During a January 18 broadcast, KUSA 9News uncritically reported that opponents of sending more troops to Iraq “are not offering any alternatives” and quoted a Republican congressman as saying, "[T]hey don't have a plan of their own." In fact, numerous lawmakers have proposed plans for a change of course in Iraq.
Reporting on President Bush's plan to commit more than 20,000 additional troops to the war in Iraq in a so-called “surge,” KUSA 9News co-anchor Adele Arakawa stated on a January 18 broadcast that "[t]he president's supporters say those against the troop surge are not offering any alternatives." 9News then aired a video clip of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who also claimed opponents of Bush's plan “don't have a plan of their own.” Blunt was also quoted as saying, “They don't want to lose, but they don't want to do what it takes to win.” In fact, several senators have outlined alternative plans to promote a successful resolution to the war.
Arakawa began the segment on 9News at 5 p.m. by noting that Colorado's senators -- Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Ken Salazar -- “are on opposite sides of a nonbinding resolution" that would call for a cap on additional U.S. forces being sent to Iraq. But beyond supporting a cap on additional forces, Salazar has supported an alternative plan proposed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Salazar co-sponsored Levin's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, which “urges President Bush to start a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of the year, to convene an international summit on Iraq and to set a timetable for further reductions of troop levels in 2007,” as The Denver Post reported in a June 22, 2006, article. Salazar outlined the amendment's Iraq strategy in a speech delivered June 21:
This amendment states that an open-ended commitment in Iraq is unsustainable and urges that actions be undertaken to help the American people and the Iraqi people achieve success.
The amendment says that the Iraqis should take steps to promote more power-sharing in Iraq, including through constitutional changes necessary to avert civil conflict.
The amendment says that the President of the United States should convene an international summit on Iraq to increase the burden sharing in efforts to stabilize the country.
The amendment says that the government of Iraq should disarm the violent militias and insist on integrity in the Iraqi armed forces and police security forces.
The amendment says that the United States President should begin the transition of U.S. forces with the end game in mind of a three-fold mission. That mission would involve continued training of Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. assets and personnel and targeted counterterrorism activities. And by the end of 2006, the President should submit a plan to congress for continuing the phased redeployment.
The amendment also says the U.S. should continue heavy diplomatic engagement in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
And finally, the President should assess the impact that our operations in Iraq are having on the overall U.S. campaign against terrorism around the world.
The amendment had eight co-sponsors and failed, 39-60, on a June 22, 2006, vote.
On September 4, 2006, 12 senior congressional Democratic leaders once again called for Bush to “change course in Iraq.” According to a press release from Senate Democrats:
We propose a new direction, which would include: (1) transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq to counter-terrorism, training, logistics and force protection; (2) beginning the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq before the end of this year; (3) working with Iraqi leaders to disarm the militias and to develop a broad-based and sustainable political settlement, including amending the Constitution to achieve a fair sharing of power and resources; and (4) convening an international conference and contact group to support a political settlement in Iraq, to preserve Iraq's sovereignty, and to revitalize the stalled economic reconstruction and rebuilding effort.
Similarly, in a November 20, 2006, speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) outlined his Iraq plan:
I have long said that the only solution in Iraq is a political one. To reach such a solution, we must communicate clearly and effectively to the factions in Iraq that the days of asking, urging, and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end. No more coddling, no more equivocation. Our best hope for success is to use the tools we have -- military, financial, diplomatic -- to pressure the Iraqi leadership to finally come to a political agreement between the warring factions that can create some sense of stability in the country and bring this conflict under control.
The first part of this strategy begins by exerting the greatest leverage we have on the Iraqi government -- a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq on a timetable that would begin in four to six months.
The second part of our strategy should be to couple this phased redeployment with a more effective plan that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead, intensifies and focuses our efforts to train those forces, and expands the numbers of our personnel -- especially special forces -- who are deployed with Iraqi as units advisers.
The third part of our strategy should be to link continued economic aid in Iraq with the existence of tangible progress toward a political settlement.
So far, Congress has given the Administration unprecedented flexibility in determining how to spend more than $20 billion dollars in Iraq. But instead of effectively targeting this aid, we have seen some of the largest waste, fraud, and abuse of foreign aid in American history. Today, the Iraqi landscape is littered with ill-conceived, half-finished projects that have done almost nothing to help the Iraqi people or stabilize the country.
Finally, we have to realize that the entire Middle East has an enormous stake in the outcome of Iraq, and we must engage neighboring countries in finding a solution.
This includes opening dialogue with both Syria and Iran, an idea supported by both James Baker and Robert Gates. We know these countries want us to fail, and we should remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions. But neither Iran nor Syria want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, terrorism, refugees, and violence, as it could have a destabilizing effect throughout the entire region -- and within their own countries.
And so I firmly believe that we should convene a regional conference with the Iraqis, Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, the Turks, Jordanians, the British and others. The goal of this conference should be to get foreign fighters out of Iraq, prevent a further descent into civil war, and push the various Iraqi factions towards a political solution.
Furthermore, in a January 17 statement, Obama announced, “I not only favor capping the number U.S. troops in Iraq, but believe it's imperative that we begin the phased redeployment I called for two months ago, and intend to introduce legislation that does just that.”
Senators who have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation in the current Congress opposing Bush's “surge” include: Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Obama (D-IL), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Levin (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John F. Kerry (D-MA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Of these, only returning Sens. Hagel and Snowe voted against the Levin resolution last June. Sens. Brown, Cardin, and Sanders were not senators in the last Congress.
From the January 18 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:
ARAKAWA: Colorado Senators Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Ken Salazar are on opposite sides of a nonbinding resolution on Iraq now before the U.S. Senate. The resolution opposes the President's troop-surge plan. Today on Capitol Hill, Iraq veterans opposed to the escalation met with lawmakers to talk about their concerns. Also, several retired generals testified about broken equipment in Iraq. The president's supporters say those against the troop surge are not offering any alternatives.
BLUNT: They don't want to support the current plan, but they don't have a plan of their own. They don't want to lose, but they don't want to do what it takes to win.
SNOWE: The policy is not working in Iraq. We have an obligation to step up to the plate.
ARAKAWA: The Democrats' plan is to force a no-confidence vote on Iraq right after the president delivers his State of the Union address next week. Two Republican senators say they plan to vote with the Democratic majority.