President George W. Bush will unveil his “new” Iraq plan in a speech before the nation at 9 p.m. Bush is expected to announce an increase of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops in a “surge and accelerate” plan that has drawn widespread opposition from Democrats, Republicans and the Pentagon.
Bush’s nearly four-year-old war has killed more than 3,000 members of the U.S. military and left 25,000 more wounded, 10,000 of them severely maimed. His unpopular war was a major factor in the Republicans’ loss of Congress in the November election.
In a letter to Bush last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.”
Bush, however, has shown little willingness to entertain any variation from his narrowly-focused, unpopular and failing war. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Monday that while Bush “understands there is a lot of public anxiety” about the war, he feels Americans “don’t want another Sept. 11” type of terrorist attack and that it is wiser to confront terrorists overseas in Iraq and other battlegrounds rather than in the United States.
Bush’s feelings, however, fail to note that the terrorist networks he cites in Iraq did not exist in that country before he launched his invasion in 2003 and that anti-American hatred in the Arab world has intensified as a result of the conflict.
Snow says the administration welcomes a debate about Bush’s new policy.
“I think it’s important to get congressional support,” Snow said. Yet he would not say whether Bush will seek specific congressional approval for his new strategy.
“Rather than me jumping out and talking about resolutions and budget items and all that, I’m not going to do it,” Snow said. “But there will be a debate about the particulars in the way forward, as there should be. We welcome it.”
On the CBS “Face the Nation” news talk show Sunday, Pelosi warned Bush to “think twice” before proposing a troop increase, reminding the President that Congress controls funding for the war and could reduce or eliminate the funds if the President does not listen.
Pelosi tempered her warning by saying her party supported boosting the overall military size “to protect the American people against any threats to our interests” and would not cut off money for troops already in Iraq.
But Bush will not get a blank check for an open-ended commitment there, she said. Any funding he seeks for additional forces in Iraq Ã¢â‚¬â€ Bush’s expected plan could send as many as 20,000 more U.S. troops Ã¢â‚¬â€ will get the “harshest scrutiny.”
“The burden is on the president to justify any additional resources for a mission,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “Congress is ready to use its constitutional authority of oversight to question what is the justification for this spending, what are the results we are receiving.”
“There’s not a carte blanche, a blank check for him to do whatever he wishes there,” she added in an interview taped Saturday and broadcast Sunday.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has approved about $500 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan and other terrorism-fighting efforts. The White House is working on its largest-ever appeal for more war funds Ã¢â‚¬â€ a record $100 billion, at least. It will be submitted along with Bush’s Feb. 5 budget.
While leading Democrats reaffirmed their opposition to a troop buildup, several did not join Pelosi in suggesting it was possible Congress could deny Bush the money for the additional forces.
“I don’t want to anticipate that,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a 2008 presidential candidate, said increasing troops would be a “tragic mistake.” But he contended Congress was constitutionally powerless to second-guess Bush’s military strategy because lawmakers had voted to authorize the commander in chief to wage war.
“As a practical matter, there’s no way to say, ‘Mr. President, stop,'” said Biden, D-Del., unless enough congressional Republicans join Democrats in persuading Bush that the strategy is wrong.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in Sunday’s Washington Post that boosting troops for an indefinite time was necessary to secure peace in the Mideast.
“When we authorized this war, we accepted the responsibility to make sure they could prevail,” he wrote. “Even greater than the costs incurred thus far and in the future are the catastrophic consequences that would ensure from our failure in Iraq.”
But Bush’s plan also faces opposition in the Pentagon where the second-in-command in Iraq admitted in an interview that a troop increase would probably fail and a memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells the President that the American military is stretched too thin to provide extra troops.
(This report includes information from The Associated Press, Reuters and AFP)