WHETHER negotiating with Iran, as American officials did on Monday, improves America’s position in the Middle East remains to be seen. It’s not clear that an anti-Semitic, state sponsor of terrorism that’s hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons can be much of a partner for peace. That said, what is clear is that the Bush administration’s policy of “preventative war” in Iraq has been a disaster. We cannot make that horrific mistake again. So it seems hopeful that negotiations with Iran will prove more fruitful than has war, as the Iraq Study Group suggested six months ago. But there are no easy answers to the mess that is the Middle East. America must persist both in patience and diplomacy. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush threatened on Tuesday to veto legislation setting a date for a troop withdrawal from Iraq despite growing bipartisan calls in Congress for an end to U.S. participation in the war and sharp criticism of the Iraqi government. As the Senate opened a new debate on the conflict, one of the president’s staunchest supporters bluntly said the administration had pursued the wrong policy for years after toppling Saddam Hussein. “The strategy we had before was not the right strategy,” said Christopher Bond, R-Mo. “We should have had a counterinsurgency strategy.” Asked later who bore responsibility for the error, Bond said, “Ultimately, obviously, the president.” Democrats said Bush’s newest strategy was hardly a success, either. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that since Bush ordered thousands more troops to Iraq last winter, “we’ve lost more than 600 troops, costing the American taxpayers more than $60 billion. The escalation has done nothing to bring the Iraqi government together. It’s done absolutely nothing to lessen the violence in Iraq.” Two Democrats, Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, back legislation to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days and to be completed by the end of April 2008. A vote is expected next week, and Reid said nearly all Democrats support the proposal. Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon is a supporter, as well, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, told reporters she might switch her position and vote for it, too. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would call for a vote on a similar measure by week’s end. The Senate proposal appears to be short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened Republican filibuster. Bush’s veto threat applied to any legislation that sets an arbitrary date for withdrawal “without regard to conditions on the ground or the recommendations of commanders.” In Cleveland on Tuesday, Bush said he won’t consider troop withdrawals before hearing a fresh assessment this fall from his top commander in Iraq. “That’s what the American people expect. They expect for military people to come back and tell us how the military operations are going,” Bush said. “And that’s the way I’m going to play it as commander in chief.” Gen. David Petraeus is due to present a progress report to Congress in September on the effects of the recently completed troop buildup in Iraq. “We just started. We got all the troops there a couple of weeks ago,” Bush told the Greater Cleveland Partnership, a coalition of Northeast Ohio companies. “I wouldn’t ask a mother or a dad – I wouldn’t put their son in harm’s way – if I didn’t believe this was necessary for the security of the United States and the peace of the world. I strongly believe it, and I strongly believe we’ll prevail.” But in a further sign of eroding GOP support, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., called for troops to come home next year. “Simply put, our troops have been doing a great job, but the Iraqi government has not,” said Dole, the latest Senate Republican facing the voters in 2008 to switch positions on the war. “Our commitment in Iraq is not indefinite; nor should the Iraqi government perceive it to be.” Also expected to come to a vote in the next two weeks is a plan to place into law recommendations from last winter’s report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The group called for removing all combat brigades not needed for training, force protection and counterterrorism by March 31, 2008. In an ominous sign for the White House, six Republicans have signaled support for the proposal, along with six Democrats. Despite a steady procession of Republicans calling for a change in course, several GOP lawmakers warned against a precipitous withdrawal. “I believe that our military in cooperation with our Iraqi security forces are making progress in a number of areas,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who recently returned from his sixth trip to the region.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!