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Archive for November 12th, 2006

Democrats say will push for Iraq withdrawal


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the next few months but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.

“First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy,” said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress that convenes in January.

The Iraqi government must be told that U.S. presence was “not open-ended and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Levin said on ABC’s “This Week.”

President George W. Bush has insisted that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis could take over security for their country, and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal, saying that would only embolden the insurgents.

The White House, however, said that Bush is open to new ideas and the president will meet on Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that is expected to recommend alternative policies in its final report.

More than 2,800 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the unpopular war was a key factor in last week’s elections that swept Bush’s Republican Party from power in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Violence showed no signs of letting up. A suicide bomber killed 35 people at a police recruiting center in Baghdad on Sunday in the bloodiest attack in months against recruits. Four British troops were killed in an attack in Basra.

“We need to redeploy,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” adding that the decision should be made by military officers in Iraq.

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The Prodigal Returns


Nov. 20, 2006 issue – George Herbert Walker Bush is a proud father; tears easily come to his eyes when he thinks of his children, all of them, and there is gracious deference in his tone when he talks about the son he calls, with emphasis, “The President.” He is not given to boasting about or bragging on his family; he still hears his mother’s voice warning him to avoid “the Great I Am,” but several times over the past few years the 41st president has mentioned to visitors that the 43rd president has read the Bible in its entirety—not once, the father says, but twice, sticking two fingers in the air. If so, then the incumbent may recall the Song of Moses: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.”

Ask thy father, and he will show thee: advice that, at long last, George W. Bush seems to be taking. Last week the president lost both houses of Congress and 16 more Americans died in Iraq, bringing the U.S. death toll to 2,844, with little discernible progress in sight. The war there has now lasted 44 months, the amount of time that elapsed between Pearl Harbor and VJ Day.

In a conference room filled with commemorative shotguns in his Houston offices last Wednesday, the father settled in to watch his son’s post-election press conference on TV. Lunching on pizza, Bush Senior listened as George W. Bush said the loss of Congress was a “thumping,” promised to “work with” a commission on Iraq chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton, and announced that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was resigning. Within two hours the president was in the Oval Office with Rumsfeld and his replacement: Robert M. Gates, Bush Senior’s CIA director and the president of Texas A&M University, the home of Bush 41’s presidential library.

In Houston the phones started ringing, and Bush 41 staffers were pulled away from their pizza. Reporters were calling and e-mailing: would 41 talk about 43’s shake-up? The answer was no, though two perfunctory statements were issued (one for the College Station Eagle and one, as the former president put it, “for everybody else”). Still, the reality spoke for itself. Dad’s team was back—a remarkable course correction in the political life of the son and, quite possibly, in the life of the nation.

The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week—and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston. The re-emergence of Iraq Study Group voices such as Baker, Gates and Alan Simpson—all longtime friends of Bush Senior—is not unlike the entrance of Fortinbras at the conclusion of “Hamlet.” These are 41’s men, and the removal of Rumsfeld—an ancient rival of Bush Senior’s from the Ford days—is a move toward the broad middle. The apparent triumph of pragmatism over ideology on Iraq was welcome news, at least to the public. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 67 percent favor Bush Senior’s internationalist approach to foreign policy over his son’s more unilateral course.

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