- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007

President Bush yesterday scolded congressional Democrats for failing to pass any meaningful bills to help the troops at war, and said their delays are threatening pay raises for the whole military.

“It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field and give them everything they need to succeed,” Mr. Bush said as he stood in the White House Rose Garden in front of veterans and relatives of troops.

But the Democrats’ leader in the Senate called it “the height of hypocrisy,” saying Mr. Bush is to blame for overburdening the military by putting it in the middle of a civil war in Iraq.

“Why has his administration for the past several months opposed military pay raises as too costly and blocked everything we have done to support the troops?” said Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “I hope, but highly doubt, that President Bush will one day realize that supporting our troops is more than a slogan or a photo op.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq, a top U.S. general said it would amount to a waste of American troops’ lives if the surge is not given a chance to succeed — a task he said would take through next summer.

“To me, it would be wrong to take ground from the enemy at a cost — I’ve lost 80 soldiers under my command, 56 of those since the fourth of April — it would be wrong to have fought and won that terrain, only to turn around and give it back,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told the Associated Press.

The White House has begun a new public-relations offensive to tout successes since mid-June, when the surge strategy was fully in place.

Yesterday press secretary Tony Snow said attacks on U.S. troops in Ramadi have dropped from 30 a day in February to one a day in June, and he said 175 high-value terrorists have been captured or killed — something he said shows the extent of cooperation with Iraqis.

The architects of the Iraq strategy are scheduled to report to Congress on progress by mid-September — about the time Congress will take up the defense spending bill, which would be the most likely avenue to try to force Mr. Bush to alter policy.

Though the White House says it is not trying to change that deadline, Mr. Bush asked for more time, urging Congress “to give our troops time to carry out our new strategy in Iraq.”

But that hasn’t worked with Republicans or Democrats.

“September is the critical month,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, though he said he doubts Democrats “care what the facts are any more.”

Democrats pounced on Mr. Bush for accusing them of holding up pay raises, saying Mr. Bush himself has already threatened to veto a 3.5 percent pay raise for troops in favor of his own 3 percent proposal. They also said Mr. Bush has abused the troops by sending them into combat without the right equipment and not providing them enough rest between deployments.

“As someone who appreciates a good sound bite, I hate to see the facts get in the way of the president’s sound bite, but that is exactly what has happened,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.



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