I Am Disappointed in the President's Alleged New Plan for Iraq

On Wednesday night, I joined much of the nation before the television, hoping that President Bush would outline a new and more promising strategy to promote stability in Iraq and to bring our troops quickly home. I was sorely disappointed, as many were - particularly the loved ones of those who continue to serve in the region, often on back-to-back tours. In fact, some units learned on the eve of the President's speech what it would mean specifically to them: lengthy re-deployments to this difficult assignment starting in a matter of weeks rather than months.

I oppose the so-called surge that constitutes the centerpiece of the President's plan. Our efforts in Iraq are a mess, and throwing in more troops will not improve it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, together with myself and other committee heads on Capitol Hill, have repeatedly called for a phased reduction of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Nothing in the President's speech changes that.

Our country would not be in this predicament now had there been sufficient forces committed to the effort years ago. General Eric Shinseki recommended, and I strongly supported, sending in hundreds of thousands of well-protected soldiers to prevent any possibility of bloodshed beyond direct confrontation with Saddam's troops. This would have brought major combat operations to a swift close and left plenty of personnel to guard against a flare-up of fighting, not to mention the looting, vandalism and general chaos that ensued.

When I toured northern Iraq by helicopter with General David Petraeus, who was then in charge of our forces there, he pointed to vast ammunition caches that could not be secured because he did not have enough soldiers to assign to such duty. We will never know how much of that ammunition has since been used against our troops and innocent Iraqi civilians.

It is too late to address this and numerous other problems that arose from insufficient commitment of resources to the invasion, which was based on bad information from the start. You cannot unscramble an omelet. And you certainly can't make it any more palatable by adding more of the same ingredients. With Iraq sliding into civil war and the Iraqi government still not showing sufficient determination to disarm the militias, we need to involve other parties in the region to take more responsibility for creating a stable Iraq with lasting and meaningful reconstruction.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on diplomatic efforts to improve the future in Iraq. Based on what we heard, there is little cause for optimism but may be some reason for hope, at least when it comes to engaging Iraq's neighbors in becoming more involved in reconstructing Iraq and helping to establish security there.

Next week, our committee will hold hearings with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and leaders of the Iraq Study Group, including former Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton. And it will not end there. We intend to examine the complex knot of the situation in Iraq from every angle within our purview. And we will not shy from using our oversight authority to ensure that the tough questions get answered, that the best minds are put to work on the problem.