- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Republicans yesterday criticized the House resolution condemning President Bush’s plan to send reinforcement troops to Iraq, saying it sends a message to America’s enemies that Congress is not willing to fight the war on terror.

“This is not the time to shrink from the battle,” Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said at a morning press conference. “We’re going to embolden our enemies, and they will in fact follow us home to America.”

House Republicans made a concerted effort to begin, in their words, “elevating the debate” on Iraq, with the goal of emphasizing that Iraq is the central front in a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorism.

House Democrats, however, released an internal Republican memo that showed the minority party was also trying to avoid debating the specifics of the president’s plan.

There are currently about 141,000 American troops in Iraq and 27,000 in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush is planning to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, a move intended to secure Baghdad and give the nascent Iraqi government some breathing room.

“The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose,” Reps. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican, and Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, wrote in a letter to their House Republican colleagues.

“Rather, the debate must be about the global threat of the radical Islamist movement,” the letter stated.

Republicans repeatedly emphasized that theme yesterday, with Mr. Boehner saying that a withdrawal and retreat from Iraq — which Republicans view as the Democrats’ eventual goal — would “jeopardize the safety of Americans tomorrow and for decades to come.”

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, criticized the Republicans for “avoiding” the debate.

“Republicans want to do anything but debate Iraq or this new policy of escalation,” Mr. Emanuel said.

“Democrats are absolutely committed to winning the war against those who would employ terrorism to hurt our people and to put at risk our country, period,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

All 435 House members have been offered the chance to speak for five minutes on the president’s “surge” policy in Iraq. Mr. Hoyer said he does not expect all of them to take him up on that offer, but has still scheduled debate from noon until midnight for today and tomorrow, after the same amount of debate yesterday.

Mr. Hoyer declined to end debate early yesterday, even though the rest of the federal government shut down at 2 p.m. because of inclement weather. A vote on the nonbinding resolution is scheduled for Friday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the U.S. military is fighting a war with “no end in sight.”

“The American people have lost faith in President Bush’s course of action in Iraq and have demanded a new direction,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Rep. Tom Lantos denied any connection between terrorism and the battle in Iraq. “We are not fighting against terrorism in Iraq,” the California Democrat said. “We are attempting to referee a religiously based civil war, which saps our strength.”

Mrs. Pelosi said the resolution will pave the way for Democrats to begin restricting the White House’s use of funds for the war, with an eye to gradually ending U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“In a few days, and in fewer than 100 words, we will take our country in a new direction on Iraq,” she said, in a six-minute speech that began the 36 hours of debate just after noon. “A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor.”

And yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he will try to bring the House resolution over to the Senate for a vote on Feb. 27.

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