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Bush: Give new Iraq strategy 'a chance'

Story Highlights

• President asks Congress to give his Iraq strategy "a chance to work"
• Bush: This course of action because provides the best chance of success
• Sen. Webb: We are hostage to disarray in Iraq that had been predicted
• Bush "should have thought about the consequences of failure," Dean says
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(CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday night asked Congress and the public to give his plan to help the Iraqi government end sectarian violence in Iraq "a chance to work."

"We went into this largely united," the president said during his State of the Union speech. "And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."

The plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, made public two weeks ago, has encountered opposition among Republicans and Democrats who say it is a continuation of a failing policy. (Full story)

Two-thirds of the people surveyed in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released on the eve of the speech oppose the plan.

The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday and was based on telephone interviews with 1,008 adult Americans. It has a sampling error of plus-or-minus 3 points.

Bush said the increase in troops is needed to help stop sectarian violence in the country, a task the Iraqi government is not yet ready to handle.

The majority of the more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines will head to Baghdad and help Iraqi forces clear the city of insurgents, al Qaeda terrorists and sectarian death squads, Bush said.

"Our military commanders and I have carefully weighed options. We discussed every possible approach," he said Tuesday night. "In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success." (Watch Bush defend his Iraq strategy Video)

Bush argued against withdrawal, saying that a regional conflict and a safe haven for terrorists could develop out of the sectarian violence in Iraq if the country were to break down into chaos.

"Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching," he said.

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who delivered the Democratic rebuttal, criticized the plan to increase troops and said the president took the nation into war "recklessly."

"We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed," he said.

Webb, a former secretary of the Navy whose son is a Marine serving in Iraq, said the nation needs a new policy on Iraq. (Democrats challenge Bush)

"We need a new direction -- not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos," he said. "But an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy -- a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cites and a formula that will, in short order, allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."

'Consequences of failure' not considered

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Tuesday afternoon that Bush "should have thought about the consequences of failure before he went into Iraq."

"We need to end this misadventure in Iraq," Dean told CNN. "We need to do it carefully and thoughtfully. We can't bring the troops all home at once, but we need to go in the opposite direction from where the president wants to take the country."

The plan has been questioned by both Democrats and Republicans and competing resolutions emerged in the Senate in the days leading up to the speech.

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the influential former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is co-sponsoring a Senate resolution expressing opposition to the plan.

The plan's three other principal co-sponsors include Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman and Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska.

"We say, 'Mr. President, go back and look at all the options,' " Warner said Monday.

Another Senate resolution -- introduced by Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan, and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- declares the Bush plan is "not in the national interest."

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on Tuesday night said he understood the president's argument to increase troops to secure Baghdad, but did not agree with it.

Yet, he said, he was reluctant to sign on to any of the resolutions floating in the Senate because it might send U.S. troops the message that they were not being supported.

"I think we have to be [in the Middle East] for a long time, but in a limited, supportive way," he said.

House Republican leaders proposed a plan that calls for more oversight and accountability of the administration's strategy in Iraq and would require monthly written reports from the administration on the progress of the war.

Supporters of the troop increase include Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who called the plan "a final attempt to stabilize the situation and protect America's security."

Biden and Hagel are widely considered possible contenders in the 2008 presidential race. McCain announced he is forming a committee to explore a presidential bid.

More than 3,000 American troops have been killed in Iraq and nearly 23,000 troops have been wounded. A recent United Nations report said more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were "violently killed" across Iraq last year, with an average of 94 Iraqis killed every day.

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Republican Sen. John McCain, has supported the plan to increase troops in Iraq, but Republican Sen. John Warner, right, has come out against it.


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