Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith will be the lead Republican co-sponsor on a Democratic amendment that would order President Bush to begin pulling troops from Iraq within four months and end combat by April 2008.
"We need to be fighting terrorists, not civil wars," Smith said Tuesday. "Iraq's peace is one they must win on their own. We cannot win it for them. Our might should be focused on stopping terrorists who are plotting to bring harm to the United States."
Smith's office said the senator believes the amendment is "the appropriate glide path home for U.S. troops" that Smith has been calling for since a December speech criticizing U.S. actions in Iraq.
Smith voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq in 2002 and publicly supported Bush's war strategy until the December speech, in which he called the Iraq policy "absurd."
Smith's decision to back the amendment sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., represents another blow to the Bush administration, which has seen Republican support for its Iraq policy crumble in recent weeks.
The proposal, offered as an amendment to a $649 billion defense policy bill, is expected to fail because Republicans say they still oppose setting a timetable on troop withdrawals and have enough Senate votes to block it.
But in a sign that GOP frustration with the war is growing, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said she was considering switching her position and backing the measure. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., also is considered likely to back the plan.
R.C. Hammond, Smith's spokesman, said the amendment will allow military forces to combat terrorists operating in Iraq and offer training, equipment and logistical support to Iraqi security forces.
Smith has been "adamant that the United States should be focused on fighting the greater war on terror and should not be bogged down in another country's civil war," Hammond said.
The Levin-Reed-Smith amendment calls for troop reduction to begin 120 days after enactment with most troops withdrawn by next spring. Troops involved in counterterrorism efforts would stay in Iraq.
Oregon Democrats called Smith's support of the amendment hypocritical, noting that Smith has endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain &
the leading Senate proponent of the war &
"Smith's version of getting us out of Iraq is to publicly claim to oppose the war, but vote more than 20 times to authorize, prolong and fund it &
including multiple yes votes after he said in December he could no longer support the war," said Meredith Wood Smith, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Oregon.
In Congress, McCain is the "No. — proponent for staying in Iraq" in Congress, she said.
Gordon Smith's "actions speak louder than his words, and his actions and endorsements keep us in Iraq," the Democratic leader said.
The senator's spokesman, Hammond, called such criticism off base, and noted that Smith has never hesitated to say when he disagrees with Bush, despite his overall support for the president.
"There are vast differences between Smith and McCain on Iraq, but Senator McCain is more than a senator, more than a colleague," Hammond said. "He's a friend. You don't leave your friend in a ditch because he disagrees with you."
Gordon Smith to back Democratic plan for troop cut in Iraq