The new war money bill passed by the House on May 10 does not include even a nonbinding end date for the war. It does fund the war for a shorter period of time at one shot, but the Senate doesn't like that idea, and the bill must be reconciled with whatever the Senate passes. So, what's left in the bill that Bush doesn't like? Benchmarks!
But there are two problems with this. Bush DOES like them. And they're NOT benchmarks. A benchmark is a standard of excellence against which other items are measured. Or it's a measure of progress toward a goal. The so-called benchmarks in the House bill are nothing of the sort.
Here's the relevant section:
"SEC. 1710. (a) BENCHMARKS- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, fifty percent of the funds appropriated by this Act for assistance for Iraq under the headings 'Economic Support Fund' and 'International Narcotics and Law Enforcement' shall be withheld from obligation until the President certifies to the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives that the Government of Iraq has—"
Then the bill lists five (count em!) so-called "benchmarks," starting with:
"(1) enacted a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis;"
This law has been drafted. Vice President Dick Cheney's lobbying for its passage may have been the primary motivation for his recent trip to Iraq. Far from equitably sharing oil revenues, it hands the bulk of them over to foreign (probably largely US and British) corporations. This is the number one "benchmark", the theft of the oil of a nation we aggressively attacked and occupied. Is this a benchmark against which we will measure the theft of Iran's oil? Or in what sense is this a benchmark? And what about it are we to imagine Bush does not like?
"(2) adopted legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taken steps to implement such legislation, and set a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections;"
This is ludicrous. The majority of Iraqis have already backed ending the occupation. A majority of the members of their current parliament have signed a bill to end the occupation. And we're going to threaten to end the occupation unless they hold elections and act like a democracy? Is this a benchmark against which we'll measure episodes of Monty Python? Or in what sense is this a benchmark?
"(3) reformed current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws;"
Oh, great, we're also going to threaten to leave unless they undo destructive laws that we imposed on them. Of course, we'll tell them what the new laws should be. But they'll still have a democracy, because – don't forget – we've already demanded that they hold local elections. But who will get the contract for the vote-counting machines?
"(4) amended the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in Article 137 of such constitution; and"
This involves a process of amending "their" Constitution. We are demanding that they complete it or else… we'll end our occupation of their country.
"(5) allocated and begun expenditure of $10,000,000,000 in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis."
Hmmm. So, after destroying their country, occupying it for years, slaughtering perhaps a million citizens, driving millions more to flee the country, and generally ruining their society, while dumping hundreds of billions of US dollars into war profiteering corporations pretending to reconstruct Iraq, we're going to demand that the Iraqis shell out $10 billion to pay for the reconstruction themselves. Or else, you guessed it, we'll leave and allow them to begin ending their nightmare without our "help".
These are our much vaunted BENCHMARKS. This is how the Democratic Party is "standing up to" Bush and Cheney. Let's face it. The Iraqi government is better representing the wishes of the American people in this matter right now. The following groups and organizations want to end the occupation:
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