Bush rebuke advances in Senate; calls ‘surge’ a mistake
Senate Democrats on Jan. 24 rebuked President Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq with a rare wartime vote condemning the commander in chief’s plan to add troops to the battlefield.
“Our resolution of disapproval is not—Iemphasizenot—anattempt to embarrass the president. It is not anattempttodemonstrateisolation,” SenateForeignRelationsCommittee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., DelawareDemocrat,saidbeforehis panel declared Mr. Bush’s proposal as “not in the national interest.”
“It’s an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq,” Mr. Biden said.
Hours after the 12-9 vote, which fell nearly along party lines, Sen. John W. Warner went to the Senate floor and offered his own amendment condemning Mr. Bush’s “surge” proposal. The Virginia Republican said his nonbinding resolution is less politically combative than the Biden resolution and has the support of three fellow Republicans and six Democrats.
“We have put a greater emphasis on urging the president to consider other options, given that we have a generaldisagreementwiththevery significant level of troops that are specifically set forth in the president’s plan,” Mr. Warner said. The Warner proposal was offered as a substitute for Mr. Biden’s.
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was the only one of the panel’s 10 Republicans to join all 11 Democrats in favor of the nonbinding Biden resolution.
Mr. Hagel, Mr. Biden and three othercommitteememberssupportingtheresolutionwereamongthose who voted on Oct. 11, 2002, to authorize the war in Iraq. The others were Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Bill Nelson of Florida, all Democrats.
“Most of our colleagues understand this is a mistake,” said Mr. Kerry, who as a soldier returned from Vietnam to protest the war and testify before Congress about atrocitieshesaidwerecommittedby fellow Americans.
“I asked the question in 1971: How do you ask a man to be the last mantodieforamistake?”hesaidon the Senate floor. “I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again. We are there.”
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, warned that the resolution could demoralize the troops and embolden insurgents in Iraq.
“Usually, nonbinding resolutions are designed to show unity on an issueortohighlightanissuethatfew members know about,” he told his colleagues. “In this case, we are laying open our disunity without the prospectthatthevehiclewillachieve meaningful changes in our policy. This vote will force nothing on the president, but it will confirm to our friendsandalliesthatwearedivided and in disarray.”
Mr. Hagel disagreed. “This is not a defeatist resolution,” he said. “This is not a cut-and-run resolution. We are not talking about cutting off funds.”
Mr. Kerry was more resigned. “We all want success,” he said, but “we can’t achieve the kind of clean and simple victory that the administration promised.”
Mr. Hagel, who is considering a runfortheWhiteHouse,wasamong the most vociferous critics of the Bush administration.
“There is no strategy,” he said. “This is a pingpong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province,inIraq,inBaghdadarenot beans. They’re real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said she was relieved to have voted against the war in 2002.
“IthankGodIvotedthewayIdid: against it,” she said. “I thank God everysingletimeIsignalettertothe families who have lost a loved one. Andunfortunately,inCalifornia,we have lost the most.”
Democrats offered few specifics about how to proceed. Mr. Kerry urged more diplomacy, which he compared to riding a bicycle.
“As long as you’re riding, even if you’regoingaroundincircles,you’re OK. You don’t fall off,” he said, citing an analogy by former Secretary ofStateMadeleineK.Albright.“But if you stop riding, you fall off.”
Sen.JohnE.Sununu,NewHampshire Republican, echoing a word often used on the subject, warned against “micromanaging” the war.
Earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Biden said, “I think it is unconstitutional to say, ‘We’re going to tell you you can go, butwe’regoingtomicromanagethe war.’ ”