WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the war in Iraq is ``lost,'' triggering an angry backlash by Republicans who said the top Democrat had turned his back on the troops.
The bleak assessment was the sharpest yet from Reid, who has vowed to send President Bush legislation calling for combat to end next year. Reid said he told Bush on Wednesday that he thought the war could not be won through military force and only through political, economic and diplomatic means.
``I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and _ you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows _ (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,'' said Reid, D-Nev.
Republicans pounced on the comment as evidence, they said, that Democrats do not support the troops.
``I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is lost,'' said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The exchange came as the House headed toward a vote Thursday on whether to demand that troops leave Iraq next year. Last month, the House passed legislation that funded the war in Iraq but ordered combat missions to end by September 2008. The Senate passed similar, less-sweeping legislation that would set a nonbinding goal of bringing combat troops home by March 31, 2008.
Bush said he would veto either measure and warned that troops are being harmed by Congress' failure to deliver the funds quickly.
The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June. The Army is taking ``prudent measures'' aimed at ensuring that delays in the bill financing the war do not harm troop readiness, according to instructions sent to Army commanders and budget officials April 14.
While $70 billion that Congress provided in September for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has mostly run out, the Army has told department officials to slow the purchase of nonessential repair parts and other supplies, restrict the use of government charge cards, and limit travel.
The Army also will delay contracts for facilities repair and environmental restoration, according to instructions from Army Comptroller Nelson Ford. He said the accounting moves are similar to those enacted last year when the Republican-led Congress did not deliver a war funding bill to Bush until mid-June.
More stringent steps would be taken in May, such as a hiring freeze and firing temporary employees, but exceptions are made for any war-related activities or anything that ``would result immediately in the degradation of readiness standards'' for troops in Iraq or those slated for deployment.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the Democrat's stance ``disturbing'' and all but dared Reid to cut off funding for the war.
``If this is his true feeling, then it makes one wonder if he has the courage of his convictions and therefore will decide to defund the war,'' she said.
Reid has left that possibility open. The majority leader supports separate legislation that would cut off funding for combat missions after March 2008. The proposal would allow money spent on such efforts as counterterrorism efforts and training Iraqi security forces.
Reid and other Democrats were initially reluctant to discuss such draconian measures to end the war, but no longer.
``I'm not sure much is impossible legislatively,'' Reid said Thursday. ``The American people have indicated . . . that they are fed up with what's going on.''