Jan 11 2007

State lawmakers skeptical of Bush plan

Decatur Daily

Several Alabama lawmakers who have ardently supported President Bush on the Iraq war reacted with skepticism to his call Wednesday night for sending additional troops into the fight. 

"I'm not enthusiastic," said Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, noting that he found deep frustration about Iraq during a 10-county tour in southern Alabama last weekend.

"It seems to me that Iraq is bursting at the seems, that it's chaotic. You have all these people fighting each other and we're in between.

"I don't know if 20,000 troops is going to do it. I don't know if it's too late."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, called the proposal a "bitter pill" and said administration officials would face tough questioning on Capitol Hill.

"I think the president, the administration, is going to have to justify more," he said, adding that he is inclined to support the proposal.

Alabama's congressional delegation has generally backed Bush on the war. Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham has been alone among the state's seven House members and two senators in calling for a gradual withdrawal.

But that support appears to be softening, particularly after voters in November sent what lawmakers say was a clear signal about the war.

Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, said he would weigh Bush's proposal but that the White House must present "a detailed plan for where we are and how we're going to get out of this war."

Cramer noted that top military commanders in Iraq only weeks ago expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of adding troops.

However, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, predicted Congress would back the president's decision.

"I think most Americans understand that he (President Bush) is the commander in chief, and while Congress has the privilege of the purse strings, they understand there has to be some overall strategy, and Congress cannot come in and micromanage."

Rep. Jo Bonner, a Republican from Mobile, said that "with mixed emotions" he would give the president's plan the benefit of the doubt as a final effort to stabilize the country, only because the other alternative is conceding defeat.

"The question is: Is this too little too late, and I don't know the answer to that," he said.

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, said that while he wished the troop escalation had been proposed earlier, he supported Bush's plan.

"Victory in Iraq is vital to winning the war on terror," he said.

"I think the president justified the need for more troops in Iraq because they will be used to permanently clean out insurgent nests that continue to threaten that country's stability."

Davis said the plan is "too late to make a difference and it's at odds with what the American people want."

"We ought to be doing the opposite; we ought to be making a withdrawal of 20,000 troops," he said.