- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004


Senators from both parties urged the Bush administration yesterday to face the reality of the situation in Iraq and change its occupation policies.

“The fact is a crisp, sharp analysis of our policies is required. We didn’t do that in Vietnam, and we saw 11 years of casualties mount to the point where we finally lost,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran who is co-chairman of President Bush’s re-election committee in Nebraska.

“We can’t lose this. It is too important,” Mr. Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

A major problem, said leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was incompetence by the administration in reconstructing the country’s shattered infrastructure.

The chairman, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, noted that Congress appropriated $18.4 billion a year ago this week for reconstruction. No more than $1 billion has been spent. “This is the incompetence in the administration,” Mr. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Exactly right,” interjected Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the committee’s top Democrat. He said later: “This has been incompetence so far. Five percent of the $18.4 billion that George Bush keeps … beating the other candidate up and about the head for how he voted and didn’t vote, and he’s released 5 percent.”

Sen. John McCain, who has campaigned often with the president, said mistakes in Iraq generally can be attributed to inadequate manpower. Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said problems began arising shortly after the dash through the desert to take Baghdad, the capital, in April 2003.

“We made serious mistakes right after the initial successes by not having enough troops on the ground, by allowing the looting, by not securing the borders,” Mr. McCain said.

“Airstrikes don’t do it; artillery doesn’t do it. Boots on the ground do it,” Mr. McCain told “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Mr. Bush had pointed out from the beginning the risks of combat in Iraq.

“I find it shocking that some people are surprised by the fact that it is a long and difficult conflict,” Mr. Kyl said.

“What’s important is that you have a leader who recognizes that there are difficulties, but who is committed to prevailing; who has a firm idea of what he wants to accomplish, confidence in his commanders in the field, and who doesn’t send mixed messages to the troops or to our allies, or most importantly, to our enemies,” Mr. Kyl said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, acknowledged that the situation may deteriorate further before it gets better as antidemocratic forces try to prevent democracy from taking hold.

“So this is not a civil war. This is a part of the war on terror, where the terrorists have gone to Iraq, and we need to fight back or we’ll lose the region,” Mr. Graham told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Mr. McCain was asked about a report in yesterday’s New York Times that U.S. commanders were planning a drive in November or December to retake areas where insurgents have won control. Such a timetable would place the operations after the Nov. 2 election for the White House.

Mr. McCain said Mr. Bush was not being “as straight as we would want him to be” about the situation. “The longer we delay with these sanctuaries, the more difficult the challenge is going to be and the more casualties we will incur and the Iraqi people will suffer because they will be able to operate out of these sanctuaries obviously now with somewhat of impunity,” Mr. McCain said.

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