On Tuesday, President Bush addressed the American Legion and accused Congress of forcing U.S. troops to extend their deployments in Iraq:
The bottom line is this: Congress’s failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines.
The very next day, his own Pentagon announced that all U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq would have their 12-month tours in Iraq extended by 3 additional months.
What explains the strange timing? As Atrios noted, when the Pentagon announced its new policy on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Gates said he was angry that the news had been leaked to the press. That has sparked suspicion that the deployment extension was actually supposed to be announced after Bush had vetoed Congress’ Iraq legislation “so that he could try to claim it was their fault.” In that scenario, Bush’s remarks on Tuesday were just meant to prime the pump.
This speculation was fueled by Wednesday’s White House press conference, where Dana Perino explained the strange timing by claiming that President Bush had been in the dark about this major policy shift until the morning it was announced:
Q So why did he tell the American Legion that people would be staying in Iraq longer because of the Democrats, when his own Pentagon, 24 hours later, was going to keep people there longer?
MS. PERINO: Well, one, I don’t know if the President knew about the — the meeting — remember, yesterday morning is when Secretary Gates came and talked to the President. [...]
Q And so the President didn’t know about his own policy until Wednesday?
MS. PERINO: I’m not aware that the President knew that there was going to be — that Secretary Gates had come to any decisions.
Could it really be that President Bush was completely unaware of the Pentagon’s new policy until hours before it was made public? Or is the White House now trying to cover up a botched plan to blame Congress for its own decision to further strain the U.S. military, a move that has hurt Bush politically and angered troops on the ground.
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