- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

Senate Democrats rebuked President Bush yesterday over his handling of the war in Iraq with a rare wartime vote condemning the commander in chief’s plan to add troops to the battlefield.

“Our resolution of disapproval is not — I emphasize not — an attempt to embarrass the president. It is not an attempt to demonstrate isolation,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said before his panel declared Mr. Bush’s proposal as “not in the national interest.”

“It’s an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq,” Mr. Biden said.

Hours after the 12-9 vote, which fell nearly along party lines, Sen. John W. Warner went to the Senate floor and offered his own amendment condemning Mr. Bush’s “surge” proposal. The Virginia Republican said his nonbinding resolution is less politically combative than the Biden resolution and has the support of three fellow Republicans and six Democrats.

“We have put a greater emphasis on urging the president to consider other options, given that we have a general disagreement with the very significant level of troops that are specifically set forth in the president’s plan,” Mr. Warner said. The Warner proposal was offered as a substitute for Mr. Biden’s.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was the only one of the panel’s 10 Republicans to join all 11 Democrats in favor of the nonbinding Biden resolution.

Mr. Hagel, Mr. Biden and three other committee members supporting the resolution yesterday were among those who voted on Oct. 11, 2002, to authorize the war in Iraq. The others were Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Bill Nelson of Florida, all Democrats.

“Most of our colleagues understand this is a mistake,” said Mr. Kerry, who as a soldier returned from Vietnam to protest the war and testify before Congress about atrocities he said were committed by fellow Americans.

“I asked the question in 1971: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” he said yesterday on the Senate floor. “I never thought that I would be reliving the need to ask that question again. We are there.”

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, warned that the resolution could demoralize the troops and embolden insurgents in Iraq.

“Usually, nonbinding resolutions are designed to show unity on an issue or to highlight an issue that few members know about,” he told his colleagues. “In this case, we are laying open our disunity without the prospect that the vehicle will achieve meaningful changes in our policy. This vote will force nothing on the president, but it will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray.”

Mr. Hagel disagreed. “This is not a defeatist resolution,” he said. “This is not a cut-and-run resolution. We are not talking about cutting off funds.”

Mr. Kerry was more resigned. “We all want success,” he said, but “we can’t achieve the kind of clean and simple victory that the administration promised.”

Mr. Hagel, who is considering a run for the White House, was among the most vociferous critics of the Bush administration.

“There is no strategy,” he said. “This is a pingpong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad are not beans. They’re real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said she was relieved to have voted against the war in 2002.

“I thank God I voted the way I did: against it,” she said. “I thank God every single time I sign a letter to the families who have lost a loved one. And unfortunately, in California, we have lost the most.”

Democrats offered few specifics about how to proceed. Mr. Kerry urged more diplomacy, which he compared to riding a bicycle.

“As long as you’re riding, even if you’re going around in circles, you’re OK. You don’t fall off,” he said, citing an analogy by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. “But if you stop riding, you fall off.”

Sen. John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, echoing a word often used on the subject, warned against “micromanaging” the war.

Earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Biden said, “I think it is unconstitutional to say, ‘We’re going to tell you you can go, but we’re going to micromanage the war.’ ”

Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat and a panel member who has begun a presidential exploratory committee, said in November 2005: “I have neither the expertise nor the inclination to micromanage war from Washington.”

Political evolution on the war has emerged elsewhere.

Mr. Kerry, appearing on “Meet the Press” in 2004, said: “I believe the following very deeply. No. 1, we cannot fail. I’ve said that many times. And if it requires more troops in order to create the stability that eliminates the chaos, that can provide the groundwork for other countries, that’s what we have to do.”

Mr. Biden said the resolution will not be the final word on the war.

“I assure you — and I know you know this — oversight will be consistent, maybe even daily,” he told members of his committee. “And we will have not only the hearings you had, but we will have continuous hearings on this issue.”

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