The Iraq War Coalition Continues To Crumbleby Doug Mataconis
This time, though, we’re not talking about the international coalition of nations supporting the United States’ polices in Iraq, we’re talking about the coalition in the United States Senate, and, more specifically, one very influential Senator:
Sen. John W. Warner, one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security, called on President Bush yesterday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in time for Christmas as a new intelligence report concluded that political leaders in Baghdad are “unable to govern effectively.”
Warner’s declaration — after the Virginia senator’s recent four-day trip to the Middle East — roiled the political environment ahead of a much-anticipated progress report to be delivered Sept. 11 by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq. Although Warner had already broken with Bush’s strategy, this was the first time he endorsed pulling troops out by a specific date.
Warner’s comments followed the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that provided a mixed assessment on Iraq seven months after Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country. The report, produced by the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, determined that “there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security.” But it predicted the Iraqi government “will become more precarious” in the next six to 12 months with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.
At his Capitol Hill news conference, Warner, a former Navy secretary and Armed Services Committee chairman, threw Bush’s own words back at him by noting that the president has said the U.S. commitment in Iraq must not be “open-ended.” Warner said it was time for the president to come up with an “orderly and carefully planned withdrawal,” suggesting that Bush “send a sharp and clear message” to the Iraqis by announcing a pullout plan by Sept. 15 — one that would involve at least a symbolic fraction of the 160,000 troops coming home by the holidays.
“I can think of no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he’s decided to initiate the first step in a withdrawal of armed forces,” Warner said. “I say to the president respectfully, ‘Pick whatever number you wish.’ . . . Say, 5,000, could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year. That’s the first step.”
This isn’t some wishy-washy Republican we’re talking about here. Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On issues of national security, he’s generally considered pro-military, and, on issues of foreign policy, very conservative.
Losing the support of a man like John Warner is a sign that the Bush Administration’s plans in Iraq are not going well at all.