In the House, eight Republicans sent Bush a letter warning him that adding troops would make matters in Iraq worse. They said there was no evidence that more American forces could stop the sectarian violence, and that an increase would deepen Iraqi dependence on the United States, reduce the number of American troops poised to respond to other crises around the world and give al-Qaida more recruiting power.
The eight were Reps. Walter B. Jones and Howard Coble of North Carolina, Ron Paul of Texas, Wayne Gilchrest and Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, John Duncan of Tennessee, Phil English of Pennsylvania and Steven LaTourette of Ohio.
From The Plain Dealer's Openers
Congressman Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Lake County, is among the Republican lawmakers against President Bush's proposal to send more troops to Iraq.
In a letter to be sent to Bush but still being circulated for congressional signatures this morning, in advance of Bush's prime-time address tonight, LaTourette and several other Republicans said:
"Dear Mr. President,
"We fully support your consideration of alternatives to the
current U.S. policy in Iraq and eagerly await your announcement of a new
U.S. strategy. We respectively urge you not to include an escalation or
"surge" of U.S. military forces as part of that new strategy."
But LaTourette is the only Ohioan to sign the letter. Other Ohio Republicans are not as certain. Ralph Regula says that he wants to give new U.S. military leaders in Iraq a chance to decide what's best. Those new leaders are Admiral William Fallon, leading the Central Command, and Lt. General David Petraeus, who will lead the forces in Iraq.
While there should be no rush to send more forces, Regula says, that does not mean he's against a surge. "I'm not against a surge. I'm not necessarily for sending 20,000 (troops) next week. I think the president's going to say that this is one of the options available to the two new commanders...once they get the lay of the land."
Look for other Republicans to pose a raft of questions: Where would the troops go? When? Would there be benchmarks to measure the performance of the mission? What will be demanded of Iraq's leadership?
Meantime, LaTourette leaves less room for ambivalence. The letter says:
"As members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have indicated in published reports, even a short-term escalation of the number of U.S. troops in Iraq could create larger problems in the long-term. It would increase Iraqi dependence on our forces, deplete our strategic reserve and force extended tours of duty for soldiers and Marines who are scheduled to return to their families. Hostile militias could respond by simply melting back into society until the surge is ended. The Pentagon has warned that an escalation of our troop levels in Iraq could lead to an increase in al-Qaeda attacks, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeals for foreign fighters to attack U.S. soldiers."
And it concludes, "Mr. President, we applaud your re-assessment of U.S. strategy in Iraq. However, we urge you to reject any recommendation for either a short or long term increase in the number of U.S. troops. We are persuaded by all available evidence that an escalation of U.S. troop levels is not the way forward in Iraq."
UPDATE: The letter has now been sent to the White House, but only eight congressmen, all Republicans, signed it. Along with Walter Jones of North Carolina, who spearheaded it, the signers were John Duncan of Tennessee, Wayne Gilchrist and Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Phil English of Pennsylvania, Ron Paul of Texas, Howard Coble of North Carolina and LaTourette.
In a statement, LaTourette said, "Like many Americans, I desperately want America to succeed in Iraq and I would welcome a fresh approach. This isn't a fresh approach. This is more of the same."
As much as I am not a fan of Rep. LaTourette, I have to say that what he did was the right thing. He deserves that.
If only it wouldn't fall on deaf ears...