Rice asks Congress not to meddle with Bush’s Iraq plan

ME Online

ME Online

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Democratic-controlled Congress not to interfere in the conduct of the Iraq war and suggested President Bush would defy troop withdrawal legislation.

But Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers would step up efforts to force Bush to change course. “The president needs a check and a balance,” said Levin, D-Mich.

Rice said proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to “the worst of micromanagement of military affairs.” She said military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, believe Bush’s plan to send more troops is necessary.

“I can’t imagine a circumstance in which it’s a good thing that their flexibility is constrained by people sitting here in Washington, sitting in the Congress,” Rice said. She was asked in a broadcast interview whether Bush would feel bound by legislation seeking to withdraw combat troops within 120 days.

“The president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done,” she said.

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    The Senate Democrats’ legislation would try to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq by revoking Congress’ 2002 vote authorizing Bush’s use of force against Saddam Hussein.

    One draft version supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would pull out combat forces by March of next year and restrict U.S. troops to fighting al-Qaida terrorists, training the Iraqi security forces and maintaining Iraq’s borders.

    Democrats have acknowledged that the proposal does not yet have enough votes to overcome GOP procedural obstacles and a veto by Bush. But they are hoping the latest effort will draw enough GOP support to embarrass and keep pressure on the president.

    Levin said their actions were appropriate given how the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.

    “This is not a surge so much as it is a plunge into Baghdad and into the middle of a civil war,” he said.