- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Senate Republicans yesterday said those in Congress who have turned against the war in Iraq are forsaking the troops on the ground and are ensuring defeat with a resolution condemning President Bush’s plan to send in reinforcements.

“This resolution is a resolution of defeat and disgrace,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican who, as a member of the House, voted in 2002 for the war.

“There’s no other way it could come out,” Mr. DeMint said of the two resolutions that have been authored. “That is the choice that they’re making. That is the decision they’re making because we know if we withdraw and leave this to the Iraqis when they’re not ready, that we will lose all.”

The “nonbinding” resolutions rebuke Mr. Bush and his plan for sending an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq. But neither has any force of law that would require troops to come home or cut off funding.

One resolution was co-authored by Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican. A second was authored by Sens. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican; Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat; and Susan Collins, Maine Republican. All five senators voted to go to war in 2002.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, was not serving in the Senate for the vote authorizing the war but has been an ardent defender of it. He said Congress is sending mixed messages to the troops, to voters and to the world with a “no confidence” vote that carries no force.

“We can’t claim to support the troops and not support their mission,” he said in a floor speech yesterday. “If we don’t support the mission, we shouldn’t be passing nonbinding resolutions. We should be doing everything in our power to stop it.”

Instead, Mr. Cornyn said, “we should send them the message that, yes, we believe you can succeed and it’s important to our national security that you do.” He has been drawing up a resolution to do that.

“That’s just nonsense,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, who voted for the war in 2002. “What undermines the troops is keeping them fighting in a civil war, to keep them fighting for a mistake.”

Republicans said the troops in Iraq want the full support of Congress rather than give up on a mission in which they have lost so many comrades. They pointed to an NBC News clip aired last week that has stormed the Internet.

“One thing I don’t like is when people back home say they support the troops but not the war,” one soldier interviewed said. “If they’re going to support us, support us all the way.”

Spc. Tyler Johnson said, “You’re not supporting what they do. They died for you. It don’t make sense to me.”

The clip became one of the most-watched clips on YouTube yesterday with more than 38,000 views. William M. Arkin, a Washingtonpost.com columnist, took offense.

“These soldiers should be grateful that the American public … do still offer their support to them, and their respect,” wrote Mr. Arkin. “Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.”

The NBC report “is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary — oops sorry, volunteer — force that thinks it is doing the dirty work,” he added.

Late last night, leaders of both parties were negotiating the wording and timing of votes for the resolutions. Mr. Warner made changes to his resolution in an effort to win more Democratic backing, picking up support from Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat.

The new resolution vows to protect funding for existing troops while being silent on funding for the troop surge. It keeps Mr. Warner’s original language expressing the Senate’s opposition to the troop buildup but not calling it contrary to the national interest.

Also yesterday, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine K. Albright urged Mr. Bush in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to develop a regional strategy that goes beyond the Iraq troop surge, including talks with Iran and Syria, and more autonomy for Iraq’s rival ethnic and religious factions.

Mr. Kissinger defended the addition of 21,000 U.S. troops, though, calling it “the best way to get the maneuvering room to the changes in deployment and strategy that will be required.”

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