Iraq War vets group opens nationwide fight against troop buildupby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is defending his decision to vote against a Democratic resolution that criticizes President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. His comments came in response to a group of Iraq war veterans who brought their anti-war campaign to St. Paul Monday morning.
The group says Congress should pass the resolution, and those who oppose it do not support the troops. The criticism of Coleman's vote comes at a time when he is ramping up his re-election efforts for 2008.
St. Paul, Minn. — The political action committee, VoteVets.org, ran ads in the last election in support of anti-war candidates. Now, the group is launching an ad campaign that criticizes the president's escalation plan.
The ad features six Iraq war veterans who say President Bush is pushing for a troop buildup even though a majority of Americans, a bipartisan group in Congress, the Iraq Study group, and some troops oppose it.
"If you support escalation, you don't support the troops. Join the troops, stop the escalation," the ad says.
The ad, which starts running on Thursday, does not mention Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by name. But the group's visit to Minnesota is clear indication it is pressuring Coleman to oppose the president's plan.
Jonathan Powers is an Iraq War veteran and a member of VoteVets.org. He says the group is targeting those who expressed concern about the president's decision to send another 21,000 troops to Iraq, but didn't vote for a non-binding resolution that criticizes it.
"We are Iraq veterans, and we believe that by being for the escalation you're against the troops," says Powers. "The longer we play these politics out, every day that we waste discussing this, another soldier is being killed."
Coleman says he voted against the resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because it was "too narrow."
Coleman says he prefers a resolution proposed by fellow Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia. That plan expresses concern about sending more troops to Baghdad, but allows the president to send more troops to other parts of Iraq.
"A vote for the Warner resolution reflects the concerns about the surge, but also recognizes that we are fighting a battle in places like Anbar against an insurgency and Al Qaeda. And it recognizes the consequences of failure," Coleman says.
Coleman, who is widely expected to run for re-election next year, says he opposes sending more troops into Baghdad because they will only become targets for sectarian violence. Coleman says the Iraqi government needs to take a greater role in fighting the insurgents in that city before he would support sending any more U.S. troops there.
"In Baghdad, there needs to be a political solution. There needs to be a reconciliation. On the other hand, there are military things that are being done and are being done well. Our Marines are doing it and our National Guard folks are doing it. They're doing it in places like Anbar," says Coleman. "And I think it's important that we continue to listen to the military commanders, while we recognize that Baghdad requires a political solution and requires reconciliation."
Political analysts say Coleman could be politically vulnerable on the issue of Iraq. Coleman was an ardent supporter of the war and how President Bush handled it up until a few months ago.
Monday's events indicate that his political opponents will continue to make Iraq an issue throughout his re-election campaign.
- All Things Considered, 01/29/2007, 4:54 p.m.