Democrats See Victory 'Out of Reach'; Dispute Upbeat Report on Iraq

Article excerpt

Byline: S.A. Miller and Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Top Democrats yesterday rejected reports of U.S. military progress in Iraq, saying victory remains "out of reach" as long as political divisions roil Baghdad.

"It's not getting better; it's getting worse," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. "The goal remains out of reach."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the reduced violence in Iraq wasn't enough to win her support for the mission.

"Certainly any time our military is engaged in military action, we want the best possible outcome for them, and they have produced that," she said. "But their sacrifice and their courage has not been met by any action on the part of the Iraqi government."

Rank-and-file Democrats echoed the critique, saying U.S. troops were "refereeing a civil war" and the Iraqi government "has got to take some responsibility."

The outlook is fueling Democrats' push for legislation that mandates a U.S. pullout from Iraq starting immediately with a goal of a near-complete withdrawal by December 2008.

Republicans and supporters of the war effort said the Democrats were in "deep denial."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a hawkish Connecticut independent, said the war critics "remain emotionally invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat, even as facts on the ground show that we are advancing and winning."

The troop-surge strategy implemented this summer by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, has produced measurable gains.

U.S. military fatalities dropped sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in October. Iraqi civilian deaths also declined markedly, from 1,791 in August to 750 in October, the Associated Press reported. Mortar rocket attacks by insurgents last month were the lowest since February 2006, as were the number of "indirect-fire" attacks on coalition forces.

Iraqi officials plan to reduce checkpoints, ease curfews and reopen some roads in and around Baghdad because of improving security. Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Anbar province, now allied with the U. …