Troop Buildup Called “A Fool’s Errand” By Commander In First Gulf War
Left, Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, second left, tesitifies before the Senate Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 18, 2007. Also testifying are retired Gen. Joseph Hoar, second right, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, right, and retired Gen. Jack Keane, left.
The President’s troop build-up already taking political fire from both Democrats and Republicans came under withering attack on Thursday from a panel of retired generals on Capitol Hill, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
“The proposed solution is to send more troops and it won’t work. The addition of 21,000 troops is too little and too late,” former Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar said.
Hoar once commanded all American forces in the Middle East and has nothing good to say about the war.
“This administration’s handling of the war has been characterized by deceit, mismanagement and a shocking failure to understand the social and political forces that influence events in the Middle East,” Hoar said…
Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded a division in the first Gulf War and was consulted by the president in drawing up the new Iraq strategy said, “They’re going to try to muscle this thing out in the next 24 months with an urban counterinsurgency plan that I personally believe, with all due respect, is a fool’s errand.”
It will take political compromise to end Iraq’s sectarian violence, and retired Lt. Gen William Odom, who once headed Army intelligence, doubts it will happen.
“The Sunnis certainly are not committed to it, and I don’t think the Shiites have ever been committed to it,” Odom said.
Even the build-up’s lone supporter, former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane, acknowledged that success depends on an unknown quantity the performance of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Malaki and his government.
“Who is Maliki and who is the Maliki government? And I don’t believe our government, I don’t pretend to speak for them, but I don’t believe our government truly knows that answer,” Keane said.
At another hearing, reports Martin, the head of the CIA was asked if his analysts think the Maliki government can deliver. He replied, “It’s an unknown.”
Meanwhile, opposition to the president’s plan is also growing on Capitol Hill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged the support of House Democrats for legislation declaring that Mr. Bush’s decision to send additional troops to Iraq is “not in the national interest of the United States.”
Pelosi’s commitment came as Senate Democrats said they intend to begin advancing a nonbinding measure next week that criticizes the White House’s new strategy.
Democrats sought to bring public pressure to bear on the president’s new policy as Mr. Bush and senior administration officials worked to limit Republican defections.
“He said, ‘If you can help us out, I really appreciate your help,'” Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said after a White House meeting with the commander in chief.
Even a Republican senator who won’t speak out against the president for fear it will hurt the war effort told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer there is virtually no enthusiasm among Senate Republicans for the plan. With the exception of Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the senator said almost no one among Republican senators is enthusiastic about enlarging the force.
Senate Democrats, backed by two Republicans, unveiled legislation Wednesday that criticized Mr. Bush’s decision to increase troop levels by 21,500. “It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq,” the nonbinding Senate measure states.
At a news conference, Pelosi read those words aloud approvingly, and said, “That resolution will be supported by Democrats in the House.”
At the same time, Pelosi offered no indication that Congress will be able to prevent Mr. Bush from carrying out his plan.
She did not directly address the issue when asked, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House majority leader, said, “As a practical matter, we know that the president has the constitutional authority … to increase the troops.”
Democratic leaders in both houses have said repeatedly they will not support any attempt to cut off funds for troops who already have been deployed.
Democratic leaders have not said when they intend to seek votes on their legislation, and Senate Republicans have maneuvered successfully to avoid the spectacle of a repudiation of the president before he delivers his annual State of the Union address next Tuesday.
Sen. Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel will debate the measure criticizing Mr. Bush’s troop escalation on Wednesday.
Republicans in both houses are expected to draft alternative legislation, in part to give members of their rank-and-file a measure to support rather than merely oppose what Democrats draft. Officials said one possibility under discussion is an alternative that supports the troop increase as long as the Iraqi government meets certain conditions, although no final decisions have been made.
Whenever the votes occur, administration supporters have expressed fears that the president faces a bipartisan repudiation of significant proportions.
So far, Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine are the only Republicans to announce their backing for the Senate measure. A third lawmaker, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., signaled during the day he is giving serious consideration to joining them.
“Senator Smith is opposed to a troop surge,” said his spokesman, R.C. Hammond. “He is very open to serious ways that Congress can influence the president’s Iraq strategy.”
Another Republican critic of Mr. Bush’s policy, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, said: “I don’t support the surge in Baghdad, but there are some things in the resolution I don’t agree with, and so we’re kind of looking at language.”
Mr. Bush’s meeting with lawmakers was his third session in as many days as he struggles to build support for an increase in troops for a war that is opposed by the public and played a role in the Republican setbacks in last fall’s elections.
In addition, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley traveled to the Capitol to meet with House Republicans.
Complicating Mr. Bush’s political predicament is al-Maliki, who has said in recent days that the United States is not providing enough training and equipment for Iraqi forces.
“He’s been constantly asking for an upgrade of troops as well as equipment, and we’re providing that,” Mr. Bush told Belo Corp. television in an interview. “We may not be providing as quickly as he wants. But nevertheless it’s a good sign when the prime minister says just give us the capabilities, and that’s precisely what my new strategy and new plan is attempting to do.”
The president defended al-Maliki against skeptics by saying that Iraqi forces now are going after all people “who are fomenting the violence.”
Democrats have grown increasing critical of Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy. “This president has taken the nation through a failed war,” said Sen. Robert C. Byrd in remarks on the Senate floor.
Hagel, long a critic of the war, said the administration’s plans are doomed. “We are in a box, and putting our soldiers and Marines in more of a box and asking them to do things they cannot do,” he said.
Presidential politics is also part of the equation, CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports. Many of those who spoke against the troop surge have ambitions for ’08: Hagel; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
The committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, said the Democratic-inspired legislation was unlikely to have any impact on Mr. Bush.
Describing the environment as politically charged, Lugar said, “We risk having reasoned debate descend into simplistic sloganeering.”