Neither President Bush nor the Republican-led Congress can extract the United States from a bloody quagmire of their own making in Iraq, said a former Republican who is seeking a Senate seat in Virginia.

Democrat Jim Webb, who was President Reagan’s Navy secretary in 1987-88, said he knows from his own past as one of the Vietnam War’s most decorated Marines how to “bring the Iraq War to an early and honorable end.”

Webb bolted the GOP in 2003 over Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and this year announced he would challenge Republican Sen. George Allen, a conservative former governor who’s exploring a 2008 White House bid. Opposition to the war is a cornerstone of Webb’s campaign.

“I have believed strongly that when things aren’t working well, it is the responsibility of our leaders to admit it, and to fix the problem,” Webb said Saturday in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. “Some say that speaking out against a war is disloyal to the troops. Whoever says that should consider what it’s like to be a troop, wishing someone would speak the truth.”

Webb said the Republicans are no more able today to wrap up the military entanglement in Iraq than the Democrats and President Truman could disengage U.S. forces from Korea in 1952. It took a change of parties and the election of war hero Dwight Eisenhower to bring the troops home then, he said, and the same is true now.

“I’m reminded of another time, with a leader who truly understood war,” Webb said. “He claimed that ‘the old administration cannot be expected to repair what it failed to prevent.'”

Webb said the open-ended commitment to Iraq must end to enable the military to battle terrorism globally and give it “the mobility to confront the other strategic challenges, such as the threat of an emerging China.”

Allen’s campaign says Webb has offered widely conflicting views on how and when to withdraw from Iraq and claims Webb would back a “cut-and-run” strategy similar to that offered by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a Webb supporter.

In Missouri last week, Bush accused Democrats of waving “the white flag of surrender” and insisted he will keep combat forces in Iraq as long as they are needed to achieve victory.

Webb’s radio remarks capped a week of searing rhetoric between Webb and Allen’s campaign over a constitutional flag-burning ban that the Senate killed Tuesday.

Allen supported the amendment and criticized Webb for opposing it. That brought a scathing reply from Webb’s campaign describing Allen a coward who sat out the Vietnam War “playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada.” Webb has begun referring to Allen using the middle name he is known to detest: Felix.

Webb is the first Democratic Senate challenger this year to offer the party’s weekly radio address, said Phil Singer of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Webb won a rare preprimary endorsement last month from the DSCC and its chairman, New York Sen. Charles Schumer.

Both parties have targeted the Webb-Allen race as one of the nation’s most competitive, and as an off-year test of Bush’s policies and popularity.


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© 2006 The Associated Press