Smith says Iraq war may be "criminal"
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who voted in favor of the Iraq war and has supported it ever since, now says the current U.S. war effort is "absurd" and "may even be criminal."
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who voted in favor of the Iraq war and has supported it ever since, now says the current U.S. war effort is "absurd" and "may even be criminal."
In a major speech on the Senate floor, the Oregon senator called for changes in U.S. policy that could include rapid pullouts of U.S. troops from Iraq. He said he would have never voted for the conflict if he had known the intelligence that President Bush gave the American people was inaccurate.
Citing the hundreds of billions of dollars spent and the nearly 3,000 American deaths, Smith said: "I for one am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."
Smith added: "So either we clear and hold and build, or let's go home."
A spokesman said today that Smith did not mean to call the war criminal in a legal sense, but in the sense of it being ridiculous or absurd.
In his speech, delivered Thursday night in an impassioned voice, Smith said there are no good options in Iraq, as the Iraq Study Group noted in its report this week.
Smith, who is up for re-election in 2008, said he was "at a crossroads" on the war, adding: "I want my constituents to know what is in my heart, what has guided my votes."
He said the U.S. military's "tactics have failed," adding that he "cannot support that anymore. ... We have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation" for a war waged based on faulty intelligence.
Smith added that he is "tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run or cut and walk, but let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way."
While expressing grave doubts about the Iraq war, Smith said he does not believe the United States can retreat from the larger war on terror.
"Iraq is a battlefield in that larger war. But I do believe we need a presence there on the near horizon at least that allows us to provide intelligence, interdiction, logistics - but mostly a presence to say to the murderers that come across the border: "We are here, and we will deal with you."
But Smith added: "We have no business being a policeman in someone else's civil war."
A potential rival of Smith's in the 2008 election shrugged his shoulders Friday when pressed for reaction to the speech.
"Better late than never," said Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon after speaking to the City Club of Portland.
Blumenauer, who opposed the war, has said he will make a decision next year on a possible Senate bid. He said he was less concerned with taking Smith to task than in a "broader context" of seeing the Congress oversee conduct of the war and in holding Republican senators who would stand for election in 2008 accountable for their decisions on it.
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