House GOP leader jabs at Iraq war surge critics
MILWAUKEE (AP) – Congressional leaders who opposed the troop surge in Iraq are now taking credit for it, and President Barack Obama is more worried about ending the war than winning it, House Republican leader John Boehner said Tuesday.
Boehner made his remarks at the American Legion’s national convention in Milwaukee hours before Obama was scheduled to deliver an Oval Office speech marking the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.
About 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq in a training and backup role, however. All forces are scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2011.
“Today we mark not the defeat those voices anticipated – but progress,” Boehner said.
Obama was an early critic of the war, spoke out against it during the U.S. invasion and promised during his campaign to end the conflict.
Boehner, a 10-term congressional veteran from Ohio, could become the House speaker if Republicans take control of the chamber in November’s elections. He choked up as he heaped praise on veterans and kept his criticisms vague.
“Some leaders who … fought tooth-and-nail” to stop the surge are now claiming credit for its success, Boehner said.
He listed three lawmakers, including one in the House and another in the U.S. Senate, who said former President George W. Bush’s troop surge in 2007 wouldn’t work – but didn’t name them.
A Democratic Iraq provides the best defense against the “menace” of Iran, Boehner said, but warned the country will continue to be a target for America’s enemies. He said he hoped Obama would outline during his speech what he will do if progress there deteriorates.
“Over the past several months, we’ve often heard about ending the war in Iraq, but not much about winning the war in Iraq,” Boehner said.
Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski countered Boehner’s comments, saying the House GOP leader “hardly has the record to criticize” the Obama administration.
“His choice of words on the surge reflects the kind of politics that poisoned discussion of foreign policy and national security we should be going away from,” Zielinski said.
Pivoting to the war in Afghanistan, Boehner said the president must emphasize a commitment to success rather than “arbitrary” withdrawal deadlines. Obama has said he will begin withdrawing troops there by the middle of next year, although Gen. David Petraeus has drafted guidelines for a 2014 withdrawal.