Dems Switch Gears on Iraq, Give Bush Full Support

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who earlier this week said President Bush "failed so miserably at diplomacy," reversed course Thursday, announcing his full support for the nation's military and its commander in chief.

"We may have had differences of opinion about what brought us to this point, but the president is the commander in chief, and today, we unite behind him as well," Daschle said Thursday on Capitol Hill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined Daschle, along with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Republican leaders held their own news conference prior to unanimous passage on Thursday afternoon of a resolution supporting American troops.

Earlier this week, Daschle's criticism of Bush prompted Republicans to attack the Senate's top Democrat. Daschle stood by his statement, though, claiming the United States did not have the broad coalition of support it enjoyed during the first Persian Gulf War.

''I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war,'' Daschle said Monday in a speech before the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. ''Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country.''

The criticism quickly subsided, however, once the United States and its allies began dropping bombs on Iraq at dawn Thursday.

"The president, the commanders and everyone involved in the military should know that there is no dissension among the ranks here," Reid told reporters later Thursday. "We're going to do everything that we can to make sure that this victory comes quickly and we bring home as many of our troops as we can."

As support increased on Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said more countries have also signed up to help the United States complete its mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 35 countries have become known as the "coalition of the willing."

"Many countries have committed combat and combat support forces to the effort in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "Others are providing access, basing, over-flight, refueling, force protection and intelligence-sharing. Still others have pledged to participate in stability operations and post-Saddam reconstruction efforts."

At least five nations have come out to publicly support the United States in the last few days since Secretary of State Colin Powell released a list of coalition members. Powell's list included 30 nations, many of them former members of the Soviet bloc.

"It's no accident that many members of this coalition recently escaped from tyranny and oppression and they understand what is at stake in bringing freedom and liberation to the Iraqi people, as the mission of disarmament continues," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday at his daily briefing.

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