WASHINGTON -- A Republican senator issued a blistering attack on President Bush's Iraq war policy on the Senate floor, hours before Bush met with lawmakers at the White House Friday and lined up three days of talks with military brass, diplomats and outside experts on how to stop Iraq's slide toward anarchy.
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who voted in favor of the war and had supported it ever since, said in an impassioned speech in the Senate Thursday night that the current U.S. war effort is "absurd" and "may even be criminal."
Citing the hundreds of billions of dollars spent and the nearly 3,000 American deaths, Smith said, "I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal.
"I cannot support that anymore. ... So either we clear and hold and build or let's go home."
A Smith spokesman said later that the senator did not mean to call the war "criminal" in a legal sense, but in the sense of it being ridiculous or absurd.
In his speech, Smith called for changes in policy that could include rapid pullouts of U.S. troops from Iraq. He said he would have never voted for the conflict if he had known the intelligence that Bush gave Americans was inaccurate.
The senator said he is "tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run or cut and walk, but let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way."