Casey, others want focus on Iraq report

Editorial, Erie Times News

Right now the key time frame -- the only time frame -- for Iraq is September. That is when America's Iraq commander, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, will report back to President Bush and Congress on any progress the administration's surge offensive has made. A small group of Republicans and Democrats see this as an opportunity to reintroduce the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report to the process.

Pennsylvania's freshman U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is one of six senators who has joined to craft legislation that would make the Iraq Study Group's bipartisan recommendations official government policy.

As Washington Post columnist David Broder detailed on Thursday's Erie Times-News Op-Ed Page, this small Senate group made up of three Democrats and three Republican centrists are just "the kind that can exert leverage on their colleagues."

Casey described how the group has met and sent out feelers not only to fellow senators, but also to colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's interesting that U.S. Rep. Phil English, of Erie, R-3rd Dist., has often referred to the Iraq Study Group as a potential starting point for any effort to figure out how to start the process of withdrawing or reducing American troops from the region.

The applicable policy change from the Iraq Study Group that Casey alluded to focuses on this crucial point: U.S. troops be reduced in numbers and redeployed to concentrate on training Iraqis and fighting al-Qaida.
Casey hopes Bush will finally recognize and use the Iraq Study Group report to alter the American mission in Iraq. One way or another, Republicans are going to start pressuring Bush to change course.

This is already happening. Bush has several times this week mentioned the Iraq Study Group report while answering questions about the deadly month of May for American forces and Iraqi civilians. Broder focused on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Mitch McConnell, the supremely realistic Republican leader of the Senate, said that 'The handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it,'" Broder wrote.

It's unlikely Republicans are going to stick with the president if he declines to adjust administration tactics in Iraq. Casey told the Erie Times-News Editorial Board that using the Iraq Study Group report was the last and best hope for a bipartisan effort to start dramatically shifting the American mission in Iraq.

The urgency becomes clearer each day. A suicide bomber hit a police recruiting center in Fallujah on Thursday, killing at least 25 Iraqis and wounding 50. Ten American soldiers died on Memorial Day.

This simply can't go on.