Democrats ready to fight new war plan; vow to op­pose any ‘es­ca­la­tion’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

Democrats on Jan. 10 at­tacked Pres­i­dent Bush’s new plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and be­gan lay­ing the ground­work for a show­down­be­tween­the­ex­ec­u­tive­an­dleg­isla­tive branches over war pow­ers.

“Es­ca­la­tion of this war is not the change the Amer­i­can peo­ple called for in the last elec­tion,” Demo­cratic Whip Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illi­nois said in his party’s re­sponse to Mr. Bush’s prime-time pre­sen­ta­tion of his Iraq strat­egy changes.

“In­stead of a new di­rec­tion, the pres­i­dent’s plan moves the Amer­i­can com­mit­ment in Iraq in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

The new Demo­cratic-led Congress plans to grill Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials dur­ing Capi­tol Hill hear­ings on the Iraq war — and be­gan­do­ing­soonJan.11whenSec­re­tary­ofS­tateCon­doleez­za­Rice­and Sec­re­tary of De­fense Robert M. Gates tes­tify be­fore con­gres­sional com­mit­tees.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, said Amer­i­cans want to know whether Mr. Bush’s strat­egy is a “change of course.”

“Or is this sim­ply more of the same with slightly dif­fer­ent rhetoric?” Mr. Schumer said.

Mis­sRicetes­ti­fied­be­fore­theSe­nate­andHouse­for­eign­re­la­tion­scom­mit­tees,andMr.Gates,whore­placed the­war’sar­chi­tec­tDon­aldH.Rums­feld last month, tes­ti­fied be­fore the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on­Jan.11andtheSe­nateArmedSer­vices Com­mit­tee on Jan. 12.

Demo­cratic lead­ers also are draft­ing a non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion op­pos­ing the troop surge, which they want to put up for a vote in both theHouse­andSe­natethisweekand which they think some Repub­li­cans will sup­port.

“The is­sue is: Do you sup­port the pres­i­dent’s pol­icy? That will be the vote,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

Sen.SamBrown­back,KansasRepub­li­can and a fa­vorite of con­ser­va­tives, said Mr. Bush’s troop surge is not the an­swer.

“Iraq re­quires a po­lit­i­cal rather than a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion,” he said.

Mr. Bush said he will send more than17,000sol­dier­stoBagh­dadand 4,000MarinestotheAn­barprovince to try to break the cy­cle of vi­o­lence and“has­ten­the­day­ourtroops­be­gin com­ing home.” He said Iraq has re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that it must meet.

“The pres­i­dent knows there is no sil­ver bul­let to make our mis­sion there eas­ier, but he is com­mit­ted to a new, bet­ter strat­egy that will move us to­ward a stable Iraq,” said House Repub­li­can Whip Roy Blunt of Mis­souri.

“It is not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of mem­bers of Congress to dic­tate strat­egy to the com­man­der in chief, who is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble, along with the com­man­ders on the ground, for im­ple­ment­ing a win­ning strat­egy.”

But Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, said that if nei­ther the hear­ings nor the anti-troop surge res­o­lu­tion change Mr. Bush’s stance, he will move for­ward with a bill in “a mat­ter of days” that would re­quire the pres­i­dent to seek con­gres­sional ap­proval for a troop in­crease.

“What we re­ally ought to be hav­ing is a surge of po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tives, rather than a surge of mil­i­tary ini­tia­tives,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Some sen­a­tors said they would sup­port such a move, but Demo­cratic lead­ers on Jan. 9 ap­peared to brushasideMr.Kennedy’spro­posal.

If Mr. Kennedy’s idea gains mo­men­tum and comes to the Se­nate floor, the pres­i­dent’s war pow­ers un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Ar­ti­cle II would be at is­sue.

Congress voted to au­tho­rize the use of force against Iraq in 2002, and un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent is the “com­man­der in chief” of the na­tion’s mil­i­tary and has author­ity to pros­e­cute a war as he sees fit.

Mr. Kennedy’s bill, how­ever, says that the 2002 au­tho­riza­tion no longer ap­plies to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, which Democrats view as a civil war with U.S. troops caught in the cross­fire.

“The­mis­sionoftheArmedForces oftheUnit­edS­tatesinIraqno­longer bears any re­sem­blance to the mis­sionoftheArmedForce­sautho­rized byCon­gressintheAutho­riza­tion­for Use of Mil­i­tary Force Against Iraq Res­o­lu­tion of 2002,” Mr. Kennedy’s pro­posal reads.

Mr. Bush’s po­si­tion is that Iraq is a cen­tral front in the war on ter­ror and that al Qaeda and other ter­ror­ist groups, some backed by Iran, want to drive U.S. troops out of Iraq and then launch at­tacks on Amer­i­can soil.

Sen. Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent,saidthep­res­i­dent“did not­taketheeasy­path,bu­thetook­the cor­rect and coura­geous course.”

“De­feat in Iraq would re­sult in a moral and strate­gic set­back in our global strug­gle against Is­lamist ex­trem­ists who seek to strike our in­ter­ests and our home­land,” Mr. Lieber­man said.

Likely Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls in 2008 have taken a range of views on Iraq.

Sen. Barack Obama, Illi­nois Demo­crat, called the troop in­crease “a mis­takethatIan­dother­swillac­tively op­pose in the days to come.”

“Es­ca­la­tion­hasal­ready­been­tried and it has al­ready failed, be­cause no amountofAmer­i­can­forces­can­solve the­p­o­lit­i­cald­if­fer­ences­thatlieatthe heart of some­body else’s civil war,” he said.

For­merSen.JohnEd­wards,North Carolina Demo­crat, wants an im­me­di­ate with­drawal, while Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, New York Demo­crat, has said she op­poses a surge­butkep­talow­pro­file­last­week on Capi­tol Hill.

Stephen Di­nan con­trib­uted to this­ar­ti­cle,whichis­based­in­par­ton wire ser­vice re­ports.

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