WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday called the Bush administration "phonies" for suggesting a modest withdrawal of troops from Iraq is the result of progress rather than the fact that the U.S. has no more troops to send.
In a conference call with reporters, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Democrats made the "right decision" to not claim that the drawdown was a result of their congressional pressure.
"I think it would have made us look as bad as they are, the phonies that they're being," said the Delaware senator.
In a televised address Thursday, President Bush said that 5,700 U.S. forces would be home by Christmas and that four brigades — for a total of at least 21,500 troops — would return by July 2008, along with an undetermined number of support forces.
The U.S. troop strength stands at 168,000. When the cutbacks are complete, about 132,000 U.S. forces will be in Iraq.
If Bush had wanted to maintain the troop buildup through next year, the military would have had to consider drastic measures, including extending already long combat tours or relying more heavily on reservists. Biden said Bush was simply acknowledging that the strain on the military would have been too great.
"There is no plan 'to win,"' Biden said. "No plan how to leave. No plan how to end this. It's just a plan to keep ... all the venom from spilling out over the region, and we're using somewhere 160,000 to 130,000 troops to do that. The bottom line of it is is that we are no safer."
Responding to Biden's criticism, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Lisa Camooso Miller said: "Isn't it ironic that on the 20-year anniversary of Joe Biden's plagiarism flap, he uses the word 'phony'? It's a shame the Democrats in the Senate, along with their '08 contenders, continue to criticize and offer no alternative plan, rather than stand with the troops fighting in Iraq."