Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia and other Republicans publicly offered a resolution yesterday condemning President Bush’s proposal to send more troops to Iraq.

The “Senate disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals set forth below with reduced force levels than proposed,” wrote Mr. Warner, joined by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, also helped draft the nonbinding resolution.

The six-page proposal was less critical than one offered last week by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, but still included strict instructions for how Mr. Bush should better wage the war in Iraq.

It also contained a harsh assessment of the current situation, indicating that a broad bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill will desert the commander in chief if he presses forward with his plan to add troops.

“I feel ever so strongly that the American GI was not trained, not sent over there, certainly not by resolution of this institution, to be placed in the middle of a fight between the Sunni and the Shi’a and the wanton and just incomprehensible killing that’s going on at this time,” Mr. Warner told reporters yesterday.

“That’s a mission that’s important; we don’t lessen importance of that mission. But it should be performed by the Iraqi forces and not the coalition forces,” he said.

The resolution has not been formally introduced as a bill. It will be offered as an alternative to Mr. Biden’s resolution when it reaches the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

The three lawmakers who were in the Senate at the time voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Mr. Coleman did not join the Senate until 2003.

All four took pains at yesterday’s press conference in the Capitol to include conciliatory words for the administration.

“The purpose of this resolution is not to cut our forces at the current level or to set any timetables for withdrawal, but rather to express the genuine — and I repeat — the genuine concerns of a number of senators from both parties about the president’s plan,” Mr. Warner said. “It is not meant to be confrontational but instead to provide a sense of bipartisan resolve that I hope we can achieve with regard to our new strategy in Iraq.”

And, possibly more important, they embraced Mr. Bush’s continued hopes for a victory there.

“We agree with the president — a failed state of Iraq will threaten world peace for a long time to come,” Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Coleman said the resolution “does recognize the consequences of failure. I want to succeed. I want to force us to succeed.”

Among their directions is to increase troop levels in the volatile Anbar province, “specifically for the purpose of combating an insurgency, including elements associated with the Al Qaeda movement, and denying terrorists a safe haven.”

Mr. Nelson said he expects the proposal to draw support from plenty of colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“We’ve now just recently in the last hour or two circulated drafts. I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues, many of whom have an interest in being supportive,” he said. “This resolution will really, I think, be a very strong message to the White House.”

He also said it avoids “any partisan rhetoric,” a reference to the harsher Biden resolution, which has support from Mr. Nelson’s Republican seatmate, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Although some Democrats who want to see troops withdrawn weren’t signing onto the resolution yesterday, they hailed it as continued erosion of support for Mr. Bush’s war policies.

“The opposition to the President’s misguided escalation of the Iraq war is growing louder and louder,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. “How much louder — and how much clearer — does the opposition to his plan need to be before the President will begin to listen and respond to the voices of the American people, the generals, and a bipartisan majority of Congress? The last thing America needs is to send more troops into a civil war that never would have been authorized by Congress, and will do nothing to end the war in Iraq.”

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