Norm Coleman, I'm proud of you.
From Senate floor, Coleman criticizes Bush plan for Iraq
FREDERIC J. FROMMER
WASHINGTON - Sen. Norm Coleman took to the Senate floor Wednesday to raise his objection to President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, arguing that an escalation of U.S. forces isn't the answer to the violence in Iraq.
"A troop surge in Baghdad would put more American troops at risk to address a problem that is not a military problem," said Coleman, a Minnesota Republican and White House ally. "That will put American soldiers in the cross-hairs of sectarian violence, create more targets. I just don't believe this makes sense."
President Bush will deliver a prime-time speech Wednesday night, in which he is expected to announce he's sending 21,500 more Americans to Iraq. Coleman, who visited Iraq last month, has previously announced his opposition to this approach, but he elaborated in his Senate speech Wednesday.
Coleman said the U.S. is fighting two fronts in Iraq: against terrorists, and in the war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
"Our military must continue the battle against extremists and terrorists, but we have no business being caught in the cross-fires of an Iraqi sectarian conflict," he said. "... The only long-term solution for bringing stability to Iraq must be centered on national reconciliation."
That's up to the Iraqi government, Coleman said.
"I refuse to put more American lives on the line in Baghdad without being assured that the Iraqis themselves are willing to do what they need to do to end the violence of Iraqi against Iraqi," he said. "If Iraq is to fulfill its role as a sovereign and democratic state, it must start acting like one."
An increase in troops ignores the conditions on the ground, said Coleman.
"My consultations with both military and Iraqi political leaders confirms that an increase of troops in areas plagued by sectarian violence will not solve the problem of sectarian hatred," he said.
Coleman stressed that the U.S. must succeed in Iraq.
"It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are in Iraq as part of a global war on terror," he said.
"There is no question that Iraq has become the key battleground of this war. Failure cannot be an option in either the overall war on terror, or in Iraq."
A failed state in Iraq, Coleman said, would create a breeding ground for terrorists.
The White House had no immediate comment on Coleman's speech.