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McConnell: Bush Deserves Credit for Iraq Success

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday lauded the official end of combat operations in Iraq, but also took pointed shots at President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for opposing the battle plan that made the withdrawal of troops possible.

The Bluegrass State Republican, in a speech scheduled for delivery Tuesday afternoon in Lexington, Ky., credited President George W. Bush for showing determination in the region the face of Democratic opposition, and for championing a surge strategy that helped turn the tide of the war and quell a terrorist insurgency.

“As some of you may know, the president tonight is expected to declare the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. As the Senator from a state that has carried a very heavy burden in this war, I think we can all say this is very welcome news. This is a time to be grateful for the incredible sacrifices the men and women in the armed forces have made, are making, and will continue to make on our behalf in the struggle against terrorism,” McConnell said, according to remarks released by his office.

“But I think we should also be thankful that another president had the determination and the will to carry out the plan that made tonight’s announcement possible,” he continued. “You might recall that the surge wasn’t very popular when it was announced. You might also recall that one of its biggest critics was the current president. One of his colleagues said the war was already a lost cause, implying, of course, that any further efforts on the part of our troops would be in vain.”

Reid declared in April of 2007 that the surge was a failure and the Iraq war was lost. “I believe myself that the secretary of State, secretary of Defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows … this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,” he said at the time.

Later Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to deliver an address from the Oval Office announcing an official end to combat operations in Iraq. The president vowed to bring the Iraq war to a close when running for office in 2008, and his speech will likely make mention of the accomplishment of that campaign promise, while noting that thousands of U.S. soldiers remain in the country to advise and protect the fledgling Iraqi government.

McConnell implied that Obama might not have been able to fulfill his promise had Bush not pursued a policy that the now president and Democratic leaders opposed. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is also scheduled Tuesday to deliver a speech in advance of Obama’s remarks.

“So it makes it easier to talk about fulfilling a campaign promise to wind down our operations in Iraq when the previous administration signs the security agreement with Iraq to end our overall presence there. It sure makes things easier when you reject your own campaign rhetoric about how the surge — the Petraeus plan — shouldn’t happen and wouldn’t work,” McConnell said. “It makes things easier when you reject the left-wing calls for defunding our troops in the field and instead continue the policies put in place by the previous administration and keep the same secretary of Defense and until recently Gen. Petraeus to help guide our efforts there.”

“By adopting the Bush administration’s plan for winding down the war and transitioning security responsibilities to the Iraqi military over time,” he continued, “the president has enabled us and the Iraqis to build on the gains our troops have made. This bilateral relationship must also be managed realistically, and based on conditions on the ground as we move forward. Much hard work remains in Iraq. And this president could very well find himself negotiating a new security agreement next year.”

“But thankfully we can say today that our troops, the Surge, and the Petraeus plan all succeeded where many in Washington thought they would fail,” McConnell said.

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