McCain hits re­port as ‘recipe for de­feat’

Oth­ers call blue­print un­re­al­is­tic, im­pre­cise

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Charles Hurt

Sen. John McCain, join­ing a grow­ing list of crit­ics, on Dec. 7 said the Iraq Study Group’s widely touted book of pro­pos­als for set­tling the war in Iraq is a recipe for de­feat.

“There’s only one thing worse than an over­stressed Army and Marine Corps, and that’s a de­feated Army and Marine Corps,” said Mr. McCain, the Ari­zona Repub­li­can who sits on the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

“We saw that in 1973. And I be­lieve that this is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our de­feat in Iraq.”

Like sev­eral other key mem­bers of Congress, Rep. Jack Kingston, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can, said the re- port’s 79 rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude many broad, long-sought goals but very few spe­cific so­lu­tions to the con­crete prob­lems that have made the sit­u­a­tion such a com­pli­cated mess.

“It’s about as dar­ing as a glass of warm wa­ter,” Mr. Kingston said. “They might as well have come out against crime. Do they think the pres­i­dent doesn’t want to end sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence?”

Sen. Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat and a staunch sup­porter of the war, com­mended the group for some of the choices it made, but said most of its rec­om­men­da­tions are no dif­fer­ent from “the poli­cies that we have been fol­low­ing.” And some rec­om­men­da­tions, he said, seemed un­re­al­is­tic.

“I’m skep­ti­cal that it’s re­al­is­tic to think that Iran wants to help the United States suc­ceed in Iraq,” Mr. Lieber­man told the group’s co-chair­men, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for­mer Rep. Lee H. Hamil­ton, on Dec. 7. “They are, af­ter all, sup­port­ing Hezbol­lah, which gath­ers peo­ple in the square in Beirut to shout, ‘Death to Amer­ica.’ ”

Ob­served Mr. McCain: “I don’t be­lieve that a peace con­fer­ence with peo­ple who are ded­i­cated to your ex­tinc­tion has much short­term gain.”

The Dec. 7 crit­i­cism, af­ter a day of en­thu­si­as­tic plau­dits from law­mak­ers, es­pe­cially Democrats, when the re­port was first re­leased this week, sug­gests that the Iraq war will con­tinue to dom­i­nate the po­lit­i­cal land­scape for the fore­see­able fu­ture. The harsh crit­i­cism from Mr. McCain, one of the most talked-about fig­ures to pos­si­bly re­place Pres­i­dent Bush in the White House in 2008, fur­ther sug­gests that it will dom­i­nate na­tional pol­i­tics for at least the next two years.

Still, Mr. Baker warned law­mak­ers Dec. 7 against tak­ing the group’s sug­ges­tions they like and leav­ing oth­ers out.

“I hope we don’t treat this like a fruit salad and say, ‘I like this, but I don’t like that. I like this, but I don’t like that,’ “ said Mr. Baker. “This is a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy de­signed to deal with this prob­lem we’re fac­ing in Iraq, but also de­signed to deal with other prob­lems that we face in the re­gion, and to re­store Amer­ica’s stand­ing and cred­i­bil­ity in that part of the world.”

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which com­mis­sioned the group and ex- pressed grat­i­tude for its re­port, has in­di­cated that no sin­gle study of the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq will be taken as a whole­sale blue­print for the fu­ture. And even De­fense Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Robert M. Gates, who was a mem­ber of the Iraq Study Group un­til his nom­i­na­tion, in­di­cated that the fi­nal re­port would be more fruit salad than blue­print.

“I am open to a wide range of ideas and pro­pos­als,” he said dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings last week.

Many con­ser­va­tives out­side of Congress also railed on the group’s find­ings.

“As we thought, as the leaks sug­gested, there’s noth­ing in here about win­ning the war,” ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh told lis­ten­ers af­ter the re­port was re­leased. “Th­ese com­mis­sion mem­bers, the ones I heard, es­pe­cially [for­mer Supreme Court Jus­tice] San­dra Day O’Con­nor — boy, I wanted to puke.”

Mr. Lim­baugh re­ferred to the bi­par­ti­san com­mis­sion as the “Iraq Sur­ren­der Group,” a nick­name widely cir­cu­lated among con­ser­va­tive blog­gers.

The Weekly Stan­dard, among the lead­ing “neo­con­ser­va­tive” sup­port­ers of the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq, said the re­port of­fered lit­tle new to the de­bate over how to quell the sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that many are now call­ing a civil war.

“Af­ter nine months of de­lib­er­a­tion and an un­prece­dented build-up of ex­pec­ta­tions that th­ese sages would pro­duce some bril­liant, orig­i­nal an­swer to the Iraq co­nun­drum, the study group’s rec­om­men­da­tions turn out to be a pal­lid and mud­dled re­it­er­a­tion of what most Democrats, many Repub­li­cans, and even Don­ald Rums­feld and se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have been say­ing for al­most two years,” the edi­tors wrote.

While Pres­i­dent Bush faces some of the tough­est de­ci­sions about how to pro­ceed with the war in Iraq, he’s not the only one. Democrats, es­pe­cially those con­sid­er­ing a run for the White House in 2008, also face a thorny path ahead.

Dur­ing the Dec. 7 Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing, Sen. Robert. C. Byrd, West Vir­ginia Demo­crat, asked if it was not time to re­scind Congress’ ap­proval for the war. Then, he added rather point­edly, “that was passed in 2002 with­out my vote.”

Many in the room laughed but at least two fel­low Democrats sit­ting on the dais be­side Mr. Byrd were mum. Sens. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York and Evan Bayh of In­di­ana, both of whom voted for the war and both of whom are con­sid­er­ing a run for the White House, kept their faces buried in the group’s book of rec­om­men­da­tions.

Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamil­ton took the Dec. 7 crit­i­cism in stride.

Be­tween prime-time Se­nate hear­ings and crowded press con- fer­ences, Mr. Baker was shown the Dec. 7 New York Post, which on the cover por­trayed him as a “sur­ren­der mon­key.” Be­neath that wartime head­line are two shaggy, crouched mon­keys with the faces of Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamil­ton.

“Lovely,” he said as he took the pa­per in his hands and re­viewed it closely.

“If we’re get­ting at­tacked by this rag, you know we’re do­ing some­thing right,” he sniffed.

Eric Pfeif­fer con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AP

Pres­i­dent Bush, who said the Iraq Study group’s 79 rec­om­men­da­tions would be “taken very se­ri­ously,” ap­peared on Dec. 6 at the White House with mem­bers of the bi­par­ti­san panel.

As­so­ci­ated Press

DEADLY AT­TACK: Iraqi fire­fight­ers ex­tin­guished a car af­ter an ex­plo­sion Dec. 7 in Bagh­dad that killed one civil­ian and in­jured two oth­ers. Some law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton crit­i­cized the Iraq Study Group’s rec­om­men­da­tions on the war in Iraq.

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