War powers prevent chaos, White House says
WASHINGTON – Brushing aside criticism from the White House, Senate Democrats said Friday their next challenge to President Bush’s Iraq war policy would require the gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops beginning within 120 days.The draft legislation also declares the war “requires principally a political solution” rather than a military one.The provisions are included in a measure that would repeal the authority that lawmakers gave Bush in 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq, and replace it with a far more limited mission.Democrats have said they are likely to seek a vote on the proposal within two weeks. The odds against it ever becoming law are high, and the White House and Senate Republicans were quick to denounce it.White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration “of course” would oppose an attempt to alter the existing authorization, and he warned that a pullout of U.S. troops could bring chaos to Iraq. “We’re operating under a mandate,” he said.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed the proposal as an attempt by Democrats to produce “what could best be described as a Goldilocks resolution: one that is hot enough for the radical left wing, but cool enough for party leaders to claim that they are for the troops.A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the White House is not only confused, but in denial.”They can spin all they want, but the fact is that President Bush is ignoring a bipartisan majority of Congress, his own military commanders, and the American public in escalating the war,” said Jim Manley. “The American people have demanded a change of course in Iraq and Democrats are committed to holding President Bush accountable.”As currently drafted, the Democratic legislation says the military “shall commence phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq not later than 120 days” after the bill’s enactment. The goal is to complete the withdrawal by March 31, 2008.In the interim, the military would be required to transition to a new mission involving “targeted anti-terrorism operations,” as well as providing training and logistical support for the Iraqis and helping them protect their own borders.The measure also pledges that Congress will “continue to support and protect” the armed forces, renewing a commitment that was included in an earlier nonbinding measure that also criticized Bush’s plans to deploy an additional 21,500 troops.Republicans blocked action on the measure last week, demanding that Democrats allow a vote on an alternative that would rule out cutting off funds for the troops.At the White House, Fratto said that changes in the existing authority for use of military force were unnecessary even though it dates from the days when Saddam Hussein was in power and there was an assumption – later proved false – that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The White House said that Democrats were in a state of confusion about Iraq but left room for compromise.”There’s a lot of … shifting sands in the Democrats’ position right now,” Fratto said. “We’ll see what Democrats decide to do.”He said the president would judge anything that comes out of Congress by whether it gives him “the flexibility and resources” necessary to proceed with Bush’s decision to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar Province.”It’s clear that if there are efforts to remove troops out of Baghdad, there are consequences for Baghdad,” Fratto said. “The only credible analysis that we’ve seen – the (National Intelligence Estimate) report and others – are pretty clear on this, that it would bring chaos to Baghdad.”Senate Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding measure critical of Bush’s troop-increase plan. Asked if Bush would oppose any effort to revoke his war authorization, Fratto said, “Of course we would.”In the House, a nonbinding anti-war measure was approved last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects the next challenge to Bush’s war policies to be a requirement that the Pentagon adhere to strict training and readiness standards for troops heading for the war zone.Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the leading advocate of that approach, has said it would effectively deny Bush the ability to proceed with the troop buildup.But Bush’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill have fought that as denying reinforcements to troops already in the war zone, leading to the alternative approach in the Senate.The measure Bush won from Congress in 2002 authorized the president to use the armed forces “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate … to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.At the time, the world body had passed resolutions regarding Iraq’s presumed effort to develop weapons of mass destruction.—Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.