View Full Version : Questions fill the air as Bush speaks on Iraq

01-10-07, 07:57 AM
Questions fill the air as Bush speaks on Iraq
Updated 1/10/2007 7:38 AM ET
By Tom Vanden Brook and Jim Michaels, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — In a pivotal moment of his six years in the White House, President Bush goes before the nation tonight to announce a strategy to salvage the most controversial decision of his presidency: the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

As Bush made last-minute preparations Tuesday for the 9 p.m. ET address, opposition to emerging details about his intention to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq appeared to grow.

OPPOSITION BUILDS: Kennedy opposes money for troop boost

"The escalation, whether it is called a 'surge' or any other name, is still an escalation," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. He said Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to bar Bush from using any money to increase troop levels in Iraq without congressional approval.

In a briefing with congressional leaders Monday, Bush said up to 20,000 extra troops would be sent to Baghdad and to Anbar province in the west, a base of the mostly Sunni insurgency, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and others said. The reinforcements could double the number of U.S. forces in the capital.

The president also will acknowledge that the rules of engagement were flawed, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said.

"A vast majority of the American people are not satisfied with the progress in Iraq," Bartlett said. "President Bush is in their camp. He's not satisfied, he's going to say the strategy was not working, he's going to tell them specifically how we're going to fix the strategy."

Bartlett also said that Bush will "make very clear that America's commitment is not open-ended, that benchmarks have to be met, that milestones have to be reached both on the security side but just as importantly on the political side and the economic side. It will be unequivocal in President Bush's speech tonight that the Iraqis have to step up."

Bush is also considering turning over responsibility for security in all provinces to Iraqis by November, three administration officials briefed on the proposal said Tuesday. They asked not to be identified because the details of the plan were not officially disclosed. A Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday said the Iraqis' inability to provide security throughout the country was the reason U.S. troops had not been able to leave Iraq as quickly as planned.

A first wave of additional U.S. troops will go into Iraq before the end of January, the Associated Press reported, citing a senior defense official who requested anonymity because the plan had not been announced. Moving first into Iraq would be the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is now in Kuwait, the AP said.

Congressional Democrats, and a number of Republicans, questioned whether such an effort to secure Baghdad and thereby secure Iraq can have an impact amid mounting sectarian violence without a significant increase in U.S. deaths, which already top 3,000.

Neither party is united on how to proceed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told National Public Radio that Democrats will fund the needs of troops "who are in Iraq now." She said that if Bush wants to make a case for more troops, he should know that Democrats "will listen to your argument for its justification, but you must … justify."

Sen. David Vitter, a conservative Republican from Louisiana, emerged from a meeting with Bush on Monday with questions rather than praise.

"What specific goals will be used to monitor success or failure?" Vitter asked in a statement. "How does an increase of 20,000 troops change the situation on the ground? How long is the planned increase supposed to last?"

Other Republicans expressing reservations about boosting troop levels included Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Top priority: Security

Advocates of an increase in U.S. troop numbers in Iraq say it is necessary to address the chaotic nation's single most pressing problem: a lack of basic security.

"The security situation in Iraq — especially in Baghdad — now is bad, and it is deteriorating," says military historian Fred Kagan, who, along with retired Army general Jack Keane, has been advocating a strategy similar to what Bush will announce. "It is eroding the will of the American people to continue to fight. It is polarizing Iraqi politics to the point where it may become impossible to imagine bringing Iraq back together in an acceptable way at an acceptable cost if we do not get this under control quickly."

White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged concerns from both parties. "Americans are concerned about making sure that we succeed in Iraq, as are members of Congress," Snow said. "We'll just have to see how it plays out."

The leading proponent in Congress of adding troops sees the stakes of tonight's speech clearly. A buildup is "as near to the last chance as anything I can think of," says Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a potential 2008 presidential candidate.

The plan

After weeks of consultations following the Democratic takeover of Congress in the November elections and significant changes in the leadership team running the war, Bush has settled on a course of action: sending more troops to try to change the tide of the war.

Many of the added troops would be concentrated in Baghdad, where they would try to reduce violence and stabilize the capital.

Once in Baghdad and other cities, according to the military's new counterinsurgency manual, troops would spread out into various neighborhoods and get to know "the political and societal structures" in each area.

The theory is that such an injection of forces will give Iraq's fledgling government the breathing room to establish legitimacy and spread security to other parts of the country.

Snowe, the Maine Republican, said she told Bush on Monday that she fears the plan will not address the "root causes" of violence in Iraq, and that she wants a better performance by the Iraqi government. "I happen to think the real difference will come from Iraq and the (Iraqi) government itself," Snowe said.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who attended a meeting with Bush on Tuesday, said the new plan will call for the Iraqi government to improve its performance, and help finance new jobs and reconstruction programs with oil revenue.

"The Iraq government has to be committed to getting its act together, " LaHood said.

Troop increases would come in phases during the next several months, according to two administration officials who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the plan publicly. The plan also calls for up to $1 billion in economic assistance for job creation and redevelopment projects, the officials said.

The White House has not released details of the plan. It's unclear when the additional troops would go to Iraq and how long they would stay.

A detailed plan for increasing troops is being offered by Keane, the retired general, and Kagan, of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank that wields influence inside the White House. Institute scholars have briefed Bush on the plan. What has been disclosed so far about Bush's plan parallels the thinking in the Kagan-Keane plan.

Key elements

The Kagan-Keane plan relies chiefly on extending the tours of troops already in Iraq and speeding up the deployment of those preparing to go over. The report calls the boost in U.S. troops a "surge," a term that has become shorthand to describe the option to quickly increase the number of U.S. forces.

Key elements of the Kagan-Keane plan include:

•Accelerating the deployment of four Army and Marine brigade or regimental combat teams from later in the year to February and March. Each team has 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

•Lengthening deployment periods from 12 months to 15 months for Army units and from seven months to 12 months for Marine units.

•Shortening the amount of time that units rotated home from Iraq have for rest before they return. They normally get at least a year before they return.

There are about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now.

Bush's goal may prove elusive. An effort last summer by U.S. and Iraqi forces to subdue Baghdad foundered. Some of the promised Iraqi troops never materialized. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government kept coalition forces from going into Shiite neighborhoods to root out militias.

And there weren't enough U.S. or competent Iraqi forces to hold and police areas once insurgents were swept out. The U.S. military command increased the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad last summer to 15,000 from 7,500 before the offensive. An additional 45,000 Iraqi police and soldiers were in the capital, but not all the troops the Iraqi government promised showed up.

"We were able to clear areas," Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the new No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, says of last year's Baghdad offensive. "We were not able to hold the areas."

Some military experts say this offensive won't work any better than the previous one unless the Iraqi government is on board and has reached political agreements with its main Sunni opponents.

"If this is to work, you have to get through the next year," says Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "To do that, you have to have a political plan. You have to have an economic plan."

Other critics say counterinsurgency warfare is a labor-intensive effort that takes years of commitment. They contend a temporary increase of 20,000 or even 30,000 troops will not be enough.

In all, the Army has about 500,000 troops; the Marines, about 180,000. Because of commitments elsewhere in the world and training requirements, only a portion of the combat forces are available for deployment to Iraq.

T.X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel who has written a book on insurgencies, calls the proposal a "dribble" rather than a surge. Hammes argues for a larger commitment of forces over a longer period. "If it's only 20,000 or 30,000 … it won't work," he says. "If we're serious about winning, we've got to talk 300,000 (total) armed coalition forces over a minimum of four years. Otherwise, don't commit more troops."

More troops fighting in Baghdad will likely mean more U.S. deaths as well.

"This proposal is mathematically certain to produce greater casualties," says retired major general Paul Eaton, who trained Iraqi forces in Iraq. "Putting soldiers in direct grinding, attrition warfare will cause more casualties." Eaton supports adding more troops only if they're specifically assigned to embed with Iraqi units and train them

The political battle

In Congress, Democrats opposed to a troop increase said they were reflecting the mood of the nation. In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, those surveyed oppose by 61%-36% the idea of a "temporary but significant" increase in troop levels.

But Democrats, who just last week assumed control of the House and Senate, appeared undecided on a precise strategy.

As Kennedy acknowledged in his speech, the Constitution makes the president the commander-in-chief, but he emphasized that "Congress can decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the president for such action."

When asked to respond to Kennedy's speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said only that Democrats "will look at all avenues" in seeking to counter Bush's plan.

In the House, Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., introduced a non-binding resolution urging Bush not to send additional troops.

While some Republicans expressed concerns about a troop increase, GOP scorn for cutting funding for the war appeared unanimous. If the Senate voted to cut funds, it would be sending a "signal to the terrorist organizations that: "You're winning. We're losing,' " said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "No matter how much you dislike this war … there is a consequence to Congress declaring this war over and lost."

Any action seen as denying funding for the military during a war can bring political peril. A vote by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, against an $87 billion supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan became a central issue in the election. Kerry supported an alternative bill that funded the $87 billion by canceling some of Bush's tax cuts.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he doubted Democrats would follow through on threats to cut funding. "Regardless of party, we want our men and women to have the equipment to do their jobs as they are called on to do it," Lott said.

Contributing: Rick Jervis in Iraq, David Jackson, Kathy Kiely, Bill Nichols and Fredreka Schouten in Washington; wire reports.


01-10-07, 08:05 AM
January 9, 2007
Congress Should Vote on Troop Surge in Iraq, Kennedy Says
By Jonathan Allen

Declaring that “American values and America’s role in the world are all at stake,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on Tuesday said he will lead an effort to block funding for a troop surge in Iraq “unless and until Congress approves” President Bush’s plan for such a deployment.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Kennedy, D-Mass., the No. 2 Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., would introduce legislation later in the day aimed at forcing Bush to gain congressional consent for his new Iraq strategy, which the president plans to unveil in a televised address to the nation Wednesday night.

Bush is expected to announce that roughly 20,000 more soldiers and Marines will be sent to augment the 140,000 troops now serving in Iraq. He also is expected to seek at least $100 billion in supplemental fiscal 2007 war spending next month.

“The president’s speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq,” Kennedy said. “Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the president’s plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day.”

Asked whether the supplemental spending request would provide a vehicle for his legislative proposal, Kennedy replied, “The horse will be out of the barn by the time we get there.” Although the request is expected to reach Capitol Hill next month, Congress typically spends months working on such spending proposals. Kennedy said immediate action is needed to forestall the troop surge.

Bush has been meeting with small groups of senators and House members to hear their views on Iraq. He has received a decidedly mixed response, even from members of his own party.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would support the president’s “new effort to quiet Baghdad and to give us a chance to succeed. I think that’s what the American people would like to have.”

He dismissed Kennedy’s effort to gain a new congressional vote on Iraq. “I think it is inappropriate for the Congress to try to micromanage, in effect, the tactics in a military conflict,” McConnell said. “I don’t think Congress has the authority to do it.”

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow insisted Tuesday that Bush’s speech will not mark the end of his discussions with lawmakers. “What you have is a framework for moving forward,” Snow said. “And within that framework, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for people to talk and to share their opinions. And the president has made it clear from the very first consultations with Democrats and Republicans that he intends to have more talks.”

Vietnam Redux

Kennedy described parallels between the potential surge of troops in Iraq and repeated troop escalation in Vietnam, which failed to forestall defeat in that war more than three decades ago.

“In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy,” Kennedy said. “There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it. Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.”

Troop escalation “would be a policy of desperation built on denial and fantasy,” Kennedy said. “It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq.”

Kennedy said the 2002 resolution (PL 107-243) that Congress enacted authorizing Bush to take military action in Iraq was premised on a series of facts that either no longer exist, such as Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime , or else proved untrue, such as the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

Whether Congress can prevent troop escalation in Iraq is a subject of substantial debate on Capitol Hill, both between the political parties and within the Democratic majority.

For instance, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, has said that an effort to limit the number of troops that Bush could commit to Iraq would violate the Constitution, which makes the president commander in chief.

But Kennedy noted that the Constitution also reserves certain powers to Congress. “We have the war-making power and the power of the purse,” he said. “Is the coequal branch of Congress supposed to hide itself?”

No matter where they stand on the war or its conduct, congressional Democrats take care to distinguish between policy decisions and support of the troops themselves. Kennedy was no exception, saying early in his speech, “ We will always support our troops in harm’s way.”