Wash. Times mischaracterized Democratic senators' positions on troop withdrawal

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

The Washington Times suggested that Sens. Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Joe Biden changed their views on the need for additional troops in Iraq only after President Bush announced his plan to send more troops to Iraq on January 10. In fact, in June 2006 -- well before Bush embraced a "surge" -- all three senators supported an amendment that called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin by the end of 2006.

In a January 31 article, "Advocates of troop surge about-face in Congress," The Washington Times mischaracterized the positions of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democratic Sens. John Kerry (MA) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (DE) on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in an effort to prove the assertion that "many in the Senate" "were for a surge of troops in Iraq before they were against it." The Times article, by reporter Charles Hurt, suggested that Reid, Kerry, and Biden changed their views on the need for additional troops in Iraq only after President Bush announced his plan to send more troops to Iraq on January 10. In fact, in June 2006 -- well before Bush embraced a "surge" -- all three senators supported an amendment that called on the Bush administration to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2006 "after consultation with the Government of Iraq."

During that same period, Kerry sponsored an amendment that would have required almost all U.S. troops to have been withdrawn from Iraq by July 1, 2007. Kerry voted in favor of his amendment on June 22, 2006 (although neither Biden nor Reid did). Furthermore, Biden was a co-sponsor of the measure for a phased redeployment of U.S. troops to begin by the end of 2006 and, later, with Reid, signed a July 30, 2006, letter to Bush that read in part: "We believe that a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006."

To prove the point that Kerry "is among at least a dozen Democratic senators who in the past have called for more troops in Iraq but now support a resolution condemning President Bush's plan to do just that," the Times, in addition to omitting the key fact that, in 2006, Kerry sponsored the previously mentioned legislation that would have required an almost total U.S. troop withdrawal by July 1, 2007, used Kerry statements that are years old:

"We don't have enough troops in Iraq," Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said in 2005.

In 2004, he told NBC's Tim Russert some things he believes "very deeply."

"Number one, we cannot fail," Mr. Kerry said. "I've said that many times. And if it requires more troops in order to create the stability that eliminates the chaos, that can provide the groundwork for other countries, that's what we have to do."

The Times similarly claimed that Biden "has for years advocated increasing the number of troops on the ground in Iraq" and cited Biden statements from NBC's Meet the Press in 2004 and ABC's Good Morning America in 2005, in which he called for more troops. The Times added: "By last week, Mr. Biden had reversed his war strategy." In fact, in addition to voting for a resolution calling for withdrawal in 2006, on December 26, 2006, before Bush had announced his plan for a troop increase, Biden firmly voiced his opposition to increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, saying, "I totally oppose this surging of additional American troops into Baghdad," adding, "It's contrary to the overwhelming body of informed opinion, both inside and outside the administration."

The Times also misleadingly asserted that "[a]s late as last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was still open to the idea of a surge. ... After Mr. Bush laid out his plan to increase troops, the Democratic leader flatly rejected it." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Reid stated on the December 17, 2006, edition of ABC's This Week that he would "go along with" an increase of troops in Iraq "[i]f it's for a surge that is for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there by this time next year." But Bush's proposal contains no such timelines -- or any others -- which Reid suggested would be a condition for his support of a troop increase. Moreover, two days later, on December 19, 2006, Reid wrote on The Huffington Post website: "I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq," adding: "I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008."

The Washington Times article is the latest example of what Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz identified on January 16 as"[t]he new conservative argument ... that leading Dems have flip-flopped on the troops issue." Kurtz quoted from a column by National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, in which Goldberg similarly stated that "Kerry, Pelosi and other Democrats were in favor of more troops before they were against it."

From Goldberg's January 11 syndicated column:

Here we have a president forthrightly trying to win a war, and the opposition -- which not long ago was in favor of increasing troops, when Bush was against that -- won't say what it wants. This is flatly immoral. If you believe the war can't be won and there's nothing to be gained by staying, then, to paraphrase Sen. John Kerry, you're asking more men to die for a mistake. You should demand withdrawal. But that might cost votes, so the Dems don't. And, of course, Kerry, Pelosi and other Democrats were in favor of more troops before they were against it.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
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