By a comfortable margin of 246 to 182, the US House on Friday adopted a resolution denouncing President Bush's "surge" of more American troops to the Iraq quagmire.
All but two Democrats--southern conservatives Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi--voted in favor of the non-binding resolution, as did 17 Republicans.
That allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to describe the vote as a historic "bipartisan" break with the president.
In the cases of both the Democratic and Republican caucuses, it was the largest dissent since before the start of the war from the Bush administration's agenda.
The sentiments of those dissenters, now a House majority, were well summed up by California Democrat Henry Waxman, who after intense lobbying by the administration voted in 2002 to authorize the president to use force against Iraq.
During this week's debate, Waxman said, "We cannot achieve the illusions of the Bush administration." Indeed, warned Waxman, continued adherence to the White House line "threatens (the engulf of the entire Middle East) by the forces we have unleashed."
New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who has opposed the administration's approach from the start, put the non-binding but potentially significant vote in perspective.
"For the first time since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the House finally had an open and honest debate about Iraq," observed Hinchey. "Democrats and Republicans had an equal opportunity to debate the ongoing occupation of Iraq and offer their perspective on President Bush's proposal to send more than 20,000 additional troops to that country. This is how democracy is supposed to work."
"By passing this resolution, those of us in Congress made it clear that we continue to support our troops and will do everything to protect them, but we believe President Bush's proposal for an escalation of forces is a bad idea and wrong for our country," Hinchey continued. "By voting against sending additional troops to Iraq, we spoke up for the majority of Americans who recognize that it's time to begin the strategic redeployment of our troops so we can get them out of Iraq, bring many of them home, and confront the real threats facing our nation such as al Qaeda, which is once again being given a safe haven by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
"The resolution we passed in the House today is the first step in what will be a continued attempt to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq. In the weeks and months ahead, I will help lead an effort in Congress to force the president to wind down the occupation and get our troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. The security of the United States depends on having our troops ready to confront the real threats facing our nation. Iraq was a mistake from the start. It's time for that mistake to end.
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