Welch voices opposition to Iraq troop increase plan

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says he strongly opposes President Bush’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq.

The president is expected to outline that course of action on Wednesday night.

Welch says the policy will only increase sectarian violence and he wants to see the United States to immediately begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Welch says one his biggest challenges, as a new Democratic member of the U.S. House is to try and convince new Republican members that the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq are wrong.

On Wednesday night, the President will address the American people and it’s widely believed that Bush will back a plan to increase the number of combat troops in Iraq by about 20,000 soldiers.

Welch told reporters at his first press conference as a member of Congress, that he thinks the President’s approach is dead wrong.

(Welch) “We should not be escalating in Iraq. We should not be doing that, and this argument about can the President do it even if it’s wrong, he probably can. The President of the United States as Commander in Chief has an enormous amount of power but what we have to say to him clearly and directly, and we need our Republican friends to join us, is, that it’s the wrong decision for America. It’s the wrong decision for Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Welch says the United States has achieved its objectives in Iraq and should begin the process of withdrawing troops.

He’s concerned that President Bush has added a new objective to the military mission.

(Welch) “The question that Congress has to ask, the American people have to ask is this: Is it the job of the American taxpayer? Is it the job of the American military to referee a civil war? I believe it is not our job to do that. The president apparently thinks it is. This is what the debate is going to be about.”

(Kinzel) Welch says he’ll join with other members of Congress to seek ways to block funding for an escalation of the war.

He says he’ll back upcoming budget requests for the military forces currently in Iraq but he says he’ll oppose money for any additional troops.

(Welch) “Do we escalate the conflict by sending in more troops? My view is no, no, no. I would oppose giving the President money to escalate the war in Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Congress will soon consider a supplemental budget request for the war in Iraq but Welch says it’s not clear at this time if there will be a specific line item authorizing funds for the additional troops. If there isn’t, Welch says it will be very difficult for opponents of the president’s policy to block the deployment of more troops.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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