The opposition-controlled US Congress is to hear from retired generals on military options in Iraq, as sentiment against the war mounts following President George W. Bush’s announcement that more troops are going to the region.
The retired generals testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday include Joseph Hoar, who headed the US Central command in the 1990s, former National Security Agency director William Odom, and former NATO chief Wesley Clark.
Clark, a 2004 Democratic Party presidential hopeful, and Odom have been critical of the Bush policies in Iraq.
Also on the agenda: the House Armed Services Committee will hear from Department of Defense officials and others on audits of reconstruction in Iraq.
The hearing comes one day after Democrats Joseph Biden and Carl Levin joined Republican Chuck Hagel to introduce a non-binding Senate resolution calling Bush’s plan “not in the national interest.”
The draft resolution called on the United States to transfer to Iraq’s government and military “under an appropriately expedited timeline” responsibility for security and halting sectarian violence, and to work for an internationally sponsored peace and reconciliation in Iraq.
“US strategy and presence on the ground in Iraq can only be sustained with the support of the American people and bipartisan support from Congress,” Biden told reporters.
Legislators on Wednesday also presented a bill requiring Congress to approve funding for any additional troops, and another calling for a full US withdrawal from Iraq.
Democrats took control of Congress on January 4 for the first time in a dozen years after a sweeping victory in November elections based on voter anger at the Iraq war.
Polls meanwhile showed mounting domestic discontent with the direction of the war.
The Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of those interviewed said things were going badly in Iraq, up from 43 percent compared to June 2006. By a 51-40 percent margin more believe military action was the wrong decision to take in Iraq, up from 44-49 percent in June.
Pew found that 61 percent opposed Bush’s troop surge in Iraq, with 31 percent favoring it.
The White House however was determined to press ahead with its plan to “surge” 21,500 more troops into Iraq, as the president announced on January 10.
“At this point, the president has obligations as a commander in chief. And he will go ahead and execute them,” Bush spokesman Tony Snow said.
“To tie one’s hand in a time of war is a pretty extreme move,” he added, referring to a bill presented by Senator Christopher Dodd that would require Congress to approve any increase in US troops in Iraq.
Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, meanwhile, continued to promote a bill requiring congressional approval for additional funding of troops in Iraq.
Senator Hillary Clinton — whose statements are closely scrutinized amid expectations that she will soon announce her candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination — said she returned from her recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with “a strong opposition to the president’s plan for escalation” in Iraq.
“I do not think that this strategy has a very high level of success at all attached to it. In fact, I think that at best, it’s a holding pattern,” she told NBC television.
Clinton, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, voted for the 2002 measure authorizing the use of US force in Iraq.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters on Tuesday introduced a bill calling for a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq within six months and repeal congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq.
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