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NY Times: Bush, key Cabinet members settled on 'least bad' approach to Iraq

Published: Thursday January 11, 2007
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To settle on the Bush administration's new direction in Iraq war strategy, the President and key Cabinet members debated each other heatedly, The New York Times will report on its front page tomorrow.

"During a sometimes contentious debate, President Bush; his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley; and the new secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, crossed off options for a new Iraq policy until they came back to Hadley's original idea of an American troop increase – the approach they concluded was the least bad," write David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg and Michael R. Gordon for the Times.

The President revealed his administration's new Iraq strategy in a speech last night, the full text of which is available here. Details regarding the President's "New Way Forward in Iraq" is available at this link.

Today, RAW STORY reported how Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) expressed his shock after hearing the Bush administration's admission that U.S. troops are to some degree under the control of the Iraqi government. "I was startled to find out that our servicemen and women in cleaning out Baghdad have been restricted by the Iraqis," Kennedy says, "and about where they can go, the battles that they can fight."

Excerpts from the Times' registration-restricted article to follow...


WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 —Even before the November elections, President Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, were informally discussing what Mr. Hadley was calling "the big push" — whether it made sense to make a show of increased American force in Baghdad to take back the city.

But when Mr. Hadley traveled to Iraq in late October, the commander there, Gen. George C. Casey Jr., warned that to send more American troops to Iraq could be counterproductive, because it would make the Iraqi government less likely to defend itself. By the time Mr. Bush met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30, Mr. Maliki was insisting upon taking control over all Iraqi troops and urging the Americans to pull to the outskirts of his troubled capital.

Over the past two months those diametrically opposed options — adding American troops, or pulling back to let the Iraqi factions fight it out among themselves — marked the boundaries of a vigorous debate inside the Bush administration. At one point, as Mr. Bush, Mr. Hadley, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the newly appointed secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, weighed their options, the president asked his deputies, in effect: "Why can’t we just pull out of Baghdad and let the factions fight it out themselves?"

But in the end, the president and his advisers crossed off all other options and came back to the idea of an American troop increase — the new approach they concluded was the best of a series of difficult choices, according to a senior administration official involved in the process.