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Albright Criticizes Bush's Plan for Iraq


As President Bush faces mounting pressure from Congress on his Iraq military plan, he also encountered sharp criticism from a former secretary of state, and words of caution from experts appearing before Congress. VOA's Dan Robinson reports on this and escalating pressure from the House of Representatives on Iraq.

Wednesday's developments included the introduction of a non-binding Senate resolution opposing the president's 21,500 troop build-up.

Supported by a group of Senate Democrats including Senator Hillary Clinton, and Republican critic Senator Chuck Hagel, it would seek to place a limit on the number of U.S. troops that can be deployed in Iraq.

That sets the stage for a similar resolution in the House, even as other measures are introduced by outspoken anti-war Democrats.

At a news conference, Democratic congresswoman Lynn Woolsey explained her own measure which would repeal the authorization Congress gave President Bush in 2002 for military action in Iraq, and require the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, and private contractors, within six months. "What President Bush fails to grasp is that our military presence is fueling the insurgency, plunging Iraq further into chaos and into civil war."

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers will introduce a joint resolution Thursday requiring the president to get Congress' approval before he can take any military action against Iran, other than in response to a specific attack or one that is "demonstrably imminent."

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stepped into the debate with a sharp criticism of Mr. Bush. "The president's speech last Wednesday night should be viewed less as a statement of policy than as a prayer. It was not about reality. It was about hope. But hope is not a strategy," she said.

Albright, who served under former President Bill Clinton, opposes any funding cutoff for U.S. troops, but supports the proposal in the Senate resolution for a limit on numbers.

Saying the U.S. military involvement in Iraq has, in her words, "given Democracy a bad name," Albright adds that "U.S. credibility [in the region] could not be lower."

She also criticizes the Bush administration position against engaging Iran and Syria diplomatically on Iraq, saying the United States can talk without compromising key principles. "You don't have to like them [Iran], you don't have to agree with what they are doing, but I think it is worth putting talks without preconditions on all subjects on the table, and let's see where it goes," she said.

Separately, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry was among experts giving a pessimistic assessment of the president's troop surge plan to the House Armed Services Committee. 'The president's diplomatic strategy is too timid. His military strategy is too little and too late to effect the lasting and profound changes needed. His strategy is not likely to succeed because it is tactical and not strategic, because it does not entail real conditionality for the Iraqi government, and because it will only deepen the divide in our own country," she said.

Perry was also a member of the Iraq Study Group, which recommended among other things, engagement with Iran and Syria.

Although President Bush faces opposition from as many as eight key Senate Republicans, House Republicans have announced a counter-strategy of their own.

They will hold a news conference Thursday to announce a resolution opposing any reduction in funding for U.S. forces in Iraq.

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