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Senators: Bush Must Take Charge

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., speaks on NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday, October 12, 2003 in Washington. Lugar says American forces could play some role in Iraq for up to eight years. (AP Photo/NBC News, Alex Wong, HO)
AP
President George W. Bush has lost control of Iraq policy because of infighting among administration officials, the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

The committee leaders urged Bush to take charge of U.S. postwar policy in Iraq.

"The president has to be the president, over the vice president and over these secretaries," the chairman, Republican Sen. Dick Lugar, said during a broadcast interview.

Added the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden: "There's no clear articulation within this administration of what the goals, what the message is, what the plan is. You have this significant division within the administration between the Powells and the Rumsfelds."

Since early in the administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell has counseled a generally more moderate line than Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Even before the Iraq war in the spring, tales of tension and turf battles between their departments were widespread.

Lugar also predicted American forces might have to be in Iraq in some capacity for eight years or more. Both he and Biden said the country's recovery would cost at least $50 billion more than the $87 billion, including more than $20 billion for the recovery, that Bush has requested and is pending in Congress.

Both Biden and Lugar mentioned Cheney's speech last week, presented as a part of an "information offensive" by the administration to counter what it sees as unnecessarily negative media reports about the Iraq postwar situation.

Lugar called it "very, very tough and strident." Biden said Cheney's desire, shared by Rumsfeld, is "to undermine international institutions because they feel it's a drag on our capability."

This makes Biden's position as a Democrat who voted for Bush's war plan frustrating, "the most frustrating time in my career."

The vote was correct, Biden said, because war was necessary to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "I just did not count on the fact that it would be handled with such a degree of incompetence subsequent to the quote military victory," Biden said.

The administration also came under criticism from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for being unwilling to create a real international coalition and alienating governments everywhere.

"This is haphazard, shotgun, shoot-from-the-hip diplomacy," said the Massachusetts senator who is seeking his party's nomination to run against Bush next autumn.

Kerry, in a broadcast interview, said Bush and Cheney should apologize to Americans "for having misled America, for not having kept his promises of working adequately within the international community, not having built a legitimate international coalition, not having exhausted the process of the inspections.

"And, most importantly, not having gone to war as a matter of last resort, which is what he promised to America."

The senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also accused Bush of misleading the country about the war.

"We did not go to war to bring democracy and prosperity and peace to Iraq," Rockefeller said in a broadcast interview.

"It was all about weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat of America getting attacked. And what's ironic is that, in spite of the incredible job that our soldiers and Guard and the Reserve have done, we really are in more peril today than we were at the end of the formal part of the war."

Bush declared major combat finished on May 1.