Harkin calls for pullout, says Iraq is now 'quagmire'


(Gold9472: Beltman713... speak of the devil.)

March 4, 2006

Sen. Tom Harkin said in Iowa Friday that Iraq has deteriorated into "civil war," declaring it no longer manageable by U.S. forces.

Harkin's comments make the Iowa Democrat among the first members of Congress to declare publicly that Iraq had slipped into war between Muslim factions. They come as polls show President Bush's approval at managing the situation at an all-time low.

"I'm firmly convinced now, after all this time, that it really is a civil war," Harkin said.

The senator, an opponent of the war, said the only solution to the surge of sectarian violence is to begin withdrawing U.S. forces.

"You keep hoping for the best," Harkin said. "And then after a while you say, wait a minute, this isn't working. This isn't working."

About 500 Iraqis have been killed in the violence unleashed by the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in central Iraq and reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques. The dramatic wave of violence has complicated negotiations for a new government after December parliamentary elections.

A national CBS News poll last week showed 30 percent of Americans approved of President Bush's handling of the situation with Iraq, with 65 percent disapproving, Bush's worst marks since the war began three years ago.

Harkin said the more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq could be repositioned in allied Arab nations, but withdrawal needs to begin immediately "in order to extricate ourselves from that quagmire over there."

White House spokesman Blair Jones said President Bush would make decisions about troop levels based on the advice of military advisers in Iraq, but that full withdrawal now would be irresponsible. "We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed," Jones said. "To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness."