OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Reaction among Oklahoma's congressional delegation to President Bush's proposed troop increases in Iraq -which he discussed in a nationally televised address Wednesday night -fell mostly along party lines.
Rep. Dan Boren of Muskogee, the only Democrat among Oklahoma's seven-person delegation, said he opposed Bush's plan to add 21,500 more troops, saying such an increase “does little to encourage the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future.
But four Republicans in the delegation said that such troop increases will help speed the process of helping Iraqi forces to secure their country.
“We are not making the progress we need to create a democratic Iraq, Rep. Frank Lucas of Cheyenne said. “We need to speed up the training of Iraq military and security forces, so that Iraqis can take responsibility for securing their country and so our troops can come home.
Lucas said the goal is “to create an Iraq that is stable enough for Iraqis to fully secure their own country, and this plan seems to represent the best way forward to make that happen.
Rep. Tom Cole of Moore and Sen. Tom Coburn of Muskogee said it was critical that the U.S. be successful.
“Let there be no doubt that America will be a safer and more secure country with a democratic and free Iraq, Cole said. “And, Iraq will be safer and securer if we are successful. The stakes are high, but the consequence of failure is too great not to give the president's plan a chance to succeed.
Coburn said that if the U.S. abandoned its mission in Iraq, “radical Islamic terrorists would control (that) country, aligning themselves with rouge nations like Syria and Iran while using one of the world's largest oil supplies to fund their terrorist activities.
Boren, a conservative Democrat who has largely supported Bush's Iraq policy, said he would break that pattern when it came to adding troops.
“Our young men and women in uniform find themselves in the middle of a civil war in Iraq, Boren said. “These internal political problems cannot be solved by relying on just military might.
“Any open-ended plan to increase American troop levels in Iraq is a mistake that would exacerbate the overextension of our armed forces and further postpone the day when the Iraqis are responsible for their own security.
Boren said the deployment of additional troops “would increase the casualties Oklahomans face with no guarantee of success and called it “too big of a gamble to take with so many American lives.
However, he said that Bush had the final say on the matter as the commander in chief. Boren said he would not vote to cut off funding for any troops, as some lawmakers from other states have suggested.
Cole, whose district includes Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, called Bush's plan “new, bold and decisive and said Congress “should give our Commander in Chief every resource he needs to carry this plan out in its entirety.
The newest member of the Oklahoma delegation, Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma City, echoed Cole's call.
“Like many Americans, I am eager to see our troops come home, Fallin said. “For that to happen, however, we must offer the Iraqi government a hand up while it builds the capability to pursue its own solutions to the violence that plagues its citizens.
Coburn said Americans need to understand the motivation of terrorists that are fighting U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
“They believe everyone must believe as they do or be killed, Coburn said. “They preach intolerance and bomb churches and synagogues. We must take seriously their threats to wipe Israel off the map and their desire to see America defeated.
“When we consider Iraq and the war on terror we must ask ourselves, Do we want to win?' If the answer is no, we should immediately bring home our troops. Leaving our soldiers in harm's way if we do not intend to win would be a great dishonor. However, if our goal is to secure a future for our children and grandchildren that is free from terrorism, we cannot leave Iraq because we are dissatisfied with the progress being made.
Cole, a member of the House's Armed Services Committee, said he also is pleased that President Bush included a commitment in his speech to permanently increase the size of the U.S. military.
“A larger military is necessary not only for the short term, but also for the longer term security needs our of country and the defense of freedom around the world, Cole said.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,017 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.