Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Democrats Urge Pentagon Changes

Democrats Urge Pentagon Changes
Letter to Bush Calls for New Iraq Policy, New Defense Officials
Copyright by The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; Page A03

A dozen leading congressional Democrats have urged President Bush in a letter to consider changing the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, saying that such a move would show he recognizes the problems his policies "have created in Iraq and elsewhere."

The request comes a week after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned against fascism and appeasement as he defended U.S. policies in Iraq. He told an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City that "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons," alluding to criticism aimed at the Bush administration's war policies.

The remarks drew heavy criticism from Democrats. Party leaders on Capitol Hill said last week that they plan to pursue a vote of no confidence in Rumsfeld.

In their letter, released yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and 10 other congressional party leaders criticize Bush's policies in Iraq, calling them part of a "stay the course" strategy that has not made the United States more secure. The letter suggests several changes long called for by Democratic leaders.

"While a change in your Iraq policy will best advance our chances for success, we do not believe the current civilian leadership at the Department of Defense is suited to implement and oversee such a change in policy," the lawmakers wrote.

Others who signed the 850-word letter were Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii), Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) and Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), Tom Lantos (Calif.), John P. Murtha (Pa.) and Ike Skelton (Mo.).

In response, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement accusing Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, of calling for retreat from Iraq before the U.S. mission there is completed.

"The Democrat leadership finally agrees on something -- unfortunately it's retreat. Whether they call it 'redeployment' or 'phased withdrawal,' the effect is the same: We would leave Americans more vulnerable and Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaeda, a terrorist group whose aim -- toward Iraqis and Americans -- is clear," said McConnell, the Republican whip.


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