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Originally published Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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State's Democrats line up against Bush

All eight Democrats from Washington's congressional delegation said they oppose the increase of U.S. troops in Iraq outlined by President...

Seattle Times Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — All eight Democrats from Washington's congressional delegation said they oppose the increase of U.S. troops in Iraq outlined by President Bush Wednesday night and said they'll likely support a nonbinding resolution against the plan.

"There are no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein is gone, and this is now a civil war," Rep. Norm Dicks, of Bremerton, said. "This escalation is absolutely the wrong way to go. I have this gut instinct that this is the start of the end."

But most members of the delegation said they were hesitant to vote against funding for the additional troops for fear it could hurt American forces already on the ground.

Rep. Jay Inslee, of Bainbridge Island, struck a more defiant tone. "We have to take every step we can, including using the constitutional power of the purse, to deny the president the power to go off on this half-cocked escalation."

Inslee said Democrats were exploring ways to block money for additional troops. "Thousands of names were added to the Vietnam Wall because Democrats did not have the guts to stop the war when they needed to, and they let more soldiers die while they worried about the politics," he said.

Rep. Rick Larsen, of Lake Stevens, said Bush's plan to added 21,500 U.S. troops is a terrible mistake. "The president ought to be telling the American people that we reached a plateau and are going to work our way down," he said.

Moreover, he said, "We are letting the Iraqis call the shots."

Washington's congressional Democrats unanimously expressed skepticism about Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his willingness and ability to control the sectarian violence waged by Shiites and their leader, Muqtada al-Sadr.

"This is a prime minister who can't control anything," Larsen said. "If 7,500 Iraqi troops are supposed to show up in one area, we'll be lucky to see 6,000."

Several members of the delegation also questioned whether the plan really originated with al-Maliki in November, as Bush has said.

"Whose plan is this?" Dicks asked, after hearing reports that al-Maliki himself was denying he had proposed the addition of U.S. troops.

"It sounds like they got so much push-back in earlier meetings with members of Congress last week that some clever adviser said, 'Let's make it Maliki's idea,' " Larsen said.

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The distinction matters because Bush said the plan will give American forces "a green light" to go into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. However, al-Maliki himself has stopped U.S. troops from crushing insurgents in his own Shiite area.

"He functionally kicked us out of his Shiite area in Baghdad" a few months ago, said Larsen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Patty Murray said no one mentioned a new Iraq plan when she visited the White House on Dec. 8 to discuss Bush's ideas for strategy in the war.

After Bush's speech Wednesday, she said in a statement, "Despite the warnings of his top generals, and the message sent by the American people, the president has again decided to go it alone."

She indicated she is ready to vote for a nonbinding resolution against the troop increase next week. "This could change history," she said.

Rep. Jim McDermott, of Seattle, who has opposed the war from the start, warned that the president would keep troops there longer unless the Democrats took stronger action than a nonbinding resolution.

Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Spokane, said Bush's proposal "is worth our consideration," and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, said he was encouraged by the new plan.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, said through a spokeswoman that he wasn't available to comment Wednesday.

Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or amundy@seattletimes.com

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