicle units up to jamming systems that can be used to cover large stadiums.

Reports: Khalilzad to be UN Ambassador, Crocker to Baghdad
01/04/2007 9:03 PM ET
Ryan Crocker
Ryan Crocker
Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad

President Bush intends to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to wire service and TV network reports. Those reports say Bush likely will nominate Ryan Crocker as the next U.S. ambassador to Baghdad.

Here is the AP report. Here is the CNN report.

Here is Khalilzad's official bio. Here is his Wikipedia bio.

Here is Crocker's official bio. Here is his Wikipedia bio.

Urge "Departure From Arbitrary Justice" Shown in Execution
01/04/2007 5:10 PM ET
The AP reports that a U.N. human rights expert said that the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein showed that Iraq has failed to move on from the era of injustice it endured under the former dictator.

Philip Alston, an independent expert with the U.N. Human Rights Council, said that the legal proceedings "were tragically missed opportunities to demonstrate that justice can be done." He urged the Iraqi government to make sweeping reforms to show that it "is serious about a departure from the predetermined and arbitrary justice meted out by Saddam himself." He said the first step would be to halt the execution of two of Saddam's co-defendants and commute their death sentences to life imprisonment "or other substantial terms," Alston said.

"Emergency Funding" Goes Worldwide For U.S. Military
01/04/2007 3:27 PM ET
The WSJ takes a journey through convoluted military budgeting in this piece by Jonathan Karp. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England requested wider application of the use of emergency funds beyond conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This means all services can put in for new equipment and upgrades regardless of actual replacement need. Everything from futurist Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighters to missiles are on the menu according to the WSJ analysis of the new defense budget. President Bush will make public the almost $470 billion fiscal 2008 budget request. Loren Thompson of the Washington-area Lexington Institute has a warning. "The latest supplemental budget is wildly out of synch with the political system, which wants more discipline and oversight."

Karp quotes an army official involved in budget planning "It's a feeding frenzy...Using the supplemental budget, we're now buying the military we wish we had," he says, referring to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 2004 quote about inadequate equipment for troops.

Says Military Mishandling The Problem
01/02/2007 4:00 PM ET
The Home of the Brave's discussion page proclaims it is a "place for members of Home of the Brave to post thoughts, insights, and opinions about events related to the investigation of non-combat deaths of US soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen."

The blog's most recent posting is on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and gives insight into the military's handling of PTSD right now. See the following:

In a recent story on NPR a soldier that spoke to his command that he needed help for PTSD is going to be court martialed. The offences the soldier shows a man crying out for help from a growing problem. When he took action to get help his command made it difficult to get that help.

Before and during his service in Iraq he was called a stellar soldier now his command has turned its back on this man. What the Army does in this trial will send a message Army wide. If they punish him it will say to others that if you have PTSD we will not help you.

Our nation has always held in high regard our veterans that served in war. I saw a bumper sticker that said "If you read thank a teacher, you read English thank a veteran".

The military is not the military we knew when we served or even the same military of a few years ago. It was many years after Viet Nam did the government acknowledge that PTSD was a problem with those vets.

Again the military is creating the same problem and does not believe it exists. Why do they do this to the men and women that bravely served in its ranks?

There are those that say it is a sign of weakness. Others do not believe it is a real medical problem. Good people are having their lives destroyed by because the military will not own up to a problem it created. The soldier if found guilty will be stripped of all his VA and military benefits to seek help for PTSD. This has happened to other and depending on this trial will happen to a lot more who think of seeking help.

I know of several soldiers from Fort Hood that have been discharged for as their command called it "Personality disorders" not PTSD and gave them less than honorable discharges. As long as the soldier carries on with no complaints they praised but soon as they show a problem they are denied help and are characterized as a bad soldier."

German Lawyer: Rumsfeld "No Longer Untouchable"
01/02/2007 1:49 PM ET
Donald Rumsfeld tops the list of those accused of war crimes this year, writes Legal Times reporter Alexia Garamfalvi in an annual review. The article details the case as well as the pressure not to prosecute.

German lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck filed a complaint along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Internatinal Federation for Human Rights, alleging Rumsfeld authorized policies leading to the torture of prisoners at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The complaint asks a federal prosecutor there to begin an investigation, and ultimately a criminal prosecution, of the former secretary of defense and other U.S. officials for their roles in the abuses.

"Rumsfeld is no longer untouchable," says Kaleck. "He is now deeply connected with claims of abuses and torture. We have taken the first step to begin the legal discussion on his accountability."

President Bush Addresses Iraq War Supplemental
01/01/2007 00:00 AM ET

11:13 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Seventy-eight days ago I sent Congress a request for emergency war funding that our troops urgently need. I made it clear to Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill that I'm willing to discuss our differences on the way forward in Iraq. But I also made it clear our troops should not be caught in the middle of that discussion.

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.

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. They know I'm going to veto a bill containing these provisions, and they know that my veto will be sustained.

But instead of fashioning a bill I could sign, the Democratic leaders chose to further delay funding our troops, and they chose to make a political statement. That's their right. But it is wrong for our troops and it's wrong for our country. To accept the bill proposed by the Democratic leadership would be to accept a policy that directly contradicts the judgment of our military commanders. I strongly believe that the Democrats' proposal would undermine our troops and threaten the safety of the American people here at home. And here is why.

First, a proposal would mandate the withdrawal of American troops beginning as early as July 1st of this year, and no later than October 1st of this year, despite the fact that General Petraeus has not yet received all the reinforcements he needs. It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you start to plan withdrawing. If we were to do so, the enemy would simply mark their calendars and begin plotting how to take over a country when we leave.

We know what could happen next. Just as al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a base to plan attacks of September the 11th, al Qaeda could make Iraq a base to plan even more deadly attacks. The lesson of 9/11 is that allowing terrorists to find a sanctuary anywhere in the world can have deadly consequences on the streets of our own cities. Precipitous withdrawal from Iraq is not a plan to bring peace to the region or to make our people safer at home. Instead, it would embolden our enemies and confirm their belief that America is weak. It could unleash chaos in Iraq that could spread across the entire region. It would be an invitation to the enemy to attack America and our friends around the world. And, ultimately, a precipitous withdrawal would increase the probability that American troops would one day have to return to Iraq and confront an enemy that's even more dangerous.

Second, the Democratic leadership's proposal is aimed at restricting the ability of our generals to direct the fight in Iraq. They've imposed legislative mandates, they passed legislative mandates telling them which enemies they can engage and which they cannot. That means our commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from legislators 6,000 miles away on Capitol Hill. The result would be a marked advantage for our enemies and a greater danger for our troops.

Third, the bill proposed by Democratic leaders would spend billions of dollars on projects completely unrelated to the war. Proposed legislation does remove some of the most egregious pork barrel projects that Democratic leaders had inserted in earlier bills. Yet it still includes huge amounts of domestic spending that has no place in an emergency war funding bill. We should debate those provisions on their own merits, during the normal process -- but funding for our troops should not be held hostage while that debate unfolds.

I know that Americans have serious concerns about this war. People want our troops to come home, and so do I. But no matter how frustrating the fight can be and no matter how much we wish the war was over, the security of our country depends directly on the outcome in Iraq. The price of giving up there would be paid in American lives for years to come. It would be an unforgivable mistake for leaders in Washington to allow politics and impatience to stand in the way of protecting the American people.

Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course. The American people did not vote for failure, and that is precisely what the Democratic leadership's bill would guarantee.

It's not too late for Congress to do the right thing and to send me a bill that gives our troops and the commanders the funds and flexibility they need. I'm willing to meet with leaders in Congress as many times as it takes to resolve our differences. Yet, if the Democratic leaders insist on using the bill to make a political statement, they will leave me with only one option: I will veto it. And then I'll work with Congress to pass a clean bill that funds our troops without handcuffing our commanders, spending billions of dollars unrelated to the war, and forcing our nation to withdraw on the enemy's terms.

Thank you.

END 11:20 A.M. EDT

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