What are the benchmarks for Iraq and what is the salient differences between them and deadlines?

About: Bush Press Conference

This is an inquiry into the meaning behind the semantics that, for me, started here ...
source: Presidential Press confrence

Q Mr. President, for several years you have been saying that America will stay the course in Iraq; you were committed to the policy. And now you say that, no, you're not saying, stay the course, that you're adapting to win, that you're showing flexibility. And as you mentioned, out of Baghdad we're now hearing about benchmarks and timetables from the Iraqi government, as relayed by American officials, to stop the sectarian violence.

In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, defeat-o-crats, or people who wanted to cut and run. So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?

THE PRESIDENT: David, there is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve and a timetable for withdrawal. You're talking about -- when you're talking about the benchmarks, he's talking about the fact that we're working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet as a way to determine whether or not they're making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace. I believe that's what you're referring to. And we're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.

Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq. What we're asking them to do is to say, when do you think you're going to get this done, when can you get this done, so the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.

That is substantially different, David, from people saying, we want a time certain to get out of Iraq. As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

Now, I'm giving the speech -- you're asking me why I'm giving this speech today -- because there's -- I think I owe an explanation to the American people, and will continue to make explanations. The people need to know that we have a plan for victory. Like I said in my opening comments, I fully understand if the people think we don't have a plan for victory, they're not going to support the effort. And so I'll continue to speak out about our way forward.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Prime Minister Maliki apparently gave his own news conference this morning, where he seemed to be referring to Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey yesterday, when he said, nobody has the right to set any timetables in Iraq -- and also, seemed to be upset about the raid in Sadr City, saying he wasn't consulted. And I believe the quote was, "It will not be repeated." Do you still have full, complete and total confidence in Prime Minister Maliki as a partner in Iraq? And what can you tell the American people about his ability to rein in the militias since he seems to derive much of his power from them?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First, this is back to the question that David asked about benchmarks. You called it "timetables."

Q He did, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, he called it "timetables," excuse me. I think he was referring to the benchmarks that we're developing that show a way forward to the Iraqi people, and the American people for that matter, about how this unity government is going to solve problems and bring the people together. And if his point is, is that those benchmarks, or the way forward can't be imposed upon Iraq by an outside force, he's right. This is a sovereign government. But we're working closely with the government to be able to say, here's what's going to happen then, here's what we expect to happen now, here's what should be expected in the future.

Second part of your question?

Q I was wondering, first of all, he seemed to be pushing back with --

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, on the sectarian -- on the militias. I heard that, and I asked to see his complete transcript of this press conference, where he made it very clear that militias harm the stability of his country. Militias -- people out -- who operate outside the law will be dealt with. That's what the Prime Minister said in his press conference. The idea that we need to coordinate with him is a -- makes sense to me. And there's a lot of operations taking place, which means that sometimes communications may not be as good as they should be. And we'll continue to work very closely with the government to make sure that the communications are solid.

I do believe Prime Minister Maliki is the right man to achieve the goal in Iraq. He's got a hard job. He's been there for five months, a little over five months, and there's a lot of pressure on him, pressure from inside his country. He's got to deal with sectarian violence; he's got to deal with criminals; he's got to deal with al Qaeda -- all of whom are lethal. These are people that will kill. And he wants to achieve the same objective I want to achieve, and he's making tough decisions.

I'm impressed, for example, by the way he has got religious leaders, both Sunni and Shia, to start working together. I appreciate the fact that he has made a very clear statement on militias. And, by the way, death squad members are being brought to justice in this -- during these operations in Baghdad.

I speak to him quite frequently, and I remind him we're with him, so long as he continues to make tough decisions. That's what we expect. We expect that the Iraqi government will make the hard decisions necessary to unite the country and listen to the will of the 12 million people.

...[snip...] ...

however, if we set artificial timetables for withdrawal, or we get out of there, or we say to the enemy, just keep fighting, we'll leave soon. That's not going to work.

...
 
I went looking for the actual "benchmarks" and the best i have found, so far, is here.  It appears to be a list of goals.  One would presume that each goal would also have some specific criteria that determines if the goal has been met.  I've also heard that each "goal" would have a window in which achievement is expected.  In his press conference Bush also mentioned that the goals would be mutually agreed upon by the Iraqi government.  Most of that is my own surmisement and not something that i can find articulated by the administration ... but that does not mean that they havent ... just that i have not found it yet. 

Going beyond knowing what the "benchmarks" actually are, how then are they going to work better than deadlines? 

Tags

  1. bush
  2. inquiry
  3. benchmarks
  4. iraq
  5. inquiry node

Comments


Seth says
M 2006-10-25 15:42:12 4767
Well then that was about all that POTUS intended to publish.  The more that is published of what the military is doing in Iraq the more the enemy knows & can intefere with. Also, the more that stuff is published the more the biassed media & bloggers have a field day. Neither the president nor the media nor bloggers can micro-manage the war from a distance. Only those who are there know what is about to happen and what has actually already happened. Those who have never been in the military are prolly lacking in references to understand milestones & benchmarks in that domain.
That may well be the case.  POTUS has said the same about deadlines and i see no reason that the same would not apply to goals, window, cirteria, and agreements.  I would, however, like to see that in writing somewhere.   One also assumes that the appropriate Congressional oversight committee would a also have acess to the classified benchmarks.  Any references that back up your assertions here would certainly be helpful. 

Seth says
also available here url http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6618&Itemid=30

Seth says
Here is the best transcript that i can find of the Oct 24 news conference of Casey and Khalilzad which talked of benchmarks.

Seth says
source: washington post
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at the United States on Wednesday, saying his popularly elected government would not bend to U.S.-imposed benchmarks and timelines and criticizing a U.S.-Iraqi military operation in a Shiite slum in Baghdad that left at least five people dead and 20 wounded.

Maliki's comments came a day after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the prime minister had agreed to timelines for accomplishing several critical goals, including developing plans to deal with militias, amend the constitution and equitably distribute Iraq's oil revenue.

"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people, and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," Maliki said at a nationally televised news conference Wednesday. "The Americans have the right to review their policies, but we do not believe in a timetable."
... then later in the article ...
source: washington post
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point graduate who just returned from Iraq, said Maliki's comment "deliberately repudiates what the president's saying." He called it "disheartening" but said it "might be a function of politics of Iraq as much as a function of politics of the United States. But it does not appear they're even at the level of how to talk about the problem."

Seth says
Mark 2006-10-26 11:54:43 4767
I am kinda curious whether this interview was before or after POTUS' press conference yesterday. It seems rather reasonable.
after ..
source: ...
BAGHDAD, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki told Reuters on Thursday he could end the violence in Iraq in six months if the United States gave him the weaponry and control over Iraqi forces.
... the press conference was Oct 25.

I fixed my mislabeling of "exact text" to translation.

Seth says
seth 2006-10-26 11:41:10 4767
Here is a translation of  Maliki's comments

Q. The U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke on Tuesday of a series of "benchmarks" on political and security issues that were agreed with your government. Is this the case?

A. I want to clarify something ... Khalilzad was at a meeting between us and other officials including the president and his deputies. We discussed setting a timetable for solving pending issues. That was two months ago ... It is not a timetable for the government but rather the issues needed to be solved. We said, for example, 'In November we will finish this and in January this and in 2007 we will amend the constitution'. The term used by Khalilzad was not accurate. That is why it was negatively understood. It is a list of issues we need to solve and this was our decision. It was not Khalilzad's decision but he was present.

Mark de LA says
Mark 2006-10-26 11:46:50 4767
I don't think so - from the article itself:
source: ... Following are edited excerpts from the interview (Reuters translated Maliki's remarks from Arabic):
I am kinda curious whether this interview was before or after POTUS' press conference yesterday. It seems rather reasonable.

Mark de LA says
   Reading Rumsfeld I get that Bush & he take a "process" approach & the news room wants a hard & fast set of facts or targets to play with. 
   An illustration from my seminar days goes like this: a trans Pacific airliner is off course 90% of the time in going from San Francisco to Japan. Fortunately you can get to Japan on this airline because it is continuously correcting it's course through the pilots & the automatic navigation processes. The same goes for ships of the navy (which I was intimately involved with.)  At any moment I could take a look at the compass and the direction might be off from the navigator's orders yet we would correct it or the navigator would set a new course because of weather conditions etc. We always managed to get to where we were supposed to be.


Seth says
I believe the passage that Maliki is objecting to is this one ..
source: KHALILZAD
We believe that in the course of the next 12 months, assuming that the Iraqi leaders deliver on the commitments that they have made
... but i'm not sure.  Like Rumsfield said today in his briefing, it is a matter of what "it" means.

Finding what that "it" refers to is what this node in attempting to do. I'll post the text of Rumsfield's briefing when it is made available on the net.  I missed the first part, but me thinks the most salient part was at the end in the second to the last question.

Seth says
source: SEC. RUMSFELD in press briefing
Q. The U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke on Tuesday of a series of "benchmarks" on political and security issues that were agreed with your government. Is this the case?

A. I want to clarify something ... Khalilzad was at a meeting between us and other officials including the president and his deputies. We discussed setting a timetable for solving pending issues. That was two months ago ... It is not a timetable for the government but rather the issues needed to be solved. We said, for example, 'In November we will finish this and in January this and in 2007 we will amend the constitution'. The term used by Khalilzad was not accurate. That is why it was negatively understood. It is a list of issues we need to solve and this was our decision. It was not Khalilzad's decision but he was present.

Q  So you don't know if in the end they will lay down benchmarks?
 
SEC. RUMSFELD: My impression is they already are, and that it is a process, not an event. I think that your -- the tone of this group is to think of it as something that will be revealed or chipped in stone and announced by the Maliki government or by Zal or somebody, and that is not what it is. It is a sovereign country working with the coalition to see how we get from where we are through this year and through next year and accomplish the things that are in our mutual interest. That is what that is. It is a perfectly normal, rational thing. And then to the -- and it's not just security, and so I'm not involved in all the reconstruction or the political governance issues, and I can't speak to that. And they have groups that meet and talk together and how are we going to do this and when should the parliament do this, that or the other thing -- this is a sovereign country that you're dealing with. And when you say have they agreed to "it," I don't know what "it" is. Are they involved in the process? You bet they are.
 
Q  (Off mike) -- ambassador specifically said that they would have a plan by December.
 
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, then why are you asking me?
 
Q  (Off mike) -- sound like you're uncertain that they have agreed to lay down benchmarks.
 
SEC. RUMSFELD: Look, I -- Zal's got his job, the prime minister's got his job, and I've got my job. And they'll speak for their jobs and I'll speak for my job. And I can say this, I think that people are making an awful lot of this and confusing the issue.
 
And I think if you'd step back and look at it and say, "Well, isn't that the most normal, sensible, rational thing to do" -- it's like you do it in a corporation;, it's like we do it in the government of the United States -- they talk to the Congress about this, work on that, try to figure it out. There's nothing mysterious about this.

Seth says
Mark 2006-10-26 14:09:17 4767
The fascinating thing is that Maliki is supposed to have command of HIS troups. I don't think he is in command of OURS.  They are supposed to cooperate & Maliki is supposed to know what is happening. So the question in my mind is how can he say:
source: ... They think building Iraqi forces will need 12 to 18 months for us to be in control of security. We agree our forces need work but think that if, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough.
... If he can do it better then he should do it!  I think that he wants a lot more money & arms at this point. I think it is more of a budgetary argument.
See how Rumsfield dealt with this in his press briefing, search for "Your thoughts on this?"

Seth says
source: Press Gaggle by Dana Perino Aboard Air Force One Route Des Moines, Iowa
One thing you'll get soon -- it's being worked on at the White House -- is a Setting the Record Straight on media reports that inaccurately distorted Prime Minister Maliki's press conference yesterday. Basically the reports said that Maliki slammed the United States military diplomatic leaders for saying that -- by saying that he would reject any sort of timetables. The way that those media reports came out was that he rejected any sort of benchmarks or goals in terms of policies.

The question he was asked was whether he agreed that there should be a timetable for withdrawal of troops in 18 months. That is something that Maliki has rejected as foolhardy, and that the President fully agrees with Maliki. And you've heard the President say that several times. So you'll see that this afternoon. I think Tony Snow is doing some TV interviews on it now, although those are taped and will be shown later.
... so after Tony Snow's briefing (tomorrow?) we should be able to wirte up the findings.  Malaki thinks "it" is a listing of issues, Rumsfield thinks "it" is a "process", Bush thinks "it" is etc.  Then we can sit back and watch this "benchmarks" word's usage over time. 

Seth says
As predicted Tony Snow did clarify the situation in his news conference today... the transcript is not available yet, but you can listen to it here.  The essence is that Maliki objects to the words "benchmarks" and "timetables" because they seem to be the US imposing its will against his soverign nation.  So they are changing the word to "goals".  I'll write that up more formally when the transcript is available.

Mark de LA says
Elsewhere, on FoxNews, today a statement was issued in clarification:
source: ...
The statement also said that Iraq "made clear the issues that must be resolved with timelines for them to take positive steps forward."
...
To cut to the chase.... if you want things to happen you have to get agreements which say what, how much & by when events & things will be provided.  The reasoned approach is for people to declare what they will do & by when & for a shared agreement to emerge on it all.
The words and semantics are for the politicians & media who are not used to telling the truth nor keeping their word.


Seth says
source: whitehouse.gov
Q Can you clarify that on Maliki? Is there an agreement in place that the U.S. and the Iraqis have mutually agreed to on benchmarks?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. We get ourselves -- this is one of these things where I want to be careful about the wording because Prime Minister Maliki I think is rightly concerned that there may be the perception that somebody is saying, you must do this by a certain date, and that is not the way it works. What you do have is collaborative efforts to try to work towards a series of goals: political, economic, and security.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, the Iraqis have already published a lot of their economic and political goals. And, as I've also explained, for obvious reasons, you don't really go public with a lot of the security stuff, because it in fact tips your hand. But it is safe to say that we are working with him on the goals -- for instance, the ones that he was outlining yesterday. He does want Iraqi troops taking primary command of operations within the country as soon as possible. He wants to make sure that they're properly trained, and equipped, and ready to go, and professionalized, and we absolutely agree.

Q And is Donald Rumsfeld not aware of this plan?

MR. SNOW: Donald Rumsfeld actually said that there's no daylight between the two. Donald Rumsfeld is, in fact, aware of how it works. It's one of these things where you want to make sure that when you're discussing it, you also want to respect Prime Minister Maliki's prerogatives as the head of a sovereign state. And he is sensitive about the use of terms like "benchmark" and "timetables," so I think it's safe to say that we have mutually agreed upon goals and we're working together to achieve them.

Q Will you stop using the word "benchmark"?

MR. SNOW: I think -- I'd be delighted to. Even if it's used in questions, I'll change it back to goals, yes.
Emphasis mine. 

Seth says
I found it ...




Seth says
seth 2006-10-27 18:30:29 4767
source: Joint statement from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad  Bagdad Press Office

"We were pleased to meet today to discuss our ongoing efforts to bring peace and security to Iraq and create a better future for all Iraqis. Iraq and the United States are committed to working together to respond to the needs of the people. The Iraqi government has made clear the issues that must be resolved with timelines for them to take positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people. The United States fully supports their goals and will help make them a success."

Seth says
Mark 2006-10-27 12:30:57 4767
To cut to the chase.... if you want things to happen you have to get agreements which say what, how much & by when events & things will be provided.  The reasoned approach is for people to declare what they will do & by when & for a shared agreement to emerge on it all.
Yes, setting goals, mutual agreements on goals, and tracking progress on goals is good solid management. There is no doubt about that.  As an American citizen i would feel better knowing that good solid goal directed management is taking place. 

The big question in my mind is whether that "good solid goal directed management" is actually taking place, or whether it is just October rhetoric.  I used to be a manager doing exactly that kind of tracking.  If one of my workers had quite a different take on those definite goals than i had recorded in my scheduling, i would question not only whether we actually had an agreement on those goals but also whether the person was awake during our negoitations.  Is that not what Maliki's subsequent comments imply?  The lack of coordination of what to say about the goals belies, to me, a lack of adequate focus on those goals. 

The democrats have called for timelines with consequences.  Consequences have a way of motivating that words alone do not.  POTUS has positioned these goals as better than timelines with consequences.  I do understand his reasons especially where it comes to not going "public with a lot of the security stuff".  But i am not so sure that the goals are actually obtainable, or that words without consequences will be sufficient motivation to achieve what will be, by any reconing, very difficult to achieve.

The other view of that Bush neglected to mention about these "benchmarks" is that they cut  both ways.  We see that in Maliki's joint press release with Ambassador Khalilzad as well as in Rumsfeld's briefing.  The US will be held accountable for these goals too.  We must adequately arm their military and police (which Maliki claims we have not done), and we must help to adequately build the physical infrastructure of the nation. 

My finding is that the answer to David's question: "So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?"  is that is exactly what they should conclude.

That is my tentative finding. 

Seth says
This is still a dynamic situation ...
source: Maliki to tell Bush: I'm not America's man in Iraq
"I am elected by a people and a parliament. Security should be coordinated with me. Decisions should not be unilateral". ... "Prime Minister Maliki rejected any decision about a timetable that does not take into account the objective circumstances in Iraq," [i wonder what that means] ..."He will also call for US support for reconciliation," [what is reconciliation?] ... Maliki and the United States do not see eye-to-eye on the peace process, with the Iraqi leader more keen than Washington to draw Shia militia leaders such as radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr into a peace process. ... "They will also talk about the extension of the US forces in Iraq. This should be done with the approval of the Iraqi parliament,"
Mr Maliki.  An interesting development, indeed ... we should watch it closely. This whole thing  may be intended to dramatize Maliki becoming the legitimate ruler of Iraq.  If so, then my hats off to Maliki and perhaps according to his reactions Bush as well.

Seth says
source: NYT
Days before Mr. Maliki

Mark de LA says
Hmmm....let's see - Maliki wants our money and our soldiers' blood & weapons & yet he's objecting to something ? I wonder how long he would last without our help? Is he making deals with devils just to remain in power ? Does he have a hidden agenda? Are his recent statements for consumption mostly in the Middle East ? The lure for absolute power doth corrupt! The jury is still out on this one.

Seth says
source: NYT
The dispute over benchmarks reflects a deeper divide between the religious Shiite parties and the Americans, who were once seen by the Shiites as a partner in wresting power from the Sunni minority through elections. But the Americans have become increasingly unpopular with the Shiites as they have pushed plans for a reconciliation with the Sunnis, which the Americans hope would dampen the Sunni insurgency.
Now we know what "reconciliation" means.  How about partition instead of reconcilliation?  Would it be more stable?  Would it be easire to attain?

Seth says
CNN is reporting that this video confrence took place ...
source: CNN
Al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush spoke via video conference Saturday morning and were expected to "exchange viewpoints," al-Seneid said. Al-Maliki was to ask for U.S. support of Iraqi security forces and for help "controlling illegal armament," al-Seneid said.
... we are waiting for the actual transcripts.

Mark de LA says
The newspapers & internet news has become excited (maybe orgasmic) about a new news-front concerning the following phrase: (hoping to find daylight between Iraq & Bush just before the election? )
source: ... "I consider myself a friend of the U.S., but I'm not America's man in Iraq," al-Seneid quoted al-Maliki as telling Khalilzad.
... there are ~1537 (give or take a few hundred) articles this AM subject-related by google .
I would ask of al-Maliki "Are you Iraq's man in Iraq or are you just the Shiite's man?"



Seth says
source: whitehouse.gov

Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Iraq

We were pleased to continue our consultations today. Via secure video, we discussed a range of issues of great importance to our common mission in Iraq, including the development of Iraqi security forces, efforts to promote reconciliation among all Iraqis, and the International Compact for Iraq and the economic reforms associated with it. As leaders of two great countries, we are committed to the security and prosperity of a democratic Iraq and the global fight against terrorism which affects all our citizens.

We have three common goals: accelerating the pace of training the Iraqi Security Force, Iraqi assumption of command and control over Iraqi forces, and transferring responsibility for security to the Government of Iraq. We have formed a high-level working group including the Iraqi National Security Advisor, Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior, General Casey, and Ambassador Khalilzad to make recommendations on how these goals can be best achieved. This working group will supplement existing mechanisms to better define our security partnership and enhance our coordination.

We are committed to the partnership our two countries and two governments have formed and will work in every way possible for a stable, democratic Iraq and for victory in the war on terror.

Note that we now have "common goals" and that eliminating the Shia militia is not among them.

Seth says
Mark 2006-10-28 08:14:29 4767
The newspapers & internet news has become excited (maybe orgasmic) about a new news-front concerning the following phrase: (hoping to find daylight between Iraq & Bush just before the election? )
source: ... "I consider myself a friend of the U.S., but I'm not America's man in Iraq," al-Seneid quoted al-Maliki as telling Khalilzad.
... there are ~1537 (give or take a few hundred) articles this AM subject-related by google .
Actually there was plenty of daylight between Maliki's position and Bush's.  Witness (what we must assume is Bush's):
source: NYT
Days before Mr. Maliki

Mark de LA says
So the lack of mention of the disarming of militias could mean any number of things:
  1. still no agreement - but still working on it
  2. it is a hidden agreement
  3. it is dead in the water
  4. it will be brought up later
  5. it will never be brought up again
  6. the militias will be folded into the military (maybe in a final solution)
  7. the militias will become the police for their territory
  8. all the militias want to surrender
  9. ....etc. you make up your own ideas!
essentially it is meaningless.



Mark de LA says
I think this cartoon crisps up a part of the argumentation from TownHall funnies - Chuck Asay:


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  50. Thought about: Doc Searls: War in pieces with 0 viewings related by tag "iraq".