Leahy, Sanders will oppose future Iraq war funding

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(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators say they’ll oppose future funding for the Iraq war because the recent ‘Surge" of U.S. troops hasn’t achieved its basic goal of providing the framework for a political solution in Iraq.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders both say they’ll also support efforts to withdraw most troops within a year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Leahy says that despite an increase in U.S. troops, it’s clear that Iraqi leaders are no closer to finding a political settlement to their conflict.

And Leahy believes the continued deployment of U.S. troops actually discourages the Iraqis from making hard choices about the future of their country.

In his testimony this week, General David Petraeus urged Congress to wait another 6 months before making any significant changes to current U.S. troop levels. Leahy thinks there’s a reason for this new timetable:

(Leahy) "I think the President knows there’s no real way out – that this has been a failure. We’ve been there longer than we were in World War II and he’d like to dump it in the lap of the next President, and say when the thing all falls apart – to say, well it’s somebody else’s fault."

(Kinzel) Later this month the President is expected to seek an additional $50 billion to finance the war. Leahy says he won’t support that request.

(Leahy) "I think it’s almost obscene for the President to ask for a blank check of $50 billion for the war – something that we just have to go to the Chinese and others to borrow the money for it, because with his tax cuts and all, the money’s not there. And at the same time he’s saying cut money for law enforcement in America, cut money for child health care, cut money for education, cut money for repairing our infrastructure in America."

(Kinzel) Senator Sanders says General Petraeus’s testimony is part of an ongoing effort by the Bush Administration to mislead the American public about the war.

(Sanders) "They mislead us about almost everything – for a start the fact that you are having Petraeus’s report on 9/11 continues the mythology that the war in Iraq has something to do with the al-Qaeda’s attack against the United States in 2001. Obviously it doesn’t. The main concern that I have about this is this President has no exit plan at all."

(Kinzel) Sanders says it’s likely that he’ll oppose the President’s new funding request:

(Sanders) "I will support the strongest legislation available and be fighting for it to end this war as soon as possible to bring our troops home and certainly defunding this war is one appropriate step."

(Kinzel) Sanders says the country needs to move in a new direction in Iraq because the war effort has made the United States less safe from threats of international terrorism.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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