Senior Republicans have begun raising concerns
about the administration's strategy in Iraq amid daily attacks
on U.S. forces there.
But congressional Republicans still echo President Bush's
overall positive assessment of reconstruction, even as some warn
of political trouble unless signs of improvement become clearer
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who recently compared aspects of the
conflict to Vietnam, yesterday said U.S. forces need to be more
"To set up roadblocks after the bomb goes off is not the answer,"
he said. "We've got to get into prevention."
The number of attacks on U.S. forces has increased to about 30 a
day in recent weeks, and a series of apparently coordinated attacks
rocked Baghdad on Monday. Another attack targeted the a-Rashid Hotel
in Baghdad, where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying.
"We need more troops," said McCain. "We need more
special forces. We need more marines. We need more intelligence
McCain is often among those Republicans most willing to criticize
the administration - although he often refrains from doing
so on military and foreign policy matters.
But other Republicans joined him in raising questions about U.S.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee,
said he was concerned that U.S. forces were unable to anticipate
many of the attacks in a situation he described as tantamount to
a guerrilla war in which the enemy is able to strike and then quickly
retreat into the population.
"I can tell you, I'm very worried about the lack of
pertinent intelligence to fight that kind of a war," he said.
"It appears we have some real problems."
Asked whether he favored any policy changes in Iraq, Sen. Trent
Lott (R-Miss.) responded: "We need to have a different mix
of troops, is the key. We may need to move some troops around."
Lott suggested moving more troops from the relatively stable south
closer to the region around Tikrit, where attacks on U.S. forces
have been common. He said there was a need for more trained military
police, adding that his comments were not a criticism.
"Honestly, it's a little tougher than I thought it was
going to be," Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered
an unorthodox military solution: "If we have to, we just mow
the whole place down, see what happens. You're dealing with
insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to
be very aggressive in taking them out."
Republicans fear they could suffer in the polls if the situation
does not improve, since the administration's Iraq policy is
so closely associated with Bush.
"Politically, it is difficult," said Sen. Norm Coleman
(R-Minn.), "because certainly for the American public...
they read: 'Americans killed every day,' and it hurts.
But I, at least at this point, am convinced that we're doing
the right thing, and we're doing the best we can.
"What's the alternative? It's not to cut and run."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)said the situation in Iraq "will
continue to be a political issue because it will continue to be
a matter of public concern as long as there are any casualties."
Results so far had been mixed, he said and cited the recent conference
in Madrid which secured loans and pledges to help rebuild Iraq,
as well as passage of a new U.N. Security Council resolution.
"What I worry about most is that we will simply lose our resolve,
and we won't finish the job," he added.
GOP criticisms have emerged only recently and no Republican has
come close to statements by retired Gen. Wesley Clark and other
Democrats that the administration has no plan for Iraq.
In fact, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) chided the media for focusing
on casualties at the exclusion of positive developments in Iraq's
reconstruction. In a sign of the administration's ability
to secure GOP unity, Brownback acknowledged that he probably lacked
the votes for a compromise plan to provide some aid to Iraq in the
form of loans - an idea the White House opposes.
"The opposition, the terrorist groups, the Baathists read
our media and read our public opinion polls, and are trying to play
to the country's opinion," he said.
Brownback even said U.S. adversaries were using attacks to drive
down support for Bush.
"Absolutely," he said. "No question in my mind.
This is an international media. They know the importance of this."
Bush, who was criticized on the Hill yesterday for saying that attacks
in Iraq were a sign U.S. progress and the terrorists' desperation,
was resolute at a White House press conference. "This country
will stay the course," he said. "We'll do our
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