GOP Senator Calls Iraq Policy 'Absurd,' Urges Pullout

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Sen. Gordon Smith, a moderate Oregon Republican, broke sharply with the Bush administration over the war in Iraq in an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday night in which he called for a U.S. pullout.

"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," he said. "That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."

Smith, who has shown some maverick tendencies in the past, such as when he blocked the 2005 budget resolution until his GOP colleagues agreed to add billions of dollars to Medicaid, said that he had "tried to be a good soldier. . . . I have tried to support our president."

He said that Bush "is not guilty of perfidy, but I do believe he is guilty of believing bad intelligence and giving us the same." He said he would not have voted in favor of invading Iraq had he known what he knows now.

The positive events in Iraq, such as its elections and the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein, "now . . . seem much like ashes to me."

Speaking to a largely empty Senate chamber, Smith rejected the Iraq Study Group's key recommendation that the U.S. military reshape its approach to Iraq and focus less on combat operations and more on training and advising Iraqi forces. He said it seemed to him to be a "recipe for retreat," not an immediate withdrawal but rather "cut and walk."

He said he doubts that the bipartisan commission's approach is wise if it would simply delay the inevitable. The U.S. government, he said, should find a way to either "win or bring our troops home."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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