Jan 12 2007

State leaders weigh in on Bush's strategy

Talladega Daily Home

By Samantha Corona


Americans have had a little more than 24 hours to reflect on President Bush’s “new” plan for the War On Terrorism, and both positive and negative support for the 20,000 plus troop increase has already come ringing in from the rafters.

For Alabama’s congressmen and senators, the reactions aren’t quite as concrete, but all seem to agree the future outcome of the plan relies on the present actions of both the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

“If the president and (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates believe the additional manpower will help the Iraqi government take charge of their own security faster, and our troops will also be allowed to do their jobs with minimal political interference, then military leaders should be given the latitude to move forward with this initiative,” said Alabama’s 3rd District Congressman Mike Rogers.

In Wednesday night’s public address, Bush unveiled his plan to bring victory to the War in Iraq: correct his previous “mistake” of not sending enough troops and now send more troops to suppress an outbreak of chaos.

Troops will be deployed to help secure neighborhoods in Iraq and to protect citizens from insurgents and each other, one important factor of the altered plan, according to Congressman Spencer Bachus.

“The focus now needs to be on what can be done to prevent the terrorists and extremists from winning. Additional troops can make a real difference, but only if they are allowed to do the job without political interference, especially from the Iraqi government,” Bachus said. “They must be able to clear terrorists and insurgents from every neighborhood in Baghdad, including places like Sadr City, which have become a safe haven for extremists. That was an important part of the President’s speech.”

Senator Jeff Sessions said he’s happy to see Bush acknowledging a flawed plan, and this re-examination could be good news of an ending to the war.

“I commend President Bush for personally conducting a complete review of our Iraq policy and recognizing that changes must be made,” Sessions said. “I’m glad the president emphasized that benchmarks will have to be met and that the Iraqis will have to step up their commitment to meet these milestones.”

Sessions, also a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, said he plans to look closer at the president’s recommendations and talk specifics with Defense Secretary Gates at their committee meeting being held this afternoon.

“A troop increase is a bitter pill to swallow. But allowing Iraq to become a haven for terrorists is a real threat to our nation’s safety and security,” Sessions said. “Our goal is to succeed in Iraq. If this action will improve our chance to succeed — and at this point I think it will — then I will support the effort.”

Senator Richard Shelby agreed, saying it’s not easy to see more troops ship out to Iraq, but it’s a necessary evil if the U.S. ever hopes to see a change.

“While no one wants our military personnel to be in harm’s way, increasing the American military presence in Baghdad and the surrounding region is a justifiable measure if they are given a clearly defined mission and achievable military objectives,” Shelby said. “However, our struggles in Iraq have proven that we cannot do it alone. Victory in Iraq will ultimately rest with the Iraqi government and its people. It is the Iraqi’s who must continue to work aggressively to rid their country of Islamic extremists’ intent on destroying security and democracy in the Middle East and around the globe.”

And still, the resounding opinion from state leaders is that if both governments can allow the military to do what they do best, there’s no reason why Bush’s new plan shouldn’t work.

“The U.S. must remain strong and steadfast against terrorism. Troop levels should be based entirely on American military need, and deployment decisions should be made by the commanders at the Pentagon,” Bachus said. “When it is in our best interest, we — and not the terrorists — need to choose when, where, and how we confront the enemy.”