- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

From combined dispatches

A leading Republican senator and prospective presidential candidate said yesterday that the war in Iraq is looking more like the Vietnam War from a generation ago.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who received two Purple Hearts and other military honors for his service in Vietnam, said the U.S.-led invasion has destabilized the Middle East.

“We should start figuring out how we get out of there,” Mr. Hagel said on “This Week” on ABC. “I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur.”

“Now we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam,” Mr. Hagel said. “The longer we stay, the more problems we’re going to have.”

But Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican who also is considered a potential presidential candidate, rejected the Vietnam comparison in the same ABC segment.

“There was a government, so to speak. It was North Vietnam,” he said. “Here the terrorists don’t have any government. They are just there to wreak havoc, to intimidate.”

Mr. Allen also said the recent reports of militias with local ties forming in Iraq are not so troubling.

“Just think of how this country started; they were all state militias. And so they were loyal to the communities, their homes, their counties, or in some cases their states,” he said. “That’s not unusual.”

Still, Mr. Hagel said, the similarities are increasing.

“What I think the White House does not yet understand — and some of my colleagues — the dam has broke on this policy,” Mr. Hagel said. “The longer we stay there, the more similarities are going to come together.”

President Bush was preparing for speeches this week to reaffirm his plan to help Iraq train its security forces while its leaders build a democratic government.

The Army’s top general, Peter Schoomaker, said Saturday that the Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq — well more than 100,000 — for four more years as part of preparations for a worst-case scenario.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said U.S. security is tied to success in Iraq, and he counseled patience.

“The worst-case scenario is not ‘staying four years.’ The worst-case scenario is leaving a dysfunctional, repressive government behind that becomes part of the problem in the war on terror and not the solution,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Hagel described the Army contingency plan as “complete folly.”

“I don’t know where he’s going to get these troops,” Mr. Hagel said. “There won’t be any National Guard left … no Army Reserve left … there is no way America is going to have 100,000 troops in Iraq, nor should it, in four years.”

Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, last week called for a Dec. 31, 2006, deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq, arguing it would take the wind out of the insurgency’s sails. Yesterday, he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a target date would dampen U.S. public disillusionment.

“The president is not telling us the time frame … what’s happening is that the American public is despairing of the situation,” he said. “I felt it was time to put on the table an idea and break the taboo.”

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