|A day after President Bush
announced a revised strategy for the Iraq war, a plan that includes an
additional 21,000 troops for the country, U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice came under hostile questioning from skeptical lawmakers
on both sides of the political aisle. Rice defended the plan in day-long
hearings before Senate and House panels Thursday, as VOA's Deborah Tate
reports from Capitol Hill.|
The chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Joe Biden of
Delaware, set the tone for his panel's hearing, when he expressed his
opposition to the proposed increase in U.S. troop strength in Iraq.
"The result will be the loss of more American lives and our military
stretched to the brinking point, with little prospect of success, and a
further loss of [U.S.] influence in the region," he said.
Many lawmakers echoed the concerns, underscoring the challenge the
administration faces as it tries to explain the strategy to Congress and
the American public.
Some of the harshest criticism came from lawmakers of the president's
own Republican Party.
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and
potential presidential candidate in 2008, said the president's plan to put
U.S. troops in the middle of a civil war is tactically, strategically and
"I think that this speech given last night by this president represents
the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country's history
since Vietnam, if it is carried out. I will resist it," said
For her part, Secretary Rice defended the plan.
"The most urgent task before us now is to help the Iraqi government,
and I want to emphasize help, the Iraqi government establish confidence
among the Iraqi population that it will and can protect all its citizens,
whether they are Sunni, Shi'ia, Kurds, or others, and that they will, in
an even-handed fashion, punish those violent people who are killing
innocent Iraqis," she said.
Rice repeated her confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,
and said she believes he is aware time is running short for restoring
security to the country.
Rice's testimony comes as Senate and House Democratic leaders are
planning to bring the president's proposal to a vote in both chambers to
underscore the lack of support for the plan. The action would be purely
Many Democrats are calling for a phased U.S. troop withdrawal. A few
others are calling for cutting funding for the war.
"Congress must use its main power, the power of the purse to put an end
to this disastrous war, and I am not talking about the surge or escalation. It is time to
use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq," said Senator
Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat.
But most lawmakers oppose cutting funds for the war, saying they
support the troops.
The Senate's top Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky,
signaled that Republicans would consider action to block any proposal to
cut money to the troops. At a news conference, he endorsed Mr. Bush's
"Only with a secure Baghdad do you have a chance of having a reasonably
stable country, which is what our goal is, and what their goal is, and a
country that would be an ally in the war on terror," he said.
McConnell called on lawmakers to give the president's plan a chance to