On Dec. 5, Newsweek magazine touted an interview with then-incoming House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes as an "exclusive." And for good reason.
"In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq," the story began, Mr. Reyes "said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a 'stepped up effort to dismantle the militias.' "
"We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq," the Texas Democrat said to the surprise of many, "I would say 20,000 to 30,000."
So when Bush made his proposal to send 21,500 troops—600 of whom would be from Fort Bliss, which is local to Reyes's 16th District—for the express purpose of taking on the militias and stabilizing Iraq, you might think this would be one of those moments when a ranking Democrat and President Bush could see eye to eye.
But you would be wrong. Shortly after President Bush briefed Reyes on the "surge" plan on December 9, Reyes changed his tune:
It is "premature" to consider an increase until the plan is fully revealed, Reyes said. "The (United States) must insist that the Iraqi government be more aggressive and timely in taking responsibility for security and stability in their own nation," he added.
It's all well and good to call for more Iraqi government action, but Reyes had considered and recommended a troop increase over a month earlier.
And as McCaslin reports,
[H]ours after Mr. Bush announced his proposal, Mr. Reyes told the El Paso Times that such a troop buildup was unthinkable.
"We don't have the capability to escalate even to this minimum level," he said.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but why call for a troop increase of up to 30,000 troops if you don't believe we have 21,500 available?
Reyes, who met with Bush on Tuesday to review the plan, said sending more troops removes any incentive the Iraqi government had to take responsibility for the safety of its own citizens. He added that Bush was continuing his "go-it-alone" approach, rather than trying to find diplomatic solutions.