Levin: Let’s focus on plight of wounded Iraq vets: 02/25/07

Gordon Trowbridge
Detroit News

WASHINGTON — Senator Carl Levin said today that the nation needs “a surge of concern” for wounded Iraq veterans, after media reports found decrepit conditions and bureaucratic red tape interfering with the care of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Washington Post, Army Times and other publications over the last week have reported that lodging for wounded troops at the Washington, D.C., facility is plagued by crumbling infrastructure, and that soldiers are often lost in a bureaucratic morass while awaiting approval for important medical or psychological treatment.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Levin, D-Mich., said the Senate Armed Services Committee he chairs will hold a hearing March 6 on conditions at Walter Reed. Asked if the committee had failed to properly oversee the Pentagon on the issue, Levin blamed the lack of oversight on Republicans who controlled Congress until January. But he praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates for acknowledging the problems and pledging to clean them up.

Levin also said he and other Democratic leaders are finishing work on a resolution that would partially revoke the authorization for the Iraq war that Congress passed in 2002. That resolution would limit U.S. troops in Iraq to pursuing al Qaeda fighters, training and supporting the Iraqi military and securing Iraq’s borders. It would set a goal for withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops from Iraq by March of 2008 — a goal first set out by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Levin admitted that the measure does not now have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to break an anticipated Republican filibuster. But he said he believed enough Republicans were concerned about the course of the war to consider binding legislation to change policy on Iraq.

He also responded to criticism from Vice President Dick Cheney, who has said a withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of al Qaeda, which he said hopes to damage American public will to fight.

“Vice President Cheney’s credibility is pretty close to zero,” Levin said, citing Cheney’s much-ridiculed 2005 statement that the insurgency was then in its “last throes.”

“I don’t think his comments carry much weight with the American people,” Levin said. “But more importantly, the strategy (the Bush administration has) followed is a losing strategy.
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