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Bush Political Opponents Warn of Vietnam-Style Quagmire in Iraq - 2003-07-10

On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats are urging President Bush to move quickly to internationalize peacekeeping operations in Iraq. Bush administration planning for post-war Iraq came under more sharp criticism with some lawmakers expressing concern the United States could become bogged down in a protracted guerrilla conflict.

In separate news conferences Thursday, Democrats who voted last year to give President Bush authority to use military force in Iraq said it's clear the United States needs help from allies, and quickly.

Congressman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, says remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath regime should know the United States will not "cut and run" from Iraq, and will finish the job it began.

However, referring to previous peackeeping operations involving NATO, Mr. Engel says President Bush now needs to rapidly bring other countries into Iraq to help.

"The president and the administration, I believe, need to admit their mistakes and learn to work with our allies," he said. "The NATO leadership in Kosovo was successful, and it can be successful I believe in Iraq too."

In recent days, Democrats pointed to two of President Bush's statements concerning Iraq - one in May in which he declared the end of major combat operations, and another recently in which he appeared to challenge Saddam Hussein supporters saying "bring them on."

Mr. Engel said the latest statement risked miring the United States in a guerrilla conflict similar to Vietnam where, he said, "failed policies undermined the mission."

That theme was picked up by John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and presidential candidate. At first saying it was too early to draw any analogies, Mr. Kerry went on to compare the situation in Iraq with the conflict in Vietnam.

"I learned a long time ago in Vietnam what happens when pride gets in the way of making honest decisions," he said. "We carried that war on for too many years because of pride. And I refuse to see us now put American soldiers at risk because we are unwilling to step up and say where the world is prepared to part of this, winning the peace in Iraq is not just an American interest. It is a global interest."

In a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, told a House committee he can't say how long U.S. forces will have to remain in Iraq. But he said internationalization of the effort is a main priority.

"Integration of coalition forces is a major near-term effort," he said. "The United Kingdom and Poland are already committed to lead divisions in southern Iraq, and many partner nations, many of them from NATO, have offered forces to fill those units."

General Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told lawmakers the United States has 19 countries assisting in military operations in Iraq, with another 19 expected, and still 11 others actively discussing a contribution.