Sanders and Leahy will vote to discourage troop surge

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(Host) Both of Vermont’s U.S. senators say they’ll vote for the strongest possible measure to discourage President Bush from sending additional troops to Iraq.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders say they support a non-binding resolution opposing the escalation of troops.

But they don’t think that proposal goes far enough.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Opponents of the President’s plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq are working on two separate approaches.

The first is the passage of a non-binding resolution that will state “it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq.”

The second course of action is specific legislation that would block the funding of the additional troops.

Senator Patrick Leahy strongly supports both initiatives:

(Leahy) “I don’t think we should fund the surge. I think we should be funding a way to get our troops home. As long as we’re there the Iraqi government doesn’t have to really take responsibility for its actions. Right now they’re in a civil war and who gets caught in the crossfire – American soldiers. We have brave men and women over there – soldiers, Marines, airmen. They’re getting shot at. They’re getting shot at from both sides. I think it’s a terrible situation to put them in and it’s time to bring them home.”

(Kinzel) Leahy is hoping that as many as a dozen Republican senators will support the non-binding resolution.

(Leahy) “The President knows most of the Democrats have opposed what he’s doing in Iraq. But the interesting thing is more and more Republicans at least privately do. We’re going to stay in a war that’s un-winnable forever if people just express their concerns privately they’re going to have to stand up and vote one way or the other.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he believes the time has come for Congress to exert its constitutional authority to challenge the President’s plan.

(Sanders) “One of the things that bothers me very much is the arrogance of the President who says, I really don’t care what Congress feels. I don’t care what the American people feel. I don’t care what my previous former generals feel. I’m going to do it. I’m going to rely on the same information I had from the geniuses who got us into the war in the first place.'”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he’s also concerned that the Bush Administration is considering military action against targets in Iran.

(Sanders) “When people asked me that 6 months ago I said no don’t be silly. He wouldn’t think about doing that.’ But I’ll tell you, I have no idea what these guys are thinking about and they get me very very nervous. And there is at least one line of thought that perhaps to deflect the tension from the horror show in Iraq that they would now go after Iran. I hope very very much that is not the case.”

(Kinzel) Several Senate committees are scheduled to consider this issue on Thursday – a vote by the full Senate could come by the middle of next week.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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