By: E&P Staff
Rep. John Doolittle, a conservative California congressman, today joined others in his party rapidly deserting the president on the Iraq war.
At a town hall meeting in Rocklin and then in a meeting with the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee he questioned whether the conflict was worth the loss of more American lives. He said U.S. troops should be pulled back from the front lines “as soon as possible” and the fighting turned over to Iraqi forces.
A longtime supporter of the war, Doolittle called the situation in Iraq a “quagmire” on Thursday. “We’ve got to get off the front lines as soon as possible,” Doolittle said at Rocklin City Hall, the Bee reported. “And in my mind that means something like the end of the year. We just can’t continue to tolerate these kinds of losses.
“I don’t want to keep having our people dying on the front lines. I am increasingly convinced that we never are going to succeed in actually ending people dying (in Iraq). I think it’s going to be a constant conflict … and if that is going to happen … it needs to be the Iraqis dying and not the Americans.”
Later he told the Bee’s editorial board: “My belief is that the majority of my colleagues on the Republican side have become skeptical of all of this. And that’s a big change.”
Doolittle said colleagues in Congress — including an increasing number of Republicans — believe the war “is something different than we believed it to be. And we’re gravely at risk by constantly having our troops exposed.”
Earlier today, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) also called for a change in course in U.S. military strategy in Iraq ? without waiting for the September report on the “surge.” He joined other Republican senators as Richard Lugar who have recently broken with the White House on this issue.
Domenici said he supports a bipartisan Senate bill which backs the recent report by the Iraq Study Group and would create conditions that could allow for a drawdown of U.S. combat forces in Iraq by next March.
Parents of New Mexico’s military war dead in the past told him the U.S. should stay in Iraq as long as it takes, Domenici said. Those same parents are asking him to do more to bring troops home sooner, he added.
His office released the statement below.
Pointing to his profound disappointment in the Iraqi government, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today called for a redirection of U.S. military policy in Iraq and announced his support for bipartisan legislation to create conditions by which American combat troops can be removed from that nation.
Domenici, who serves on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, announced his decision to support the legislation, the Iraq Study Group Recommendation Implementation Act (S.1545), at a news conference in Albuquerque Thursday.
“I want a new strategy for Iraq. I continue to completely support the men and women in the American Armed Forces. They have not failed us. It is the Iraqi government that is failing to make even modest progress to help Iraq itself or to merit the sacrifices being made by our men and women in uniform,” Domenici said. “I am unwilling to continue our current strategy.”
“I have carefully studied the Iraq situation, and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward,” Domenici said. “I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”
S.1545, introduced by Senators Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), embraces the recommendations in the Iraq Study Group Report issued by the bipartisan Baker Hamilton Commission. The bill makes the Iraq Study Group’s 79 recommendations the policy of the United States, and asks the Bush administration-working with military and diplomatic leaders-to implement those recommendations.
The bill is intended to create conditions that could allow for a drawdown of American combat forces in Iraq by March 2008. Under S.1545, the U.S. military could maintain a long-term but more limited presence in Iraq-focused on protecting American personnel and interests, training and advising Iraqi forces, and carrying out counterterrorism and special operations missions.
Domenici indicated that the provisions in S.1545 could be debated as part of the FY2008 Defense Authorization Bill that the Senate will take up next week.