White House’s new benchmark: ‘enduring’ presence.

The New York Times recently reported that the Bush administration has “scaled back” its benchmarks for political progress in Iraq, instead “focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals.” Today, the administration announced one of its goals: an endless, unqualified, “enduring” presence in Iraq. Spencer Ackerman reports that the White House and the Maliki government released a joint declaration of “principles” for “friendship and cooperation.” The key principle:

Iraq’s leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces.

The White House’s embrace of a permanent presence contradicts their long record of declarations against permanent bases. White House war czar Gen. Doug Lute said the new long-term occupation plan won’t require Congress’ approval.