Steele's Take on Fallujah
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has again found himself facing objections for words uttered while campaigning for U.S. Senate.
This time, the subject was the Iraq war, which the Republican candidate discussed last week with reporters and editors of the Frederick News-Post.
The newspaper's State House bureau chief asked: Has the Iraq war been successful? Steele argued that it has.
"Largely unwritten is the story of what's happening in three-quarters of the rest of that country," Steele said. "Remember Fallujah, ladies and gentlemen? I don't hear anyone talking about Fallujah anymore. It's not on the front page anymore of the papers. Why? Because order has been restored, and the terrorists have largely been routed."
To some degree, Steele's comments reflect recent reports.
Last week The Washington Post reported Aug.4 that a major U.S. military offensive drove the bulk of the guerrillas from Fallujah. "Since then," the report said, "the insurgent presence in the city has been vastly reduced, while in nearby Ramadi there have been daily scenes of fighting between U.S. troops and insurgents."
At the same time, Steele's Democratic critics said the lieutenant governor was presenting an exceptionally rosy view of events there. The same Post report said al-Qaeda had vowed to take back Fallujah, declaring that it had united local armed factions into a cohesive force to fight the U.S. and Iraqi troops.
Ten days ago, The U.S. Marines reported that Lance Cpl. Kurt E. Dechen of Springfield, Vt., was shot in the abdomen and killed Aug..3 while on a foot patrol there. Another Marine, Lance Cpl. Adam Escobar of from Hampton, Mass., was hit in the leg.
State Democratic Party chairman Terry Lierman pounced on Steele's statements, noting that when the lieutenant governor spoke anonymously with reporters in Washington last month, he presented a different take on the war.
"Three weeks ago, the anonymous Steele said Bush should 'admit mistakes' in Iraq," Lierman said. "But this week, when talking to a newspaper in Maryland's Republican heartland, Michael Steele repeats GOP bromides about success in Iraq, citing Fallujah as an example. What planet is Steele on?"
Steele's campaign had no response to Lierman's comments.
Steele's latest take on the war appears to run counter to the opinion of most Marylanders. In a June Washington Post poll, 63.percent of registered voters said they viewed the waras not worth fighting.
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