2007.07.25: July 25, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Fiji: Politics: Congress: Iraq: Greenwich Time: Shays says surge working

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Fiji: Special Report: Former Congressman Chris Shays: RPCV Congressman Chris Shays: Newest Stories: 2007.07.25: July 25, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Fiji: Politics: Congress: Iraq: Greenwich Time: Shays says surge working

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Shays says surge working

Shays says surge working

Shays said that with a 21,500-troop buildup in place, the strategy's success is now tangible, with the number of stabilized areas on the rise as bomb-making factories and terrorist hideouts are eliminated. Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji in the 1960's.

Shays says surge working

Shays: Surge working

By Neil Vigdor
Staff Writer

Published July 22 2007

Despite the steady onslaught of roadside bombings and sectarian violence in Iraq, Rep. Christopher Shays said that the controversial troop surge ordered by President Bush is succeeding.

"I think the surge is going frankly very well," Shays, R-Conn., said Friday in a telephone interview.

Shays said that with a 21,500-troop buildup in place, the strategy's success is now tangible, with the number of stabilized areas on the rise as bomb-making factories and terrorist hideouts are eliminated.

The 20-year incumbent said it would be a mistake for the public to use the number of suicide bombings as a yardstick for measuring the success of the surge.

"If that's going to be the basis of (what) we're going to decide, we're doomed all over the world," Shays said.

While supporting the surge, Shays says he now backs a December 2008 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops because only that will force the Iraqi government to make the changes necessary to build a secure future.

Democrats, meanwhile, are accusing Shays of taking contradictory positions on the war, eight months after he became the only Republican congressman from New England to be re-elected.

Shays' recent call for withdrawing most U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2008 was the latest in what his critics said have been a series of flip-flops timed for political convenience.

"Shays has been one of Congress' most vocal promoters of this war, except in August 2006 when he was in a hard-fought election and in July 2007 when he finds himself in a politically untenable position," said Greenwich Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jim Himes, who is hoping to challenge Shays next year for Congress.

Himes said that Shays has voted against three separate congressional resolutions seeking a timetable for withdrawal, sandwiched between his August 2006 call for a deadline and most recent proposal of a specific date.

"So he's got zero credibility at this point," said Himes, who raised $352,000 during the first three months of his campaign to unseat Shays.

Shays rejected the accusations and accused his critics of attempting to paint his positions on the war as political shifts.

"I have been incredibly consistent," said Shays, of Bridgeport, who has visited Iraq 17 times since the start of the war, more than any member of Congress "It is not black and white. This is gray all the way."

Shays said it was his meeting with Iraqi officials last summer, not his tight race against former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, that led him to call for a timetable for withdrawal.

"I wanted to give them a timeline so they knew we wouldn't be there indefinitely," Shays said. He said he does not make decisions about the war based on his political prospects.

Explaining why he has opposed several measures to impose a deadline, Shays said he initially favored a withdrawal date in the spring of 2009 but agreed to move up the deadline to December 2008 in a failed effort to find common ground with Democrats in Congress who pushed for a more expedited timetable.

"Leaving in April (of next year), in my judgment, is just too soon, period," Shays said. "It's almost like my Democratic colleagues want to say, 'We have lost the war and want to give up and leave.' "

Himes said the U.S. needs to announce its withdrawal immediately and seek a diplomatic solution to bring stability to Iraq, however.

"We're losing three, four, five Americans a day, so the timing is now," Himes said. "George Bush and Chris Shays still talking about the end game in terms of victory is obscene. There will be no battleship surrender ceremonies with al-Qaida and Iran handing us their swords."

Edward Dadakis, a leader in the Greenwich GOP, said the conditions on the ground in Iraq were changing regularly and shaping Shays' positions on the war.

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