Iraq war: Democrats want tight rein on Bush 2007-01-18 14:16:21

All but one voted yes to start the war in Iraq, but now Democrat presidential hopefuls are making sure voters get the message: we don't want our troops to suffer, but we have to put a tight rein on the White House.

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (l), Democratic Senator Evan Bayh (M) and Republican Representative John McHugh, holds a press conference on Iraq on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2007. Clinton has stepped up her criticism of the Bush administration, blasting its new Iraq strategy while Washington buzzes with speculation she will announce her presidential candidacy soon.(Xinhua/AFP Photo)
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    BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- All but one voted yes to start the war in Iraq, but now Democrat presidential hopefuls are making sure voters get the message: we don't want our troops to suffer, but we have to put a tight rein on the White House.

    Five serious White House hopefuls, Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., Chris Dodd, D- Conn., Joe Biden, D-Del, and Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, all voiced their discontent Wednesday with the course of events in Iraq.

    Republican Sen. John McCain has already set forth his determination to support President Bush’s 21,500 troop surge to Iraq.

    "We do have vital national security interests in Iraq," declared Democrat frontrunner Clinton. "Al Anbar province is the staging ground for attacks by the Sunni insurgency and al Qaida in Iraq. Both are directed at us. We have vital national security interests with respect to what Iran is doing in crossing the border."

    She also said, "I'm not going to support a specific deadline" for getting U.S. forces out of Iraq, but she does support phased withdrawal at some point in the future.

    "I do not support cutting funding for American troops," she said.

    But Clinton asserted she would support cutting funding for Iraqi troops if the Baghdad government did not rid the Iraqi army of "sectarian and militia influence."

    Obama issued a statement Wednesday that said Congress had to find some way, which he hasn't yet explained, "to support our troops in the field while still preventing the president from multiplying his previous mistakes."

    He, like Clinton and Dodd, came out for capping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, and he called for phased redeployment.

    Biden has joined forces Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Carl Levin, D- Mich. to offer a nonbinding resolution stating congressional opposition to a troop increase.

    The Biden measure would not affect funding for the war -- but he seemed to infer at his press briefing that was inclined to go further and cut funding if Bush didn't see the light.

    "We're prepared to do whatever it takes to send two messages," Biden said. His messages are don't send more troops and seek a negotiated settlement in Iraq among the factions.

    He called the nonbinding resolution "a very important first step."

    "Is this a stepping stone to doing something about the funding?" a reporter asked Biden. "This stands on its own, period," he replied, but then he quickly added that if Bush ignored the resolution "there's going to be all kinds of proposals" -- implying perhaps a funding cut-off.

    Dodd brushed aside Biden's idea of a "sense of the Senate" resolution as being relatively meaningless.

    His bill would not curb or cut off funds for the Iraq operation; it would be a statement of policy -- and almost certainly would be vetoed by Bush

    "I don't want this debate to be about whether or not the troops that are there are going to be denied any of the resources they need to do their job," Dodd said. "This merely sets a cap on the number of troops in Iraq as of Jan. 15."

    All the presidential contenders who dealt with the Iraq issue Wednesday are senators that voted for the 2002 Congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force in Iraq. The exception is Obama, who didn't become a senator until 2005. All have voted for continued funding of military operations there.

    On the GOP side, Brownback, just back from a tour of Iraq and Ethiopia said it seemed like "the United States cares more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference."

    Brownback opposes Bush's proposed surge and suggested "we ought to be negotiating with the Democrats on 'what will you support?' Because we need to be in Iraq for some period of time to get this to stabilize, part around Baghdad."

    He added it would be a "catastrophic strategy" to "pull out of Iraq and leave behind a security vacuum or a safe haven for terrorists."

    What McCain has been offering voters on Iraq is a view of events that is unrelentingly grim.

    "I want to emphasize again the catastrophic consequences of failure," McCain said in a speech two weeks ago, after returning from a trip to Iraq. "I believe the war is still winnable, but to prevail we'll have to do everything right and the Iraqis will have to do their part."

    He warns again and again that if the United States fails to bring stability to Iraq, it will become a base for Islamic terrorists who will then come to the United States to attack civilians here.

    What Jihadist leaders seek, he said, is the day when "radical Islamic extremism dominates the entire world. Do I believe that if we leave Iraq, that that's the end of Western civilization as we know it? No, but I do believe that we will be sending young Americans into conflicts again somewhere else -- it's not the end; it would be the beginning of the end in some respects."

    Perhaps sensing that sounded too gloomy, he added, "We have faced other crises in American history and we will prevail in this one."


Editor: Gareth Dodd
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