Citing military plans, Rep. Maxine Waters declares a victory for Out of Iraq Caucus

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) declared a victory for the 72-member Out of Iraq Caucus yesterday, calling recent reports of military plans to reduce troops in Iraq evidence that the administration had heeded her group’s calls to withdraw U.S. forces.

The all-Democratic, anti-war caucus has been pushing the administration to adopt a plan by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) to redeploy troops out of the country “at the earliest practicable date.” Waters argued that a military plan prepared by Gen. George Casey, the top military commander in Iraq, is “virtually identical” to Murtha’s proposal.

Casey’s plan would reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to five or six by December 2007.

Although administration officials have not described the proposals as similar and have indicated that Casey’s proposal was one among many being discussed, Waters, chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, was eager to liken the two.

“For more than a year, the Out of Iraq Caucus has been actively pushing for the Bush administration to figure out an end game, get the job done and bring the troops home,” Waters said. “Now, that the White House has embraced the Murtha resolution, which was the proposal pushed by our caucus, the primary focus must remain on making sure our troops have everything they need to complete their mission and to bring them home safely.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also commented on the Casey plan, which was reported Sunday by The New York Times, charging that Republicans had used spurious arguments in the past to dismiss Democrats’ calls for a change of course in Iraq.

Although Pelosi herself has endorsed the Murtha plan, the full House Democratic caucus is divided on how to proceed. For now, House Democrats have pushed for “2006 to be a year of significant transition.”

“Republicans have repeatedly and loudly rejected these [Democratic] ideas, using military, diplomatic and national-security arguments that have now been exposed as false. Republicans are determined to reject any Democratic ideas, simply because they come from Democrats, and yet the Bush administration is proceeding with planning reductions in our military presence in Iraq immediately before the midterm elections,” Pelosi said in a statement. “When it comes to Iraq, the only schedule that matters to Republicans is the U.S. election schedule.”

A Republican leadership aide disputed that characterization.

“Democrats look at a calendar to make their decisions. Republicans look to the generals on the ground. This is one of a few options General Casey presented, not the only option,” the aide said.

News of the Casey plan came just days after the Senate finished debating the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq and two weeks after the House took up an Iraq-related resolution.

That Republican-sponsored resolution, which declared that “the United States will prevail in the global war on terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary,” passed 256-153, with 42 Democrats in favor of it.

Waters brought up the debate over that resolution to blast House Republicans.

“House Republicans are in a difficult position. Two weeks ago they brought a phony debate to the floor and accused Democrats of wanting to ‘cut and run,’” she said. “Now, they find out that President Bush is prepared to adopt the Murtha plan. It looks like the president pulled a cut-and-run on congressional Republicans.”