December 23, 2005


Blair, in a surprise visit to Iraq, finds progress (The Associated Press, Reuters, DECEMBER 22, 2005)

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Thursday, saying that the country's security and political situation had improved over the last year, but refusing to set a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops.

His visit came hours before the U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, flew into Baghdad on another surprise visit. Rumsfeld, one of the architects of the downfall of Saddam Hussein, whose trial was adjourned Thursday until Jan. 24, was visiting U.S. commanders and assessing the situation on the ground.

Rumsfeld said any cutbacks in troop levels beyond those in place before the elections for the Iraqi Parliament last week would depend on assessments on the ground, while Blair said Britain might start pulling troops out in six months.

He cited a sea change in the situation in Iraq compared with a year ago.

Blair hints troops could be home in months (FRASER NELSON, 12/23/05, The Scotsman)
TONY BLAIR yesterday signalled that British troops could begin to leave Iraq within six months as he made a surprise visit to Basra to tell servicemen they should be "very, very proud" of their role in its transition to democracy.

In a fleeting visit to the British-controlled south of Iraq, the Prime Minister told soldiers that they had dealt terrorism a "huge blow" by creating the conditions for the election earlier this month which will now lead to a full Iraqi government.

While he said the new ministers could decide whether coalition troops stay or go, he gave his clearest sign yet that the Ministry of Defence plans to start winding down troops from next summer.

US to make Iraq troop level cuts (BBC, 12/23/05)
President George W Bush has authorised cuts in US troops levels in Iraq, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said during a visit to the country.

Speaking to troops in Falluja, Mr Rumsfeld did not specify a number but said the US force would be cut by two brigades - several thousand staff.

Further reductions will be considered "at some point in 2006", he said.

At this rate the President will cut the deficit in half in just two years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2005 7:54 AM

I thought that après Clinton we've been taught that nothing the president does has an effect on the economy?

Posted by: erp at December 23, 2005 9:15 AM

erp: The budget deficit has no effect on the economy.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 23, 2005 10:42 AM

Unless a beneficial one.

Posted by: oj at December 23, 2005 10:48 AM

At anything like current levels, it just gets lost in the noise. My guesstimate is that you'd have to have a trillion dollar deficit before you saw some any actual economic effect.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 23, 2005 11:43 AM

I think if you go back to the 2003 estimates and projections, you will find that the deficit has already been cut in half by the rising tide of tax receipts. It must be so or the Ds would be yapping about it every 15 minutes.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 23, 2005 2:31 PM

David, My comment was sarcastic because Bush gets no credit for the economic upswing which leads to increased revenues and to deficit reduction, but his tax cuts for the rich gets the blame for any economic downturn.

Posted by: erp at December 23, 2005 5:49 PM