In his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Bush made it clear he has no intentions of lessening the load of American soldiers in Iraq – quite the opposite, he says.
“It would not be like us to leave our promise unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk,” Bush told Congress and the nation. “Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”
Now, local Democrats – in the shadow of Washington’s heavy hitters like Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Jim Webb – are saying the president should not expect bipartisan support with respect to increasing troops in Iraq.
“I feel the president’s plan is a mistake and it is not in the best interest of our country,” said Rep. Randy Fischer, a Fort Collins Democrat. “He has disregarded some of the major recommendations in the bipartisan study group.”
The president’s plan includes deploying 21,500 additional soldiers from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps – adding to the 130,000 Americans already committed.
“I wish it would work. No one wants to see this chaos and blood shed, but I am doubtful,” said CSU political science professor John Straayer.
With his approval rating at 28 percent and with 60 percent of American’s not in support of the war, Bush’s plan is not being well received, according to a recent CBS poll conducted before the State of Union Address.
“He has an extreme drop in support, but we are still continuing (to send troops),” said Keri Owen, a junior speech communication major. “Our voice doesn’t seem to be heard right now. They are still sending 20,000 more troops.”
With 3,060 Americans killed since the war began, Americans are growing frustrated, especially since many are losing optimism in the war’s progress.
“I am fearful we are putting American lives on the line for something that isn’t going to be effective,” said Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.
“It is not our place as the predominant active military force in the world to intercede in another nation’s civil war,” said Nick Armstrong, a senior business major.
Fort Collins Rep. John Kefalas, a Democrat, is particularly nervous about the increase in troops, as his son, Sgt. Harlen Kefalas, will be deployed to Iraq in June.
“I am opposed to escalating the war in Iraq that way,” Kefalas said. “Bringing in more troops will escalate the violence.”
Kefalas is excited to see his son and his family before he leaves for his second tour.
“I just hope that people speak out and that we can alter the course, because there is going to be a lot of unintended consequences of this war,” Kefalas said.
Increasing numbers of U.S. Congressmen and women are speaking out about their opposition to Bush’s plan to increase troop levels. The Senate Foreign Relations panel has expressed opposition to the president’s plan and voted 12-9 on Wednesday in support of a plan that would include decreasing troop levels in Iraq.
“I think it is important that Congress send a strong message that the majority is opposed to the war,” Kefalas said.
Although disagreement from senators can be attributed to the new Democrat-controlled session, many republican senators, including John Warner, president of the Foreign Relations panel, agree that the president’s plan is not the right way to deal with Iraq.
It was clear in the president’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening that he feels sending additional U.S. forces is the best way to make progress in Iraq. And Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander who will carry out Bush’s plans, has shown support.
“Unfortunately, the commander in chief gets to determine the policy, and unfortunately, there isn’t much congress can do,” Bacon said.
“I hope to see a new foreign policy that will really talk about brining people home,” Owen said. “I hope to hear a plan that is effective in bringing people home because we have been there too long.”
It is likely that Iraq will be a key issue among voters in 2008.
“Foreign policy has always been one of the make or break issues for a new president,” Armstrong said.
The war in Iraq will remain a hot-button issue in Washington and among Americans as plans continue to be made in an effort to make progress.
“I believe this will continue to be a huge issue in the coming years,” Fischer said.
“We need to be searching for a solution that will work, because what we are doing now is not.”
Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.