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Senators Debate President’s New Iraq Strategy

President Bush unveiled a new Iraq plan on Wednesday night, which includes an increase in U.S. military presence by more than 20,000 troops. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., debate the president's proposal and how Congress should respond.

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    We're joined now by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Welcome to you both.

    Senator Boxer, you were at the long hearing today with Secretary of State Rice. Did she make a persuasive argument, in your view, for this plan and for the success of this plan?

    SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), California: Well, I can speak for the entire committee — except for just a few — she did not make the case. And the committee view was skeptical, at best, and outright in opposition, I would say, really, if you really look at what everybody said.

    And when you have the second-most-senior Republican on the committee saying, and I quote, that the surge is, quote, "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out" — that's Senator Hagel — that, to me, is the strongest of signals to this administration to change course and not go forward with this.

    And the only other thing I would say is that I think we saw today in the Foreign Relations Committee the end of the rubberstamp Congress. President Bush is going to be held accountable; he is being held accountable. And the going forward on this surge is going to be very rocky waters for him.


    Senator Graham, there was a great deal of skepticism, if not outright rejection, from the Republicans on that committee. What do you say to your fellow Republicans, now that you've heard the president lay out his plan, to address their concerns that this just won't work?

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: Well I don't know if I'm a rubberstamp for the president, but I'm asking Senator Boxer, Senator Hagel and everyone else to be skeptical because so much is at stake. I think the Bush administration has earned skepticism, to be honest with you.

    If anybody believes the war has gone well in the last couple years — well, just no one believes that. And what would you ask the president do, to change strategy, because the old strategy is not working?

    The one thing I would ask every senator is that the military commander who will be in charge of this new mission is one of the architects of the new strategy. He believes in it. His name is General Petraeus.

    Before we act in Congress condemning a new strategy designed to secure victory — not in what I think is a Vietnam, but a battlefront in World War III of extremism versus moderation — I'd just ask the Congress to listen to the general who's been assigned the mission, who believes in the mission, who's the architect of the new strategy, and give him a chance to articulate why he thinks he could be successful, what he needs, and ask him the hard questions before we act.

    The one thing I would say, in conclusion, is that, whatever problems we have with this new strategy, the one thing that should unite this country is, if we fail in Iraq and we have a failed state, we will be at war for years and years and years as the consequences thereof with many different people.

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