Army Gen. David H. Petraeus testified before the House and Senate proposed withdrawing more than 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq last week and Bush said he will take the advice of the military commanders. But Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin D-Mich. said the president's plan does little more than dangle a carrot in front of the American people by mentioning troop reductions.
"But, again, it is an illusion of a change of course and the American people are not buying it," Levin said on Face the Nation. "My colleagues are not buying it."
Washington Post military affairs reporter Tom Ricks said the president was being completely upfront with the American people.
"We've known it for months that the troops would start coming down. People at the Pentagon said that the surge would end in late spring. And you come down by about 5,000 troops a month from April through September."
A proposal by Levin seeks to restrict the mission of troops to fighting terrorist and training the Iraqi security force. The problem is that with the Senate so closely split, Levin and other Democrats will have difficulty getting the Republican votes they need to override the veto that the president will surely enact.
"There's a lot of Republicans who have said that they're just not satisfied with the stay the course approach of the president just going back to the pre-surge level, going back to where we were before the surge," Levin said. "And whether or not those half-dozen Republicans or so who will join with the 53 of us who voted to change course, voted for Levin- Reed a few months ago, we just don't know."
Levin said he has been talking to a number of Republicans and "no votes are in any anybody's pocket." What Levin is confident of is that there is a good chance of getting the 60 votes needed to beat a filibuster which would prevent the Senate from voting on a new Iraq policy.
But Sen. Jon Kyl R-Ariz. says Bush is being realistic by telling the American people that the mission in Iraq will extend beyond his presidency. He also said that Iraqis have asked the United States to remain and that Americans must understand that troops will remain in that country for a while. After all, he said, we sill have troops in Germany more than 60 years after World War II.
"The mission should be defined by the military requirements and our capabilities by General Petraeus," he said. "Not by senators on whatever it takes to get 60 votes."