- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

Democrats yesterday marked the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion by denouncing President Bush for his handling of the war and warning voters that Iraq is on the verge of shattering into civil war.

“We need to be planning now for the real possibility we cannot salvage the situation in Iraq,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday. “We need a Plan B to contain what could turn into chaos and a regional war.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who is widely thought to be running for president, told a crowd in New Hampshire that it is time for the troops to come home. “We are looking at an endless morass,” he said, according to the Concord Monitor.

Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who first called for an immediate withdrawal of troops, said the situation in Iraq is already civil war and admonished Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld for comparing the U.S. presence in Iraq to the occupation of Germany after World War II.

“It is irresponsible for Secretary Rumsfeld to compare the defeat of Nazi Germany and occupation of Germany with the occupation in Iraq,” Mr. Murtha said. “In 1945, there were 18 million Germans in U.S. military zones and 1.6 million U.S. troops facing no resistance after the war. Today, there are 26 million Iraqis and 138,000 American troops caught in civil war.”

Yesterday’s comments were made after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, distributed a six-page memo to Senate Democrats at a closed-door meeting last week mapping out a political strategy for criticizing President Bush on a wide range of national security issues, most notably the war in Iraq.

“Three years after the start of the Iraq war, we find that the dangerously incompetent policies of the Bush administration and the civilian leadership of our military have made America less safe and left Iraq on the precipice of all-out civil war,” Mr. Reid said yesterday.

Democrats stepped up their rhetoric on the same day about 200 anti-war protesters — including activist Cindy Sheehan — converged on the Pentagon. Police arrested 51 of the protesters, who crossed a temporary barrier near the Department of Defense headquarters in Arlington. A Pentagon spokeswoman said those arrested were given misdemeanor citations and then released.

At his press conference yesterday in the Capitol, Mr. Biden called the situation in Iraq a “low-grade civil war.” Still, he said, he often warns his fellow Senate Democrats against taking too much political enjoyment from the failures of the Bush administration in Iraq.

“I keep saying in this very room where we have our Democratic caucuses every Tuesday, as much as Democrats may take satisfaction in the dangerous incompetence of this administration showing through, ‘Guess what, folks? This is our president for 2 more years. I have one president, and his name is Bush,’” Mr. Biden explained to reporters. “And so to the extent that Bush fails in Iraq, American interests are seriously damaged, and I’m rooting for his success, not his failure.”

In last week’s strategy memo to Democrats, first reported by The Washington Times, Mr. Reid advised: “Ensure that you have the proper U.S. and state flags at the event, and consider finding someone to sing the national anthem and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the event.”

As prescribed, Mr. Biden stood yesterday between two gold-fringed American flags.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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