Bush’s Speech Sets Stage for Showdown With Congress


Richard Moore

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    Bush's Speech Sets Stage for Showdown With Congress
    By Matt Renner
    t r u t h o u t | Report
    Thursday 11 January 2007

Nearly four years after the United States invaded Iraq and after the deaths of 
more than 3,000 US soldiers, President Bush has admitted his Iraq plan was 
flawed and has been unsuccessful.

Yet despite the unusual admission, President Bush insisted that 21,500 
additional troops must be deployed to stabilize the violence between Sunni and 
Shiite factions - all but guaranteeing additional bloodshed and the continued 
loss of American lives.

Perhaps the most startling revelation in President Bush's prime-time televised 
speech is the extent to which he is willing to go to achieve victory.

In stark contrast to the recommendation put forth by the Iraq Study Group last 
month that the White House enter into a dialogue with Iran and Syria, President 
Bush said he would authorize the use of military force against those countries 
if they continued to empower insurgents.

"These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory
to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on 
American troops," Bush said. "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will
interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and 
destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in 

It was a threat that caught the attention of 2008 presidential hopeful Dennis 
Kucinich, the Democratic senator from Ohio.

"President Bush appears to be setting the stage for a wider war in the region," 
Kucinich said late Wednesday. "He has blamed Iran for attacks on America. The 
president is vowing to disrupt Iran. He is going to add an aircraft carrier to 
the shores off the coast of Iran. He has promised to give Patriot missiles to 
'our friends and allies.' Isn't one war enough for this president? It is time 
the media and the Congress began to pay attention to this president when he 
talks aggressively about Iran and Syria."

Despite President Bush's rhetoric, Democratic lawmakers responded swiftly to his
long-awaited plan for stabilizing post-war Iraq Wednesday evening, saying they 
will not support his effort to escalate the conflict by sending in thousands of 
additional US soldiers. Instead, they have all but guaranteed that they intend 
to withhold billions of dollars needed to fund the new war effort.

Expressing their complete dissatisfaction with his proposed strategy, Speaker of
the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Majority Leader
Steny Hoyer, and Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin issued a 
joint statement following President Bush's speech, saying that they would seek 
support to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within four to six months.

"The president had an opportunity tonight to demonstrate that he understood the 
depth of the concern in the country, make a long overdue course correction, and 
articulate a clear mission for our engagement in Iraq," the lawmakers said in a 
prepared statement. "Instead, he chose to escalate our involvement in Iraq's 
civil war by proposing a substantial increase in the number of our forces there.
Our military forces deserve a policy commensurate with the sacrifices they have 
been asked to make. Regrettably, the president has not provided that tonight."

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Bush's plans falls short because it does not 
set "hard deadlines."

"The president did not set benchmarks for the Iraqis that have hard deadlines 
and clear consequences for failure," Levin said, adding that the plan will 
ultimately "send the opposite message to the Iraqis by putting more American 
military men and women in the middle of Iraqi sectarian violence."

Even some staunch pro-war Republicans, notably Senator John Warner (R-Va.), 
distanced themselves from President Bush's proposal, calling it a mistake to 
increase the number of US troops on the ground without a clear mission and a 
plan for withdrawal.

"I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer," said Senator 
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). "Iraq requires a political rather than a military 

Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) agreed. "I oppose the troop surge in Baghdad because it 
is not a strategy for victory," Coleman said.

Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) were also on record publicly 
criticizing the troop increase.

In an effort to politically isolate President Bush from both houses of Congress,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he intends to introduce a 
non-binding resolution next week that opposes Bush's new war plan. This 
resolution would force Republicans in the Senate to cast a vote on the issue.

Reid and other Democratic leaders in Congress made their intentions clear 
shortly after the president's speech.

"In the days ahead, Congress will exercise its constitutional responsibilities 
by giving the president's latest proposal the scrutiny our troops and the 
American people expect. The American people want a change of course in Iraq. We 
intend to keep pressing President Bush to provide it."

Reid said the Senate will likely vote on the measure in two weeks, when a number
of Senate committees begin hearings on Iraq. Reid's resolution could end up 
leaving legislation introduced Tuesday by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) 
hanging in limbo or dying altogether. Kennedy's bill calls for President Bush to
obtain authorization before sending more troops into battle.

Moreover, there are constitutional issues that will also be debated - 
specifically, whether the president, as commander in chief, has the final say on
authorizing the use of additional force or needs approval from Congress.

    According to legal scholars, it's the latter.

University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle stated that "this is a 
situation the War Powers Act was intended to deal with." After Vietnam, Congress
passed the War Powers Act to close loopholes that were exploited by President 
Johnson to escalate US involvement in Vietnam without Congressional approval.

Ohio State law professor John Quigley agrees. "If President Bush wants to send 
more troops, he is subject to the War Powers Resolution, which allows him to 
commit troops for only 60 days without an authorizing resolution from Congress,"
Quigley said.

Some US soldiers also registered their discontent with President Bush's new 
policy, expressing doubt that additional troops would bring about change or lead
to a heightened sense of security in the region.

Lt. Col. Chris Beckert, who served in Iraq at the beginning of the US invasion 
nearly four years ago and now trains US soldiers at Fort Riley in Kansas, told 
the Associated Press Tuesday that the "window of opportunity" in securing Iraq 
has likely closed, and without a clearly defined plan, sending in thousands more
soldiers won't help.

Zac McDonald, a 19-year-old who just completed basic training at Fort Benning, 
Georgia, agreed. "They have to come up with a better strategy," McDonald told 
the Associated Press. "More troops isn't enough."

These are just some the issues that lawmakers are expected to debate next week 
in a number of closed-door hearings.

In the meantime, Democrats no longer fear verbalizing their utter contempt with 
the White House. One by one, the new majority leadership in both Houses of 
Congress issued statements well into Wednesday evening registering their 
disapproval with the president and his plan for Iraq.

"The president's Iraq policy has been marred by incompetence and arrogance as 
his administration has refused to recognize the military and political reality 
on the ground," said Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Congresswoman Barbara Lee's reaction took the form of a question: "The question 
that Congress and the American people must now answer is how many people should 
die so the president can avoid admitting he has staked his presidency and his 
legacy on an unnecessary war whose implementation his administration has botched
at every turn? How many have to die so the president can save face?"

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