Obama joins ’08 hope­fuls in call against troop surge; wants course change

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Sen. Barack Obama on Dec. 28 joined a cho­rus of po­ten­tial Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates crit­i­ciz­ing U.S. pol­icy in Iraq, telling sup­port­ers he op­poses send­ing more troops and urg­ing them to send let­ters to per­suade Pres­i­dent Bush to change the course of the war.

Democrats con­sid­er­ing White House bids have spent the past sev­eral weeks out­lin­ing, clar­i­fy­ing and strength­en­ing their po­si­tions on Iraq as Mr. Bush weighs his op­tions.

The pres­i­dent, who met Dec. 28 with key ad­vis­ers, plans to an­nounce a new strat­egy for the war early this month. He is thought to fa­vor send­ing 20,000 to 40,000 ad­di­tional troops to Bagh­dad, an idea sev­eral Demo­cratic White House prospects have crit­i­cized.

In an e-mail ti­tled “Es­ca­la­tion is not the an­swer,” Mr. Obama on Dec. 28 asked vot­ers to tell Mr. Bush “our sol­diers are not num­bers to add just be­cause some­one couldn’t think of a bet­ter idea.”

The Illi­nois Demo­crat’s mes­sage in­cludes a link to the White House’s “con­tact” page.

“They are our sons and daugh­ters, our brothers and sis­ters, our neigh­bors and friends who are will­ing to wave good­bye to ev­ery­thing they’ve ever known just for the chance to serve their coun­try,” Mr. Obama said of the troops. “Our men and women in uni­form are do­ing a ter­rific job un­der ex­tremely dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. But our gov­ern­ment has failed them so many times over the last few years, and we sim­ply can­not af­ford to do it again. We must not mul­ti­ply the mis­takes of yes­ter­day, we must end them to­day.”

He re­peated his call to be­gin a phased troop with­drawal and send a sig­nal “that ours is not an ope­nended com­mit­ment.”

It is a mes­sage more hope­fuls and po­ten­tial can­di­dates are echo­ing as the 2008 elec­tion nears.

“Iraq is a ques­tion that dom­i­nates the po­lit­i­cal fo­cus of both par­ties,” said Rep. Dun­can Hunter of Cal­i­for­nia, who will seek the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Mr. Obama, who used the term “quag­mire” to de­scribe Iraq, re­minds sup­port­ers that he has spo­ken against the war since 2002.

It’s a sub­tle dig at likely Demo­cratic can­di­date Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina, who each voted for the war but now op­pose it.

Mr. Ed­wards, the 2004 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, an­nounced Dec. 28 that he is mak­ing an­other bid for the pres­i­dency.

Last year, Mr. Ed­wards said in an edi­to­rial that vot­ing for the war in Oc­to­ber 2002 was a mis­take. He wants to with­draw 40,000 troops im­me­di­ately.

“What we need to do is make it clear that we’re not go­ing to stay there for­ever as an oc­cu­py­ing force,” he said on CNN’s “Ameri- can Morn­ing.”

Mrs. Clin­ton said last week on NBC’s “To­day” show that she can­not sup­port in­creas­ing troop lev­els un­less it is part of a larger plan to end the vi­o­lence in Iraq.

But the idea of a surge in troops has at least one prom­i­nent sup­porter — likely Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­tender Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona.

Mr. McCain’s call for more troops prompted Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack, an an­nounced 2008 Demo­cratic can­di­date, to start his own let­ter-writ­ing pe­ti­tion.

“Your sug­ges­tion to de­ploy ad­di­tional Amer­i­can ser­vice­men and women to Iraq would make a big mis­take even big­ger,” Mr. Vil­sack wrote in a let­ter to Mr. McCain that he has asked sup­port­ers to sign.

Demo­cratic Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich of Ohio, also seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion as an anti-war can­di­date, has pro­posed com­pletely cut­ting off funds for the war as a way to end it.

“We should not be think­ing about spend­ing more money and send­ing more troops,” he says on his Web site.

Other Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls op­pos­ing a surge are in­com­ing For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware and Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut.

Mr. Hunter, the out­go­ing chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said Dec. 28 that he rec­om­mended that Mr. Bush hold off on a troop surge and in­stead send equipped and trained Iraqi bat­tal­ions into Bagh­dad.

“Noth­ing ma­tures a mil­i­tary force quicker than ac­tual com­bat op­er­a­tions,” he said, adding that those Iraqi troops could use the ex­pe­ri­ence, and are “a truck ride away from bat­tle.”

“If you push the in­sur­gency back in Bagh­dad with an Amer­i­can force that is tem­po­rary, you achieve only a tem­po­rary sta­bil­ity,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.