Lawmakers’ reactions mixed on Iraq report
 

 

Published Thursday, December 07, 2006

 

WASHINGTON - Illinois’ two Democratic senators said the Iraq Study Group’s report, released Wednesday, confirmed their belief that the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq have failed.

 

Even Republican Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been a staunch supporter of the administration’s war policy, agreed with some of the report’s recommendations. But he said decisions on troop levels should be left to the military.

“I think the president is trying to listen to a lot of different people. I think he’s a good politician,” LaHood said. “I think he’s read the tea leaves of the election. I think he recognizes that the election is a reflection of unrest about our policy in Iraq and I think there are changes being made.”

Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama embraced the report’s call for phasing out the U.S. presence in Iraq, though Durbin wants it done sooner. LaHood said he agrees with the report’s recommendation that the United States begin negotiations with other countries in the region, particularly Syria and Iran, which Bush has resisted.

“I have always thought that it’s probably a good idea to have somebody talking to these people to find out what their thinking is,” LaHood said.

However, he disagreed with the report’s call for withdrawal of all American troops by early 2008.

“I think decisions on how many troops should be there and what the numbers should be and if the Iraqi military should be more forceful have to be made by our military leaders in the field who are there 24/7, and I think it would be a disservice to the men and women who have done the hard work and who have made the sacrifice for politicians to try to decide these things,” LaHood said. “I think it’s up to the military people there and the administration to make these important decisions.”

Durbin, who voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002, said the report “paints a grim assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

“This report states the obvious truth: We need new leadership and a new level of candor with the Iraqis,” he said.

Durbin called for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in January 2007.

The Iraq Study Group proposed withdrawing all American troops by early 2008.

Obama, who wasn’t in the Senate when the war vote was taken, also has called for a phased withdrawal. “As I said a few weeks ago, there are no good options left in Iraq, but I believe a redeployment is the best way to finally reach a political agreement between warring factions,” Obama said.

“I am also pleased by their call for a regional summit that would include both Iran and Syria, an enhanced Iraqi training program and their proposal to condition further assistance to progress in Iraq,” he said.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.