Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) said Tuesday that Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R.-Ind.) opposition to President Bush’s Iraq policy is part of a “growing sentiment among his Republican colleagues.”
On Monday, Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, plainly said he did not believe the U.S.’s current military actions were working.
Lugar said, “In my judgment, the costs and risk of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved…. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.”
Reid praised Lugar’s speech Tuesday morning. “Yesterday, he [Lugar] gave voice to the growing sentiment among his Republican colleagues, that we must change course in Iraq and change now—not in September, but now,” Reid said.
Reid went on, “When this war comes to an end -- and it will come to and he -- when the history books are written -- and they will be written -- I believe that Sen. Lugar’s words yesterday could be remembered as the turning point in this intractable civil war in Iraq. But that will depend on whether more Republicans take the stand that senator Lugar took, the courageous stand last night.”
Several Republicans have pledged to wait until September to make a decision on the effectiveness of the President Bush’s Iraq strategy, when Commander of Multi-National Force Iraq David Petraeus will give a formal report to Congress.
After his speech, Lugar’s spokesman Andy Fischer told the Associated Press that Lugar’s remarks did not mean the senator would support Democratic plans to set a deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq. In January, Lugar did not vote in favor of a nonbinding resolution that opposed President Bush’s surge of 21,500 troops to Iraq. Similarly, he voted against a Democratic supported bill to begin withdrawing troops by October 1.
Lugar also lamented the “partisan political calculations” that drive discussions over funding the war. He said, “I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests any more than they are addressed by an unquestioned devotion to an ill-define strategy of ‘staying the course’ in Iraq.”
The month of July will bring a number of opportunities for anti-war Democrats and wavering Republicans to cast votes to disapprove of the war. Leader Reid has indicated he will call votes to cut off war funding, to begin withdrawing troops in November, to limit combat tours and to retract the Senate’s 2002 authorization for war operations in Iraq.
These votes will be part of the 2008 defense authorization bill.