Congress readies rebuke of Bush


Lawmakers are thrashing out the wording of a draft resolution condemning President George W. Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq ahead of the release of a pivotal US intelligence report on the war-ravaged country.

Amid tough bargaining in the Senate over a possible rebuke of Bush’s war plan, the office overseeing US intelligence said it planned Friday to make public “key judgments” of its first intelligence assessment on Iraq in more than two years.

Democratic lawmakers had demanded an updated intelligence analysis in a letter last week to the outgoing Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

The National Intelligence Estimate “outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration,” The Washington Post reported Friday, citing sources familiar with the document.

The NIE highlights “deep uncertainty about whether the Iraqi leaders will be able to transcend sectarian interests and fight against extremists, establish effective national institutions and end rampant corruption,” the Post added.

Bush’s decision to “surge” 21,500 additional troops into Iraq has met with fierce opposition from the Democratic-led Congress and increasingly from members of his own Republican party.

Critics of the president’s plan received more ammunition Thursday with a congressional report that suggested the troop hike would involve as many as 48,000 soldiers if non-combat support troops were taken into account.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that the additional increase in troops could cost between 20 billion to 27 billion dollars over the first year of deployment.

And in the event the additional troops are in Iraq for more than a year, the CBO said, the cost could hit 29 billion dollars.

White House spokesman Tony Snow brushed off these calculations, telling reporters: “I would be very wary about trying to assign a specific date to it.” In Congress, lawmakers had yet to forge a consensus on the precise wording of a non-binding resolution expressing opposition to the president’s troop deployment.

A compromise was agreed late Wednesday among a handful of prominent Democrats and Republicans, apparently signaling that momentum was building for a text that would rally support from a majority of Democrats and some Republicans.

The text, penned by influential Republican Senator John Warner, says the Senate disagrees with Bush’s plan but does not threaten to cut off funding for the war.

Some Democrats wanted to see much stronger language while Republican leaders were pressing their members to back the White House and head off an embarrassing setback.

While some Democrats said it was crucial to draw support from Republicans to send a clear political message to the president, others said there was too much at stake to allow for any watered-down measures.

“The resolution rejects redeploying US troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another,” liberal Democrat Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin said in a statement.

Warner’s compromise resolution, expected to be voted on next week, was just one of several expected to be debated.

Republican Senator John McCain — one of his party’s top presidential bets for 2008 — announced plans Thursday to introduce a resolution asking lawmakers to guarantee continued funding for the war effort.

“We must provide the resources and support that our fighting men and women need as they carry out their mission in Iraq,” McCain said announcing his bill.

At the other end of the debate, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd introduced a measure that would completely revoke the 2002 congressional vote that gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

“Although the president believes he can act without the support of the people, the Congress must not submit to such hubris,” Byrd said.

US military losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion have now reached 3,080.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse