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After Visiting Iraq, Warner Steps Up His Opposition to the War

August 23, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The two highest-ranking members of the Senate Armed Service Committee took a brief trip to Iraq last week and it inspired a shift in opinion from at least one of them. While Democratic committee chairman Carl Levin (MI) has stayed steadfastly in support of a mandated troop withdrawal timeline, Republican ranking member John Warner (VA) came back with new found conviction that such a withdrawal is needed.

The pair released a joint statement upon returning that noted both the tangible results they had seen in securing certain regions of Iraq and the lack of progress that has been made towards any “overall ‘national’ political reconciliation.” Levin, independent of Warner, spoke to reporters on a conference call later on the same day that the press release was issued and made it clear that what he saw in Iraq has by no means changed his opinion. “The purpose of the surge, by its own terms, was to have the — give the opportunity to the Iraqi leaders to reach some political settlements. They have failed to do that. They have totally and utterly failed,” he stated on the call. He went on to conclude that “we should begin that reduction within four months.”

Warner has finally given his own independent assessment and he appears to have shifted a little further against the war. In July, Warner had favored an approach that required President Bush to draw up a plan for changing the mission in Iraq, but did not require the President to act in accordance with the revised plan in any way. Today, Warner called on the President to begin withdrawing troops and to do so in a matter of months:

>I say to the president respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum but certainly in 160,000- plus, say, 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year. That’s the first step.
>Let the president establish the timetable of withdrawal, not the Congress. Under the constitution as commander-in-chief, he has that authority. He need not lay out a totality of a timetable. I would advise against it.

Here’s video of Warner’s press conference:

Warner clearly does not want to take any legislative action that would actually require the President to take any specific actions. He is simply making suggestions, just like he has in the past — the only difference being that his suggestion now is a more direct call for an end to the war. You can be almost certain that in September, when the Senate is set to vote on a series of proposals to affect the President’s war policies, Warner will not be voting in favor of any Democratic plans to mandate a troop withdrawal.

But his movement a little further against the war after visiting Iraq is substantial, especially considering all the recent talk of lawmakers who once opposed the war now retracting their opposition. It also clears up headlines like this: Sens. Warner and Levin Travel to Iraq, Praise Surge Results. While they both said upon returning that violence is down in certain regions, they also agreed that there has been no progress in the way of political reconciliation and, as such, the surge has failed in its “whole purpose.”

UPDATE: On Sunday, Warner claimed that he hadn’t ruled out supporting a Democratic proposal requiring the President to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. “I’m going to have to evaluate it,” Warner said. “I don’t say that as a threat, but I say that is an option we all have to consider.”

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