View Full Version : Bush Faces Revolt On Iraq

08-23-2006, 08:44 AM
Bush faces revolt on Iraq


by Olivier Knox
Tue Aug 22, 1:58 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush has defiantly reaffirmed his "stay-the-course" message on Iraq, even as some of the unpopular war's strongest defenders have turned critical ahead of key November elections.

With just over two months before voters decide who controls the US Congress, Bush took pains on Monday to confront candidates, overwhelmingly opposition Democrats, who want to set a timetable for a US withdrawal.

"Any sign that says we're going to leave before the job is done simply emboldens terrorists," he said at a press conference. "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake."

But more than a few politicians and commentators once firmly in Bush's camp have joined the doubters on the war, which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of more than 2,600 US troops.

Republican Representative Walter Jones (news, bio, voting record), who once helped rename French fries "freedom fries" in anger at Paris's opposition to the conflict, reversed course in June 2005 and urged Bush to set a withdrawal timetable.

Michael Fitzpatrick, another Republican representative who backed the March 2003 invasion, has reportedly branded both his Democratic rival -- a decorated Iraq war veteran who supports a US redeployment -- and Bush as "extreme."

"Congressman Fitzpatrick says no to both extremes: No to President Bush's 'stay-the-course' strategy, ... and no to Patrick Murphy's 'cut-and-run' approach," said a Fitzpatrick campaign flier described in the Washington Times.

Moderate Republican Christopher Shays, who backed the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein, told the Washington Post last week that he would propose a time frame for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

And in one of the most high-profile campaigns, the Democratic Party's Senate primary in Connecticut, a political novice who opposed the war beat a well-established Democratic senator, Joe Lieberman, who strongly supported it.

Nor can the president count on many conservative commentators who once offered full-throated defenses of his foreign policy and the Iraq war, in particular, and counted critics as irresponsible defeatists.

"The big problem I have is that the US is not winning the war. Staying the course doesn't sound like a solution to the massive sectarian violence going on in Iraq," conservative economist Larry Kudlow said this week.

Kudlow's comments, made in a public posting on the Internet site of the National Review magazine, a conservative stronghold, came a bit more than a year after the publication's April 2005 cover story declared "We're Winning."

And earlier this month, the magazine's editor warned that "Republicans are seeking to win the midterm elections on national security at the same time they are losing, or at least not obviously winning, a major war" -- Iraq.

The column's title recycled a frequently heard charge among Democrats, asking whether the war had become "Bush's Vietnam?"

And in one much-publicized case, a former conservative-lawmaker-turned-talk-show-host spent time with his guests discussing whether Bush's "mental weakness" hurt the United States abroad, while the television screen asked the question "Is Bush An Idiot?"

While Bush has stood firmly behind his policy, and he and some of his top aides have accused Democrats of actively seeking defeat in Iraq and wanting to "cut and run," there are signs of deep Republican discomfort with the White House strategy -- and its "stay-the-course" sales pitch.

"The choice in this election is not between 'stay the course' and 'cut and run.' It's between 'win by adapting' and 'cut and run,'"Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said last week.