By SCOTT SHEWFELT, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin used his maiden speech Tuesday on the Senate floor to attack President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
"We need a surge in U.S. troops coming home, not a surge in those going to war," Cardin said in his first floor speech since he won election to the Senate in November.
Sending more troops is just another chapter in the continued mismanagement of this war, said Cardin, who proudly spoke throughout his 10 minutes of his votes against the war while a House member.
But the president told the public in a Wednesday night speech that failure in Iraq would strengthen Islamic extremists, and deploying more troops was the best way to ensure American victory.
"America must succeed in Iraq," Bush said.
Cardin, a 20-year congressman from Baltimore, called on Bush to immediately remove troops from Iraq, an action he said is in the best interest of Maryland and the United States. As a House member, Cardin voted against war authorization, but approved funding, contradictions that became and issue in his U.S. Senate campaign against former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
"Victory in Iraq will not come from our military might," Cardin said.
Energizing and empowering the international community and using diplomatic means are important to Iraq's future, said Cardin, because American forces, regardless of their numbers cannot bring about a successful government.
Cardin said Bush's decision to deploy more troops ignored the Iraqi Study Group, more formally known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission, many of his own officials and the American people.
Bush's speech reflects, "more of staying the same, more staying the course," Cardin said.
Maryland's senior senator, Barbara Mikulski, preceded her new colleague in a floor speech that took a similar tone.
She took fierce issue with the term "surge," preferring "escalation" throughout her speech.
"Escalation is a long-term commitment with no end in sight," Mikulski said.
Mikulski stressed that troops will never be abandoned by Congress, but said the best way to support the troops is to not send them on this mission.
"This is a reckless plan about saving the Bush presidency, not Iraq," Mikulski said.
"A great American military can't substitute for a weak Iraqi government," Mikulski said. "The stronger we are, the more permission we give Iraq to be weak."