BLOUNTVILLE — U.S. Rep. David Davis said Friday he is backing President Bush’s Iraq “Way Forward” strategy, which calls for a gradual troop drawdown and moving from a combat to counterterrorism mission.
Davis, R-Tenn., made the comments before cutting the ribbon on his new 1st Congressional District office in leased space on the campus of Northeast State Technical Community College.
“I think it was one of President Bush’s better speeches,” Davis said of Bush’s Thursday night televised address on Iraq. “I was pleased it was an optimistic speech talking about success. I think that’s something very important that we’re losing in America. I think we’re afraid to be optimistic as a nation. We’ve got a lot to be optimistic about. I was very pleased (military commander in Iraq) General (David) Petraeus said we could start bringing some troops home. I’m glad President Bush chose to start doing that as early as this month.”
Tennessee’s two Republican U.S. senators offered contrasting e-mailed reactions to Bush’s prime-time speech.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander again made a pitch for his proposal for the Senate to adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for the military moving from a combat to training role in 2008.
“The president described a clearer and more realistic path ahead, with troops coming out instead of going in, but he didn’t go as far along that path as our country could and should go and still honorably finish the job in Iraq,” Alexander said.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said he’s glad Bush has decided the “Petraeus Plan” is the best way forward in Iraq.
“Under General Petraeus’ leadership, our military is, province by province, changing the mission on the ground in Iraq and more and more, Iraqi sheiks are viewing us as enablers rather than occupiers,” Corker said. “Based on the military gains this summer, the Petraeus Plan is redeploying troops over the next year, bringing approximately 30,000 troops home by the end of this summer, and transitioning the role of our troops to greater involvement in counterinsurgency efforts, in focusing on al-Qaida, and in border security. In my mind, this isn’t very different from the proposals other senators on both sides of the aisle have offered in recent months.
“I hope my Senate colleagues will come together around a proposal that supports the plan our general on the ground has recommended, and put aside the one-upsmanship and message votes that seek only to paint the other side in a negative light.”
Davis said the United States may have a long-term presence in Iraq.
“People wonder, ‘Well how long are we going to be there in Iraq?’ The reality is we still have troops in Germany. We still have troops in Korea,” Davis said. “I think we will have troops there (in Iraq) but in a much safer environment than they are now.”
The legislative battle over Iraq, meanwhile, goes on in Congress.
“(Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid actually said months ago that we had failed, and they still think we have failed,” Davis said. “When I was in Iraq, the men and women in uniform certainly didn’t think we had failed. General Petraeus didn’t think we’ve failed. I think the American people who I’ve talked to over the last month or two ... there is war fatigue, but they don’t think we’ve failed. They want to bring the troops home, but they want to bring them home in success not in failure.”
When asked how Iraq will impact his 2008 re-election effort, Davis said: “If I have an opponent, the opponent will have to decide if they are for success or failure. I choose to be for success.”