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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bob Graham Speaks



Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman whose views on international affairs and security were well-respected nationally, on Tuesday weighed in on the debate over how Congress should try to influence the war in Iraq.

His verdict? Pass the $124-million war funding bill now before the House, which sets benchmarks for military and political progress this year for the Iraqi government and would pull out the majority of U.S. troops if the deadlines are not met. At the latest, U.S. forces would begin leaving by March 2008. The bill would also require that U.S. troops are properly trained and equipped to the military's standards before being sent to Iraq. President Bush could bypass those restrictions by issuing a public waiver.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Graham, a Democrat, acknowledged "there is likely to be an escalation in violence whenever U.S. forces are withdrawn.  The question for our nation is how many more sacrifices should our troops be asked to make to postpone that outcome?"

The United States should continue to help Iraq, but the responsibility for securing the nation ultimately rests with the Iraqis, Graham wrote.

"The benchmarks in the bill to be considered by the House, and the deadlines for meeting them, will clarify the U.S. role in Iraq and generate performance by the Iraqis that in all likelihood would otherwise be postponed."

House Democrats are scrambling for the 218 votes the need to pass the bill, but it could reach the floor as early as Thursday. The Senate will deal with it after the House.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:38pm]


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