‘LA Times’ Backs More Troops — But Austin Paper Says ‘Bring Them Home’

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By: E&P Staff

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial page finally spoke this morning — just hours before President Bush’s speech — on his plan to send 20,000 or troops to Iraq. Like The New York Times, it remained critical of the conduct of the war, but approved sending more troops, if certain conditions are met.

Another paper to weigh in, but against any troop increase, is The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.

E&P has been charting editorial response to the “surge” idea since last week.

The Los Angeles Times declared: “As we have argued before, a temporary increase in troops may be necessary, especially to pacify Baghdad. But only as part of a comprehensive ? and comprehensible ? plan to secure and democratize Iraq. The president needs to explain tonight exactly what he will do with the U.S. military force should the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki fail to carry out a minimum of stability enhancing measures….

“Bush needs to spell out a realistic plan for ameliorating the ongoing disaster in Iraq. But if he wants to reassure Americans and give warning to Shiite leaders in Baghdad, he must do something more. The president needs to articulate the conditions under which the U.S. will pull out altogether, in the near future. As painful as that would be, it sure beats becoming embroiled in someone else’s civil war.”

The American-Statesman editorial, however, stated flatly, “Rather than increase the number of troops in Iraq, President Bush should bring our forces home and allow any Iraqis whose lives would be endangered by the withdrawal to immigrate to the United States.”

An excerpt from that Jan. 7 editorial follows.

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Unfortunately, there is little reason to think that a temporary surge of troops would have more than temporary effect. And what’s temporary? Six months? Six years? All the militants of any faction need to do is fall back and wait for U.S. troops to go away. They live there, we don’t.

From the start, the president has grossly underestimated the cost in lives, the cost in money and the amount of time it would take to prosecute the war.

As the toll in lives, time and money mounted, the president refused to face up to it, much less present it to the public. No doubt Bush knows support for the war would erode even further if Americans were called upon to pay for the war with a tax increase. More than 3,000 American families and more than a dozen Central Texas families have paid and are paying for the war with the blood of their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters killed since the war began in 2003. That doesn’t include the hundreds of Fort Hood troops who have died in Iraq since the war began.

We are grateful for the sacrifice and valor the troops have demonstrated but feel the best way to honor them is to stop the bleeding.

We might be willing to endure this war longer if there were any sense that a majority of Iraqis was committed to defending against a violent minority a new democratic government….

There would be a risk in pulling out most troops over the next year or so ? just as there is a risk of sending in more. The risk of pullout is still more violence, but that very threat might also prompt the various factions to reconsider how they might fare without U.S. troops serving as a firewall.

This newspaper supported the invasion, primarily because we were persuaded by multiple warnings of Iraq’s efforts to get weapons of mass destruction ? and Saddam Hussein’s history of using them. The failure to find such weapons has done extreme damage to the Bush administration’s credibility on Iraq, as has its failure to back up its allegations of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda….

Are Americans to believe now that the administration has figured out how to build a democratic nation in the Middle East? We think Americans gave their answer in the Nov. 7 elections. If the president insists that this nation must remain fully engaged in Iraq, then he ought to lay out the full price of doing so ? and call on the American people to start paying it now rather than continue to dump its cost on our children by borrowing the money. Yet he’s already ruled out any tax increase.

The best way forward in Iraq is to start pulling out U.S. troops and to invest in diplomatic efforts to protect and advance our interests in the Middle East.

The old strategy has failed, and putting more troops in Iraq will make little difference in curbing the violence but will forever alter the lives of the troops and their families.

It is time to end the misery.

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