State delegation opposes plan


PORTLAND (AP) – President Bush won’t deliver his formal address calling for additional troops to be deployed to Iraq until this evening, but he’s already lost the battle to convince Maine’s congressional delegation.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both oppose sending more troops to Iraq. So do Democratic Reps. Tom Allen and Michael Michaud.

All four delegation members said Tuesday that they oppose any policy change that requires putting more troops into harm’s way. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has to bring about a political, not military, solution, they said.

“Increasing the number of troops is not going to address the root cause of the distrust and hatred that exists in Iraq,” Snowe said Tuesday.

Democrats who’re resisting the escalation are being joined by Snowe and Collins, both of whom have visited Iraq in the past year.

Snowe said she told the president during a meeting Monday that al-Maliki has done too little to demonstrate the political will to stop the sectarian and insurgent violence, as well as to fight graft and corruption in order to bring stability to the country.

The president felt that Snowe’s assessment was too harsh. “He believes that al-Maliki is going through a sea change of attitude that recognizes that the situation in Baghdad is not acceptable and that it’s time to act,” she said.

The extra troops would help quell sectarian violence in Baghdad and battle the mostly Sunni insurgency and foreign al-Qaida fighters in Anbar Province.

Collins, who also met with the president, reiterated her position that she supports a reallocation of existing troops to Anbar province.

Sending more troops to Iraq, and Baghdad in particular, she said, would remove the incentive for al-Maliki, who’s Shiite, to make tough decisions to integrate minority Sunnis into his government and to work toward a political solution to end the violence in Baghdad.

Collins said her feelings were reinforced during a trip to Iraq last month. “One of the American commanders said to me that Baghdad needs a jobs program more than it needs new troops,” Collins said Tuesday.

Allen, who represents Maine’s southern congressional district, said Tuesday he’s “completely opposed to an escalation of the U.S. presence in Iraq.”

“It’s absolutely the wrong direction. We need to be out of Iraq this year. The way to do that is to set a firm departure timeline with the Iraqi government and determine how to implement that in the most productive way,” he said.

Michaud, who represents the state’s northern congressional district, said he’s willing to listen to the president’s ideas. But he’s not willing to commit more troops to Iraq.

The United States can offer support and help train Iraqi troops, “but this is an issue they (Iraqis) have to deal with,” Michaud said.