WASHINGTON - Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama
came out strongly Friday against the option that
President Bush is considering to increase U.S.
troops in Iraq.
The two Illinois Democrats long have opposed
the war. However, Durbin suggested Friday that
the Democratic-controlled Congress is
considering using its control over war funding
to cap troop levels or restrict the
administration's efforts in other ways.
Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the
Senate, said he "fully supports" a letter sent
by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,
and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging
the president to begin pulling out troops in
four to six months.
The proposed surge in troops "is a sad,
ominous echo of something we've lived through in
this country," said Durbin, recalling the
Vietnam war. He spoke to reporters after a
meeting of Senate Democrats on issues
confronting the new Congress.
Durbin was reiterating concerns he expressed
Thursday on the Senate floor, where he said, "I
am afraid in many instances we are only sending
targets and not troops."
Meanwhile, Obama, who's expected to announce
soon whether he will be a candidate for the
presidency in 2008, said he told Bush directly
that an "escalation of troop levels in Iraq was
Obama was among more than a dozen senators of
both parties who were invited to the White House
to discuss the president's plans for Iraq. Bush
will continue to meet with lawmakers and is
expected to announce his new Iraq strategy next
week in an address to the nation.
"It was an open-ended discussion," Obama told
reporters after the meeting. "The president
asked for our opinions. I think both Republican
and Democratic senators expressed grave concern
about the situation in Iraq.
"I personally indicated that an escalation of
troop levels in Iraq was a mistake and that we
need a political accommodation, rather than a
military approach, to the sectarian violence
Asked for the president's reaction, Obama
said: "I think he is considering it very
carefully. They've obviously run that
possibility through the traps. He did not say
definitively that that's the decision he had
No specific figure was mentioned for the
proposed increase in troops during the meeting,