In an effort to continue the break in Sadr's political block, the U.S. released Sheik Ahmed Abady al Shaibani, a prominent figure in Sadr's Mahdi Army who has been in detention for over two years. Shaibani was released "into the custody of the [Iraqi] Prime Minster" and "could play a potentially important role in helping to moderate extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq."
Could it be that the Democrats are simply playing politics with the timelines that the Bush Administration may very well have in mind anyway? By buying votes and trying to pass irrelevant legislation, they are pandering to their base and attempting to set themselves up for the 2008 elections and falsely take credit for rescuing US troops from the "Bush quaqmire."... on a mostly party-line vote, the House Appropriations Committee reported out the Democratic version of a supplemental appropriations bill for the war. It was an odd piece of legislation--an appropriation to fight a war replete with provisions intended to ensure we lose it.
Here's what the Democratic legislation does, according to the Washington Post: "Under the House bill, the Iraqi government would have to meet strict benchmarks. . . . If by July 1 the president could not certify any progress, U.S. troops would begin leaving Iraq, to be out before the end of this year. If Bush did certify progress, the Iraqi government would have until Oct. 1 to meet the benchmarks, or troops would begin withdrawing then. In any case, withdrawals would have to begin by March 1, 2008, and conclude by the end of that summer."
Got that? Oh yes, in addition to the arbitrary timelines for the removal of troops, there's pork. As the Post explains, "Included in the legislation is a lot of money to help win support. The price tag exceeds the president's war request by $24 billion." Some of the extra money goes to bail out spinach farmers hurt by E. coli, to pay for peanut storage, and to provide additional office space for the lawmakers themselves. So much for an emergency war appropriations bill.
The legislation may collapse on the floor of the House this week. It certainly deserves to. Republicans can insist on a clean supplemental--no timelines to reassure the enemy that if they just hang on, we'll be gone before long, and no pork. They can win this fight--and if they do, combined with progress in Iraq, the lasting news from March 2007 will not be Bush administration haplessness; it will be that we are on the way to success in Iraq.--William Kristol