Senate Debates Iraq Exit Strategy
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KWAME HOLMAN: With more than 2,000 U.S. service members killed and the war’s cost at $200 billion and rising, public opinion polls continue to show declining support for the war in Iraq. And in Washington, Democrats have fed off that sentiment in reigniting the debate on whether the administration used faulty intelligence to justify ousting Saddam Hussein.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: The bottom line is that the president and his administration did mislead America into war. In fact, the war in Iraq was and remains one of the great acts of misleading and deception in American history.
KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush rebutted that charge in his last two major speeches, most recently yesterday.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They’re playing politics with this issue, and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that’s irresponsible.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Democrats in the Senate sought to press the president on Iraq by requiring him to give Congress monthly updates on the war and provide estimated dates for troop withdrawal.
SEN. JACK REED: I think we have to have from the administration a notion of when our forces will come out of Iraq or redeployed within Iraq. It’s important not only for Iraq. It’s important for our security across the globe. How can we defend ourselves in the future if we don’t know if our forces will be freed up to respond to other crises? How can we pay for these troops if we don’t know when they’ll be coming out of Iraq.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Majority Leader Bill Frist and his colleagues rejected the Democratic plan arguing any timelines for troop withdrawal would have negative consequences.
SEN. BILL FRIST: Some have referred to this as the cut-and-run provision — that is, pick an arbitrary timeline and get out of Iraq, regardless of what is happening on the ground, regardless of the security situation, regardless of the political developments occurring in Iraq. We feel that is dangerous. We feel that is irresponsible. It’s irresponsible to tell the terrorists who we know are waiting to take us out what that timeline is because the timeline, once exposed, simply says all we have to do is wait, and then we attack.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans instead backed a plan authored by Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, which, like the Democratic plan, called for progress reports on war, and a transition strategy, but did not mention dates for troop withdrawal.
SPOKESMAN: The yeas are 79, the neighs are 19. The amendment is agreed to.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats still claim victory. Minority Leader Harry Reid said the entire Senate had rejected President Bush’s Iraq policy.
SEN. HARRY REID: Democrats and Republicans acknowledge that staying the course is not the way to go, and therefore, this is a vote of no confidence in the Bush’s administration policy in Iraq.