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President’s Nominee Acknowledges Need for New Iraq Solution

Navy Adm. William Fallon, tapped by President Bush to lead troops in the Middle East, said Tuesday that the United States needs a new strategic approach in Iraq as well as more progress from the Iraqi government. Two senators debate the significance of the admiral's testimony.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    For more on the Iraq debate consuming Congress, we turn to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and to Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), Illinois: Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Durbin, it's clear that there is a war of a debate going on now on Capitol Hill. We heard today James Baker say give the president's plan a chance. We heard Arlen Specter say the president is not the sole decider. And we heard Admiral Fallon say that perhaps Americans and members of Congress should temper their expectations about what happens next in Iraq.

    Who's right?

  • SEN. DICK DURBIN:

    Well, I think, quite honestly, to put it in context, we are now engaged in the national debate that's long overdue about the war in Iraq.

    There are many different views and many different opinions. They'll come forward on the floor of the Senate in just a few days. We'll have a chance to debate resolutions, one offered by Senator John Warner of Virginia.

    And I think, honestly, it says that the current policy in Iraq and the president's proposal to increase the number of troops are not the best course of action. And I think that you're going to find a bipartisan group of senators voting in that direction.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Cornyn, is this a long-overdue debate?

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: Well, I've been here in Congress in the Senate the last four years, and we've had a lot of debate about Iraq. But clearly, as we all know, what we have been doing has not been working, particularly with the rise of insurgent violence, but I don't think these resolutions, nonbinding resolutions are going to accomplish anything.

    As a matter of fact, I think the only thing they are going to accomplish has already been accomplished, and that is to send a negative message to the folks who are out there on the front line, on the mission that we've asked them to do, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And I think it's demoralizing.

    And I wish we would — if we really had the courage of our convictions, if people said, "You know what? This is an immoral task we've asked our troops to do, because we don't believe in the mission. We think they're going to fail," they ought to cut off funds.

    But to have this sort of — this debate without any real consequence, I just don't think is the best use of our time.

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