WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday appeared resigned to the fact that theIraqi parliament is going to take August off, even though it has just eight weeks to show progress on military, political and economic benchmarks prescribed by the United States.
"My understanding is at this juncture they're going to take August off, but, you know, they may change their minds," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.
"You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August," he said, sympathetically.
Snow was reminded that U.S. troops will be continuing to fight throughout August in the heat.
"You know, that's a good point," Snow said. "And it's 130 degrees for the Iraqi military."
The White House and other top officials previously had worked to persuade the parliament to remain at work, saying it would send a bad signal if the Iraqi lawmakers went on vacation while U.S. troops were fighting and dying.
Snow said that a scheduled Sept. 15 progress report on by Gen. David Petraeus was important, yet said he also said that was not a deadline. He said progress can be made even if the parliament is not in session.
"You're assuming that nothing is going on," Snow said.
"Let's also see what happens because quite often when parliaments do not meet, they are also continuing meetings on the side. And there will be progress, I'm sure on a number of fronts," the spokesman said.
The Iraqi parliament's vacation plans have been repeatedly criticized by U.S. lawmakers. But the U.S. Congress will be on vacation from Aug. 3 to Sept. 4, if it sticks to current plans.
The Congress itself has been criticized for how little it works.
On Thursday, the White House gave Congress a progress report that showed the Iraqi government was making unsatisfactory progress on many political and military milestones. At a news conference, President Bush defended the buildup of U.S. troops as well as his decisions on troop numbers earlier in the conflict.
Bush said that when he asked Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief during the initial invasion in March 2003, whether he had enough troops, he told him he did. Bush said he recalled sitting in a meeting downstairs at the White House asking each commander responsible for different aspects of the operations that led to toppling Saddam Hussein.
"I said to each one of them `Do you have what it takes?' Are you satisfied with the strategy?' And the answer was `Yes,' " Bush said.
Asked whether Bush was trying to blame Franks for the bad course of the war, Snow rose to defend Franks and said historians would have to judge the correctness of U.S. strategic military decisions.
"I think Gen. Franks did a supurb job," Snow said.