Bush: Iraq's going to get ugly


Summary

The House voted 280 votes to 142 to pass the budget, ending a prolonged constitutional showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

VIDEO: Billions approved

Earlier Mr Bush held a press conference in the White House rose garden.

"We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months" to come, Mr Bush told a White House news conference.

"We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties," he said, after the military said two more soldiers had been killed in western Iraq, to bring the monthly toll to 88, and the total US war dead to 3,436.

Mr Bush called on the Iraqi government to repay the mounting sacrifices of US soldiers with political progress, and said his unfolding plan to surge nearly
30,000 troops into Iraq would reach a peak in June.

"This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy," President Bush added, predicting a torrent of violence as the top US general in Iraq, David Petraeus prepares to report in September of progress of the surge.

"It could make August a tough month, because, you see, what they're going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home," he said.

"It could be a bloody — it could be a very difficult August."

Despite his warnings that an early pullout of US troops from Iraq would be disastrous, Mr Bush said he would have no option but to order a withdrawal if it was demanded by the Iraqi government.

"We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation," he said. "If they were to say 'leave,' we would leave."

"I would hope that they would recognise that the results would be catastrophic," he added. "Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al-Qaeda will be emboldened."

'Bush-fulfilling prophecy'

But top Democrats waded onto the attack.

"The president continues to mismanage and mischaracterise this war," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

Veteran Senator Joseph Biden accused Mr Bush of hyping Al-Qaeda's role in sectarian conflict in Iraq.

"Iraq has become a Bush-fulfilling prophecy. Al-Qaeda wasn't there before the war, but it is there now. It is a problem, but not the primary problem."

Congress meanwhile prepared to vote on an emergency war budget to replace the one Bush vetoed earlier this month over withdrawal timelines included by the Democrats, who seized control of the two chambers from Bush's Republicans in November polls.

The legislation "reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America's continued support and sacrifice," Mr Bush said.

The House of Representatives was due to vote first on Thursday on a measure funding combat operations through September, ironically, framed by Democratic leaders who disown many of its contents.

The Senate will get its chance to vote, either late Thursday or Friday, before the bill, if it passes as expected, is sent for Bush's signature.

Since they lack the two-thirds majority needed to block a presidential veto, Democrats admitted they had simply ceded to the political reality, after a tense test of wills with commander-in-chief Mr Bush.

"This proposition is the best that we can achieve given the votes that we have," said senior Democratic representative David Obey.

The compromise between Democrats and the White House contains the first congressionally-imposed political and security "benchmarks" the Iraqi government will be required to meet or risk losing economic aid.

The 18 requirements include demands for a crackdown on militias, the need to train to Iraqi troops, the launching of constitutional review processes, and ensuring the fair distribution of Iraq's hydrocarbon riches.

The House version of the bill is comprised of two measures, one funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan worth 98 billion dollars and a second including US$22 billion ($A26.8 billion) in domestic spending.

Democrats appeared unwilling to enter the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, when Americans remember their war dead, risking being portrayed as unsupportive of troops braving a cauldron of fire in Iraq.

But they argue they have laid down a marker, and signalled to Mr Bush that eventually, they will force his hand over the war.

"Weak as it is …. (the) amendment with its 18 new benchmarks does at least end the totally blank check that previous Congresses have provided," Mr Obey said.

The bill also requires President Bush to report to Congress on the situation in Iraq in July and September.


The House voted 280 votes to 142 to pass the budget, ending a prolonged constitutional showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

VIDEO: Billions approved

Earlier Mr Bush held a press conference in the White House rose garden.

"We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months" to come, Mr Bush told a White House news conference.

"We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties," he said, after the military said two more soldiers had been killed in western Iraq, to bring the monthly toll to 88, and the total US war dead to 3,436.

Mr Bush called on the Iraqi government to repay the mounting sacrifices of US soldiers with political progress, and said his unfolding plan to surge nearly
30,000 troops into Iraq would reach a peak in June.

"This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy," President Bush added, predicting a torrent of violence as the top US general in Iraq, David Petraeus prepares to report in September of progress of the surge.

"It could make August a tough month, because, you see, what they're going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home," he said.

"It could be a bloody — it could be a very difficult August."

Despite his warnings that an early pullout of US troops from Iraq would be disastrous, Mr Bush said he would have no option but to order a withdrawal if it was demanded by the Iraqi government.

"We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation," he said. "If they were to say 'leave,' we would leave."

"I would hope that they would recognise that the results would be catastrophic," he added. "Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al-Qaeda will be emboldened."

'Bush-fulfilling prophecy'

But top Democrats waded onto the attack.

"The president continues to mismanage and mischaracterise this war," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

Veteran Senator Joseph Biden accused Mr Bush of hyping Al-Qaeda's role in sectarian conflict in Iraq.

"Iraq has become a Bush-fulfilling prophecy. Al-Qaeda wasn't there before the war, but it is there now. It is a problem, but not the primary problem."

Congress meanwhile prepared to vote on an emergency war budget to replace the one Bush vetoed earlier this month over withdrawal timelines included by the Democrats, who seized control of the two chambers from Bush's Republicans in November polls.

The legislation "reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real progress in return for America's continued support and sacrifice," Mr Bush said.

The House of Representatives was due to vote first on Thursday on a measure funding combat operations through September, ironically, framed by Democratic leaders who disown many of its contents.

The Senate will get its chance to vote, either late Thursday or Friday, before the bill, if it passes as expected, is sent for Bush's signature.

Since they lack the two-thirds majority needed to block a presidential veto, Democrats admitted they had simply ceded to the political reality, after a tense test of wills with commander-in-chief Mr Bush.

"This proposition is the best that we can achieve given the votes that we have," said senior Democratic representative David Obey.

The compromise between Democrats and the White House contains the first congressionally-imposed political and security "benchmarks" the Iraqi government will be required to meet or risk losing economic aid.

The 18 requirements include demands for a crackdown on militias, the need to train to Iraqi troops, the launching of constitutional review processes, and ensuring the fair distribution of Iraq's hydrocarbon riches.

The House version of the bill is comprised of two measures, one funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan worth 98 billion dollars and a second including US$22 billion ($A26.8 billion) in domestic spending.

Democrats appeared unwilling to enter the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, when Americans remember their war dead, risking being portrayed as unsupportive of troops braving a cauldron of fire in Iraq.

But they argue they have laid down a marker, and signalled to Mr Bush that eventually, they will force his hand over the war.

"Weak as it is …. (the) amendment with its 18 new benchmarks does at least end the totally blank check that previous Congresses have provided," Mr Obey said.

The bill also requires President Bush to report to Congress on the situation in Iraq in July and September.