Wicker, Lott, Cochran back Bush's new plan

By JOE RUTHERFORD
Daily Journal

Mississippi's U.S. senators and 1st District congressman support President Bush's new Iraq war policy, but with shades of difference about what should be done.

Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, said Bush's new strategy enunciated in a Wednesday night speech “gives us our best chance for success,” adding that the weight of responsibility falls to the Iraqi leadership and armed forces.

“It depends on Iraqis – Shiites, Sunni and Kurds,” Wicker commented Thursday, “and if they have the political will to make it work, our American troops will be successful.”

Wicker, a member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and new ranking minority member of the Military Construction/VA subcommittee, said a change in the rules of engagement favoring how and where Americans fight in Baghdad suggests a better chance of pacifying the capital city.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, who was cautious in embracing the plan, said Thursday, “This is a change in dynamics and it's not just about a surge … it's about 25,000 or 30,000 more Iraqi troops and more police involvement.”

Lott also said Baghdad must show more political leadership, including economic incentives to provide employment that dissuades insurgency.

Sen. Thad Cochran, the senior senator and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, was briefed before the speech in a White House meeting with Bush and other GOP senators.

“I think the president deserves our support,” Cochran said in a prepared statement. “He is starting to involve the government in Iraq and the military forces and police in Iraq in a more aggressive way.

“Together they have worked with our military leadership to come up with a new plan – a new plan that, if supported by Congress, has a good chance of succeeding,” he added.

Contact Daily Journal editorial page editor Joe Rutherford at 678-1597 or joe.rutherford@djournal.com.