WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, outlined the House plan for dealing with Iraq and continued his party’s criticism of the Bush administration’s planned escalation of troops in a Friday speech at the Brookings Institution.
Iraq’s problems are the international community’s collective responsibility and obligation, Hoyer said, and the U.S. should announce an international conference to stop violence in Iraq and advance reconciliation.
Hoyer said he voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq to protect national security because he believed strongly that the U.S. should join the international community to ensure Hussein’s adherence to U.N. regulations.
One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he said, he warned then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, that initiating war under a preemption theory based on allegations that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction would be a mistake.
The Bush administration proceeded under the preemption theory, and now that no weapons of mass destruction have been found, the world views the U.S. as bearing sole responsibility for the aftermath, a concept Hoyer finds problematic.
“Make no mistake, our men and women in uniform have done everything that has been asked of them since the beginning of this war,” he said, “from decisively deposing Hussein’s government and defeating and disarming the Iraqi army, to working non-stop to train and stand up new Iraqi security forces.”
An escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq, is not the answer, however, Hoyer said.
Democrats have been pushing for a diplomatic surge, not a military surge, in Iraq for six months, Hoyer said, and have outlined three propositions: shift responsibility for security to Iraqis and transition U.S. forces’ mission to training and support; begin phased redeployment of U.S. forces within the next six months; and begin an aggressive international diplomatic strategy.
“This alternative path will not necessarily lead to the Iraq we would have liked to see at the outset of this war,” Hoyer said.
Because the Bush administration did not put enough troops on the ground at the outset of this war, Hoyer said, the U.S. now has to choose “the least bad of alternatives.”
Key regional groups with high stakes in Iraq, like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, should participate in Iraq’s reconciliation process, Hoyer said, investing some of their billions in oil profits to help bolster security and reconstruction efforts, as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan did in the first Gulf War.
The U.S. must push these countries to pay donations already pledged and to forgive debts, Hoyer said.
Last, the U.S. should announce an effort to convene an international conference to achieve a halt in violence and advance reconciliation.
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