Fri, Nov 25, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Tempers rise in Washington as Iraq debate heats up


Flaring tempers in Washington and personal political attacks are an undeniable sign. Despite the Bush administration's best efforts, debate is heating up about how long US troops should stay in Iraq.

Polls show that most Americans now disagree with President George W. Bush's handling of Iraq, and that they believe the war is not worth its toll in lives and money.

Opposition Democrats have tried to capitalize on the public mood to put the focus on Iraq in recent weeks. That provoked some vicious public sparring in Congress last week -- and rebukes by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to opponents of US policy.

Bush used a speech on Nov. 11, the day on which the US honors its veterans, to defend the reasons for going to war.

He also criticized some Democrats for accusing the White House of manipulating intelligence to make a case for the invasion, saying it was "irresponsible" and gave comfort to the US' enemies.

That was mild compared to Cheney's subsequent attacks on the opposition party last week.

Suggestions that Bush or others in the administration purposely misled the public on prewar intelligence were "dishonest and reprehensible," he said.

"The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -- but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," Cheney said.

The next day, Representative John Murtha, a 31-year member of Congress and highly decorated former soldier, blasted the administration's Iraq policy and proposed a plan to begin with the immediate pullout of US troops.

The White House accused Murtha of endorsing "extreme liberal" positions and said it is "not the time to surrender to the terrorists." Murtha shot back, criticizing Bush and Cheney for not having worn their country's uniform in combat.

While visiting China on Sunday, Bush sought to calm the waters by calling Murtha a "fine man," while emphasizing that he strongly disagrees with his stand on US troops in Iraq.

Though civility was restored this week, the latest sparring indicates that Democrats are increasingly prepared to take on a weakened president -- and Republicans and the White House will fight back.

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