The escalation debate

The White House said Bush's speech would be the beginning of a conversation. Now the president says he'll send more troops no matter what.

By Tim Grieve
Published January 16, 2007 7:38PM (EST)

As George W. Bush prepared to set out his new plan for Iraq last week, White House press secretary Tony Snow said that the president's speech would be only the beginning of a national conversation about the war. "The address the president is going to give the nation is not the end of the debate," Snow said. Rather, he said, it would be "the beginning of an important consideration of how we move forward in Iraq," and it would offer "an opportunity for everybody to have a full and thoughtful debate" about the war.

If only.

In an interview that aired on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, Bush made it clear that he's sending more troops to Iraq no matter what Congress may do or say about it. "Now, I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it," the president told CBS's Scott Pelley. "But I made my decision, and we're going forward."

What happened to the "full and thoughtful debate" Snow promised? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid still intends to offer a nonbinding resolution in opposition to the escalation later this week, but it looks like there won't be a vote on it until next week at the earliest. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today that the House won't act until after the Senate does. Given upcoming party retreats and next week's State of the Union address, that means a vote in the House could come as late as next month.

The escalation will be well under way by then; as Gen. George Casey acknowledged Monday, the first wave of additional troops has already arrived in Iraq. "The House and Senate are going to do whatever they do," Snow said today. "What the president is determined to do is continue moving forward in a way that creates conditions for success in Iraq, which means an Iraq where the Iraqis are going to be able to keep the peace themselves, they're going to have a functioning and effective democratic government that provides political protections for all, economic opportunities for all, and a reason for Iraqis to pull together."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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