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US Congressional Democrats Criticize Bush Iraq Speech

Congressional Democrats are criticizing President Bush's speech on Iraq Monday, saying he failed to tell the American people how much longer U.S. troops would stay in Iraq and how much more the U.S. involvement there will cost.

Democrats say Mr. Bush's speech, the third in a series dealing with Iraq, failed to address the questions Americans want answered about U.S. involvement in that country.

"Unfortunately, we still do not know after this series of speeches how long this process will take and how much it will cost in terms of funding and American military and civilian personnel," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, said the president should have sent a stronger message to the Iraqis that they must make significant political compromises and amend their constitution after the election to be more inclusive of Sunnis and avoid a civil war.

"The president made a wishy-washy statement in an area which requires clarity, certainty, strength, and that is: You must tell the Iraqis: we have done our part, we have done more than our part," he said. "Now it is up to you to get your political house in order. That requires changes in the constitution, by the president's own acknowledgment. This is not something which you should possibly do; it is something which you need to do, which you must do; or else the United States has got to reconsider its presence in Iraq."

In his speech, Mr. Bush praised democratic progress in Iraq, but acknowledged the deaths of some 30,000 Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

He spoke in Pennsylvania, the home state of prominent war critic Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat and respected military veteran who has called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

Congressman Murtha responded to the president's address, saying Iraqis oppose U.S. occupation.

"There is no way we can win a war when you have lost not only the hearts and minds of the people and but when you become your [their] enemy," he said.

Republicans, for their part, echoed Mr. Bush's praise for Iraq's efforts toward democracy.

"There are great steps being made in the liberation there," said Senator Craig Thomas, a Wyoming Republican. "It has been a year and a half since I have been to Iraq. But certainly I think some real progress has been made."

In a written statement, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called this Thursday's election a significant event. He said steady progress on the political, economic and security tracks should give the Senate and the American people confidence that the United States will be victorious in Iraq.