Bush withholds support from Iraqi PM | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 23, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 23, 2007

Bush withholds support from Iraqi PM

US President George W Bush on Tuesday withheld his support from embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and said Iraqi voters could decide to replace him.
"There's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general," Bush said after two senior US lawmakers suggested Iraq's parliament remove Maliki's government if it fails to make progress on national reconciliation.
While Bush acknowledged the Baghdad government was failing to live up to expectations, he planned to issue a stark warning on Wednesday that an early US withdrawal from Iraq could have traumatic consequences similar to the Vietnam war's bloody aftermath in Southeast Asia.
In excerpts from Bush's address released by the White House in advance on Tuesday, the president was to charge that an early exit from Iraq would "pull the rug out" from under US troops just as their efforts are paying off.
In his speech to be given Wednesday, Bush ties anti-war forces in the Vietnam era to the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the aftermath of the US pull-out, and hints at a parallel disaster in Iraq if US forces leave too soon.
"Many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people," he was to say. "The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be."
"In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation, torture, or execution. In Vietnam, former American allies, government workers, intellectuals, and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished."
"Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea," said the text of the speech by Bush, who pleaded for patience with the US-led security crackdown in Iraq.
Bush was scheduled to deliver his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars group, which claims 2.3 million members, on Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri, for their annual convention.
The US president previously drew a parallel between Vietnam and Iraq in November during a visit to Vietnam.
Bush had said one lesson from the US debacle in Vietnam was that the United States must be patient in Iraq. "We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said.
Critics of Bush's handling of the Iraq war have also invoked the US experience in Vietnam but drawn different lessons, saying escalating the US military presence in Iraq will only make matters worse.
At the end of a North American summit on Tuesday, Bush was asked whether Maliki had lost credibility because of his inability to forge unity among rival factions. Bush said that the Iraqi people, not their government, deserved credit for "noticeable and tangible and real" reconciliation efforts.
"If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government. That's up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians," he said in Montebello, Canada.
Bush said it was difficult to manage the transition from executed dictator Saddam Hussein's brutal regime to democracy, but did not repeat his past assertions of confidence in Iraq's struggling prime minister.
His comments came after the US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, called Iraqi political progress "extremely disappointing" and warned that US support for Maliki's government was not open-ended.
Crocker and General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, are expected to report to the US Congress by mid-September on the progress of their efforts to halt sectarian violence and return Iraq to viable self-governance.
Bush's remarks came one day after Senators Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and John Warner, the panel's top Republican, said after a visit to Iraq that they were not optimistic about the prospects for compromise.

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