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Partisan Debate on Iraq War Continues in Congress


Congressional Democrats are continuing their criticism of President Bush on Iraq, while Republican lawmakers praise the president's speech saying it provided more specifics about strategies for success.

In his speech, the president reiterated his rejection of any timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces, and emphasized progress in two key Iraqi cities.

Senator Jack Reed says Mr. Bush missed another opportunity to be candid with Americans about progress in Iraq.

"President Bush speaks about soccer stadiums and textbooks," said Mr. Reed. "Those are successes, but very small ones. The dilapidated infrastructure he speaks of is an enormous project. How much time, money and personnel will be needed to repair and replace all those great projects in Iraq?"

Further reaction came from Congressman John Murtha, who last month urged what he calls redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq within six months, and creation of a quick reaction U.S. military force in the region.

Mr. Murtha repeated his view that the United States cannot hope to win militarily in Iraq. He also responded to comments by Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman who cautioned some Democratic critics of President Bush against undermining his credibility.

"Undermining his [Bush's] credibility? What has he said that would give him credibility? He said there was an al-Qaida connection [with Iraq], he said there was a connection with nuclear weapons, he said there [were] biological [and] chemical weapons there. He said there is progress now, I am showing you I don't see the kind of progress he sees," said Mr. Murtha.

Earlier, House Democrats emerged from a weekly policy meeting attempting to downplay the significance of any differences they have on Iraq.

Reiterating her support for Congressman Murtha's position, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accuses President Bush of misleading Americans about progress in Iraq.

"Just because he says things are improving there doesn't make it so," said Ms. Pelosi. "Whether it's the economic measures [in Iraq], about unemployment, oil production or what is happening with the electricity in the county, it is not happening, we are not succeeding."

Congressman Harold Ford says Democrats are not afraid of being seen as having diverse views, and minimizes the significance of differences over strategy.

"[There is] not as much disagreement as you think," he explained. "I think most of the people in that room want to do everything possible to bring the troops home as soon as we can, and the question we have now is how do you do that?"

Congressman Neil Abercrombie is a Democrat sponsoring his own resolution on withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

"What we are talking about is the substance of what it will take for us to point out clearly that there is no strategy for victory on the Bush side and our obligation is to bring this to a conclusion as quickly as possible," said Mr. Abercrombie.

Republicans say President Bush was fully justified in making the points he did about what he called unmistakable progress in Iraq.

They also continue to lash out not only at Mrs. Pelosi, but at Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, who this week described as "just plain wrong" the idea that the United States could win in Iraq.

Congressional critics of the president point to reports by U.S. government inspectors general and other officials, some of whom have testified on Capitol Hill in recent months, describing serious shortcomings in the pace of reconstruction in Iraq, and the fact that efforts have been seriously hampered by ongoing insecurity.

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