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Republicans Praise, Democrats Criticize Bush Speech

U.S. congressional reaction to President Bush's Tuesday address on Iraq has been divided along party lines.

Congressional Republicans are praising President Bush for his resolve.

Senate assistant majority leader Mitch McConnell says he is pleased Mr. Bush is staying the course in Iraq.

"Our work in Iraq is challenging, but it is a noble endeavor, an endeavor in which progress is being made every single day.  A message, I think, President Bush delivered very, very clearly last night," Senator McConnell said.

But Democrats say the president did not specify how he plans to achieve success in Iraq.  They say the administration was unprepared for the insurgency and did not send enough troops to stabilize the country and protect its border with Syria, from where foreign fighters cross into Iraq to join insurgents.

Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took issue with the president's explanation for the invasion of Iraq.

"He suggested that he really staged an elaborate trap to lure in thousands of terrorists into Iraq so they could be destroyed there and not here in the streets of the United States," Senator Reed said. "In effect, that elaborate trap might really have been an ambush that we walked into, unprepared, not expecting an insurgency, and found ourselves confronted with this battle which is now is being supported by some foreign terrorists who are coming into that country."

President Bush delivers speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tuesday
Democrats are also incensed that Mr. Bush again linked the war in Iraq to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, which a federal commission probing those attacks blamed on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee is Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

"It had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, it had nothing to do with al-Qaida, it had nothing to do with September 11th, which he managed to mention three or four times and infer three or four more times," Senator Rockefeller said.  "They like that, it is easier for them.  There was no connection between these things and Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction, which of course were not there."

Mr. Rockefeller says the president is right in saying al-Qaida now views Iraq as the central place to battle Americans, because he provided them with the target.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said Democrats are mischaracterizing Mr. Bush's references to September 11.  He said the president brought up the attacks not to change his justification for the war but to explain why it is important to go on the offensive to confront threats.

The chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, says the United States has no other choice, but to complete the job of helping the Iraqis end the insurgency and establish a democracy in Iraq because the stakes are too high.

"Think about what would happen if the terrorists would take over Iraq.  Even Saddam Hussein could be returned to power.  That would become a hotbed of terrorism in the Middle East.  Progress made in surrounding countries like Pakistan, efforts being made toward democracy in places like Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, all those would go up in smoke," Senator Kyl said.

Mr. Kyl agrees with Mr. Bush that setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops would embolden the enemy.

Some Democrats also oppose setting such a timetable, but support linking Iraqis' progress toward establishing a viable military and a stable democracy with a gradual withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

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