But Tuesday evening, as we went to press, the two Triangle Democrats were about to take the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to demand just that: a timetable. From President Bush.
Rep. Bob Etheridge, the Triangle's third Democratic congressmen, did not join the resolution, continuing his record of never having criticized Bush's Iraq policies.
The new Price-Miller Resolution, which had not yet received a number, would call on Bush to submit a plan--within 30 days of the resolution's approval by both houses of Congress--that would spell out how he intends to withdraw our forces, and include both a start date for the pullout and a target date ("the expected timetable") for finishing it.
"We demand," Miller said, in remarks prepared for delivery, "that the president state clearly the remaining mission of our military in Iraq, and to state the time period that the president believes will be required to accomplish that mission."
Said Miller: "There is no better way to persuade the Iraqi people that we really intend to withdraw than to begin withdrawing. The Price-Miller resolution calls for a partial withdrawal as soon as possible."
Price, in his prepared remarks, said "how we leave does matter," adding that Bush must figure a way that "spares the lives of American troops and Iraqi non-combatants; minimizes the chance that Iraq will descend into massacres, ethnic cleansing or civil war; and maximizes the chances for Iraqi self-defense and self-government."
But, Price added, "[W]e must end the occupation, and the approval of the constitution offers us an opportunity to begin that process. It is an opportunity we must seize."
For Price especially, the resolution represents a change in posture from just a couple of weeks ago, when he debated the Iraq issue at a Democratic forum in Chapel Hill. Then, he called for an exit strategy and for the pullout to begin soon, but warned against setting timetables, saying that the situation in Iraq could get worse if we were to leave before the Iraqi government could provide adequate security.
That fear of a "failed state" in Iraq, and the hope that U.S. troops could be redeployed to prevent it, albeit without further stoking the violence, animated both Price's and Miller's position until Tuesday, when they decided enough was enough.
President Bush's failure to ever state a clear mission for the troops, or a plan to accomplish it and leave, "has contributed to a belief among Iraqis that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq on a long-term basis," their resolution states. "[That belief] has fueled an insurgency with escalating violence."
Thus, they've stopped asking Bush for a plan and introduced a measure that would require him to offer one. Their resolution was unveiled within hours of the announcement that Iraqis had voted in favor of the new constitution--with insufficient Sunni opposition to defeat it, that is--and says that consequently, the United States must now treat Iraq as a "fully sovereign" nation.
The resolution would declare that it is U.S. policy to turn over all American military bases to the Iraqi government as well as control of all of Iraq's resources. Also, it would be U.S. policy to accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, seek international help in that effort, and pledge itself to support Iraq's reconstruction under international auspices.
President Bush's withdrawal plan would be required to execute that policy, according to the resolution's terms.
The Price-Miller resolution joins another, H.J. Res. 55, which would insist that Bush announce an exit strategy by the end of this year and begin implementing it by October 2006. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., is one of its co-sponsors, and one of the few Republicans in the House who's called on Bush to start getting out of Iraq. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., and Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., are also war critics, making a total of five out of the state's 13-member House delegation.
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, both R-N.C., remain strong backers of Bush policy in Iraq.
To read the Price-Miller resolution, go to www.house.gov/bradmiller/downloads/pricemilleriraqres.pdf.