Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Would you send your relative to Iraq?"

The Oregonian:
As Rep. David Wu visited wounded soldiers in the National Naval Medical Center this week, he thought about President Bush considering a move to send more troops to Iraq.

Wu fears the White House will quietly roll out the "temporary surge" over the holidays, as if it were a company marketing a new product.

"We need to focus on whether we would choose to send our own son or daughter, our own wife or our own husband off for a temporary surge in Iraq," said Wu, D-Ore. "If we wouldn't do that, then should we permit this administration to roll out a potential product like that?"

Most of the Democrat-dominated Oregon congressional delegation is adamantly opposed to a temporary increase in troops in Iraq. Instead, they want to reduce the U.S. presence in the region and improve diplomacy.

Their opposition to Bush's Iraq policy provides a glimpse of what the White House must contend with next month, when Democrats take control of Congress.
And Bush can no longer count on Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith to support escalating the Iraq war. Smith, who voted to send troops to Iraq and was a firm supporter of the war, said Friday that he opposes a troop surge: "I believe it's too little and too late for that."

All five Democratic Oregon members of Congress voted against using force in Iraq four years ago. Yet Democrats have had little impact on war policy.

Next month, their views will matter more. In a news conference Wednesday, Bush said he will wait to hear from new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the military and diplomats before deciding whether to send more troops to Iraq.

"We'll listen to ideas from every quarter. We'll change our strategy and tactics to meet the realities on the ground," Bush said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Bush should start reducing troop levels.

"You've got to start bringing some of our people home in order to send a message that the Iraqis must make tough choices," Wyden said.

"They're not going to do it as long as we still convey that this is an indefinite, open-ended commitment."

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the factions have been fighting for more than 1,400 years and a temporary surge in troops won't solve that problem.

"Bush seems determined to provide the illusion of a major change in strategy while he's following the same delusional course," DeFazio said.

The United States should begin scaling back by bringing home National Guard and reserves, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

"I don't know how anybody can talk to our personnel over the last three years and not get a sense of the pain and the frustration," Blumenauer said.

The United States, Blumenauer said, must also begin having discussions with countries such as Iran and Syria.

"You have to talk to some of the people who have influence in the region, even if you don't like them," Blumenauer said.

DeFazio said he hopes Democrats will exert more influence over Iraq policy, but he noted that fewer than 110 House members last year co-sponsored a resolution to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Although Bush is commander-in-chief, Congress may increase pressure by conducting aggressive oversight hearings.

"The Senate just hasn't done the kind of detailed, focused oversight on the issues surrounding this," Wyden said.

The Oregon delegation's two Republicans -- Smith and Rep. Greg Walden -- voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.

Smith gained national attention this month for his speech criticizing Bush's handling of Iraq, calling the war "absurd."

When asked about Smith's speech, DeFazio said that it was obvious four years ago that Bush was intent on invading Iraq regardless of whether the country harbored weapons of mass destruction. "It's pretty easy to oppose the war now when those of us who spoke out against the war, went to the same classified briefings as every other member of Congress, saw through the charade and the facade," DeFazio said.

Many Oregon Democrats have echoed similar sentiments about Smith's speech, noting he is up for re-election in 2008. Smith dismisses the criticism as "their job."

"To me, this is not about politics," Smith said. "This is about life and death and war and peace and the future security of our country."

Smith said he will continue exerting pressure through private contacts with the White House.

"Obviously they're very mindful of me right now," Smith said. He declined to say whether he has spoken with President Bush about his speech.

Smith wouldn't comment on specific proposals without first seeing the details. He indicated he would not support an immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq.

"I'm calling for a repositioning of troops in Iraq," Smith said. "I think we still have a very real interest in taking on the jihadists coming across the borders from Iran, Syria and some from Saudi Arabia."

Walden couldn't be reached this week. In a written statement issued Dec. 6 after the Iraq study group report, he supported a change in strategy to pursue diplomacy.

"It is clear that mistakes have been made since the invasion, not least our assessment of the Iraqis' capacity to establish a stable, democratic society after 30 years of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship," Walden said.
Howie suggestion: How about a story in at least one of the Seattle dailies comparing and contrasting various positions of Washington's Democratic and Rethug Members on the Iraq issue? I am most interested in hearing from the WA-8 Member (Google alert: DAVE REICHERT) these days.

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