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Senators Debate Opposition to US Troop Surge in Iraq


U.S. senators took their cases for and against President Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to the American public, in appearances on television talk shows Sunday. The Senate is expected to vote this week on a non-binding resolution that would express disagreement with the plan. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more.

Supporters of President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq include Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who told Fox News Sunday he thinks sending more U.S. troops to Iraq would, in his words, "help dramatically."

"This surge has a military component," said Lindsey Graham. "17,500 additional troops in Baghdad would double the combat capability of the American military to hold areas cleared. I see results that make me feel like this can work."

His viewpoint was echoed by Republican Senator John McCain, who said the United States has already paid a high price for what he described as a failed policy, and cannot afford further failure. He drew a comparison to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in which some 200,000 people died and nearly two million others were displaced. Serb forces slaughtered more than 8,000 men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, considered the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

"We will see a bloodletting in Baghdad that makes Srebrenica look like a Sunday school picnic," said John McCain. "And, I believe that we may have to come back at some time or another, because the Iranians will be involved, the Sunnis will be involved, Turkey will be - if the Kurds try to become independent - will be involved. It will be a chaotic situation that is in our national security interest to not see take place."

Human rights groups and researchers estimate that tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died since the war in Iraq began in 2003.

Senator McCain spoke on the ABC television program This Week, which featured an opposing viewpoint presented by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who said he believes U.S. troops have no business trying to referee a largely sectarian fight.

"The things that we could be doing and should be doing are things we are capable of doing," said Chuck Hagel. "We can't change the outcome of Iraq by putting American troops in the middle of a civil war."

Instead of more troops, he said, one proposal in the resolution is that U.S. troops already in Iraq should be moved out of the cities, where sectarian violence is especially intense, to border areas to help protect Iraq's territorial integrity.

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she believes increasing U.S. military presence in Iraq is not the solution.

"To put the American military as the only remedy in the situation is a huge mistake, and this is where, I think, you need robust, sustained, ongoing diplomacy, which we have never really practiced publicly in the area," said Dianne Feinstein. "I think you need to sit down with Iran, Syria. I think you need to sit down with the Sunni nations. But the only way this can be solved is politically."

She said, even if the Senate passes the non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase, it will not stop him from going ahead with his plan. But, she added, it would show that the majority of the Senate opposes where the president is taking the nation.

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