Md. Delegation Scorches Bush's Proposed Troop Increase

By HALLIE C. FALQUET, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - "A disappointment," a "power-hungry move," and "a mistake" are just some of the phrases used by Maryland House members in reaction to President Bush's announcement to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

"His words demonstrate that he has once again disregarded reality, ignored the advice of top military experts and most of all, forgotten about the concerns of the American people," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said in a statement.

In contrast, Bush stated in his televised speech to the nation Wednesday night that the support of the American public does in fact remain with the Iraqi government and will only falter "if the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises."

Freshman Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, also doubted that Bush adhered to the opinion of the American public, saying "if any expression came through loud and clear from the election, it's that people want a new direction . . . bring the troops home."

He was joined in the call to return the troops by fellow Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Cockeysville who said, "I think he (Bush) made a mistake. The situation will be there forever until we cut the apron strings."

Instead, Bush outlined in his speech specific reasons to send more troops away from home, including increasing the strength of both the Army and Marine Corps, as well as doubling the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

It is not clear how the increased troop deployment will specifically affect Maryland, however Sarbanes speculated the added troops will not come solely from a new pool of recruits. Instead, tours may be lengthened for current troops and deployment dates accelerated.

"Marylanders are on their second or third tour in Iraq or Afghanistan," said a dismayed Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, "these sectarian, religious, power-hungry moves are very corrupt."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, added through his press spokeswoman that "the nearly 3,000 brave Marylanders deployed in Iraq, and their families, deserve better than what we heard from President Bush last night."

The moves proposed by Bush veer from the recommendations made by the Iraqi Study Group, more formally known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission, which sparked another point of contention for many Congress members.

"By calling for a rapid escalation of American troops in the war in Iraq, the president rebuffed the advice of key commanders, thumbed his nose at the recommendations of the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Commission, and, worst of all ignored the will of the American people," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said in a news release.

Rep. Al Wynn, D-Mitchellville, echoed Van Hollen's complaint. The president ignored recommendations of experienced officials and the sentiments of the American people then offered us "no clear vision and no clear strategic plan," he said.

Using more than just words, some Republicans put their discontent into action through a letter to their president, a move complimented by Hoyer.

"Democrats do not feel that the White House's decision to escalate the war represents a new plan or wise policy, and we are not alone. Our Republican colleagues from Maryland, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, have joined a group of Republicans in sending a letter to the president advising against the proposed escalation. The American people voted for a new direction in November, and we will work to achieve it," Hoyer concluded.

The letter urges Bush to "reject any recommendation for either a short or long term increase in the number of U.S. troops."

Bartlett, R-Frederick, conducted business on the House floor Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

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