Two leading Republican senators called Sunday for a new strategy in Iraq, saying the situation in getting worse and leaving the United States with few options.
Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Warner of Virginia are part of the growing list of Republicans who are speaking out against President Bush’s current plan for Iraq as U.S. casualties rise.
“The American people are not going to continue to support, sustain a policy that puts American troops in the middle of a civil war,” Hagel said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Hagel said he agreed with Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said after a recent visit to Iraq that Iraq was “drifting sideways.” Warner has urged consideration of a change of course if the Iraq government fails to restore order over the next two months or three months.
Warner said Sunday he stands by that assessment, and even in the week since his trip to Iraq, there has been an “exponential increase in the killings and the savagery that’s going on over there.”
“You can see some movement forward, but a lot of movement back,” Warner said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “We have to rethink all the options, except any option which says we precipitously pull out, which would let that country fall into a certain civil war at that time, and all of the neighboring countries would be destabilized.”
Bush told reporters last week that he invites a change in strategy if the plan isn’t working. But he also said the U.S. will not leave until the job is done.
Hagel said it is time to change course, but “our options are limited.”
“We need to find a new strategy, a way out of Iraq, because the entire Middle East is more combustible than it’s been probably since 1948, and more dangerous,” Hagel said. “And we’re in the middle of it.”
Democrats long have urged a change in Iraq policy. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there is “no military solution to this conflict” and the United States must pressure Iraqis to take over their country.
“If they’re going to have a civil war, they’re going to have to do it without us,” Levin said on CNN. “This is long overdue. We’ve got to focus Iraqi leadership attention on this by telling them we need to begin a phased redeployment of American troops from Iraq within the next few months.”
Also Sunday, Rep. John Murtha, a decorated Marine veteran who favors withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, criticized Republicans for referring to him and other war opponents as “Defeatocrats.”
In an opinion piece for The Washington, Murtha said Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others in the White House have called Iraq war opponents appeasers and pessimists and labeled Democrats the “cut and run” party.
“It’s all baseless name-calling, and it’s all wrong,” wrote Murtha, D-Pa. “Unless, of course, being a Defeatocrat means taking a good hard look at the administration’s Iraq policy and determining that it’s a failure.
“In that case, count me in. Because Democrats recognize that we’re headed for a far greater disaster in Iraq if we don’t change course _ and soon. This is not defeatism. This is realism.”
Murtha, a military hawk and close confidant of top military officials, surprised Washington last year when he called for pulling all troops out of Iraq within months.
Looking ahead to the Nov. 7 elections, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, said “the American people aren’t going to say in the face of war we need to be weaker, and in the face of economic challenge we need higher taxes and more regulations and more lawsuits. The Democrats have promised both.”