John Edwards said today that Congress, instead of arguing with the White House over whether benchmarks have been met for progress in Iraq, should force President Bush to change policy by setting the start of troop withdrawals in war funding bills.
"It's time for the Congress to stand its ground," he said on a conference call with reporters. "If there's no timetable, there should be no funding."
The Democratic presidential contender is calling for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 US troops and the redeployment of the rest over about nine months. He said Congress faces a "critical moment" to do the will of the American people and resist what he called "an incredible PR campaign" by the White House to continue the current Iraq policy.
Congress and the White House are heading toward a showdown on the war, with conflicting reports on progress on the ground since the so-called surge of 30,000 additional US forces in and around Baghdad.
The Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday that of 18 benchmarks, the Iraqi government had met three, partly met four others, but had failed to meet 11. Army General David H. Petraeus is expected to deliver a more positive assessment to Congress on Monday. President Bush is seeking $50 billion more to fund the war.
"George Bush is stubborn," Edwards said. "...Congress needs to call him on this."
The Democratic-controlled Congress needs to force a change in policy through the power of the purse, and push Iraqi leaders to a comprehensive political solution, Edwards said. He said semi-autonomous regions for the Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds makes some sense, but that's a decision for Iraqis to make.
He wouldn't venture a guess what would happen after American forces leave. "I don't think anyone can predict with any confidence what will happen in Iraq," he said.