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Iraq Transition

Don't micromanage war, White House tells Congress

Story Highlights

• Proposal to amend 2002 resolution authorizing Iraq war on table
• Sen. Carl Levin: President Bush's strategy "leading to defeat"
• White House: U.N. endorsed Iraq plan based on 2002 resolution
• Democrat says money for troops won't be cut
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House said it does not want Congress to micromanage U.S. commanders in Iraq by limiting the 2002 resolution that authorized President Bush to invade that country, as Democratic senators have proposed.

"I've not heard anybody say that they want to amend the resolution so nothing will change," White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday.

"Instead, amending that language seems to be a device by which members of Congress themselves would try to get involved in micromanaging the activities of military officials."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Democratic leadership in Congress wants to force Bush to change "a course that is leading to defeat" in the nearly four-year-old war.

"If someone wants to call that tying the hands instead of changing the policy, yeah -- the president needs a check and a balance," said Levin, who voted against the 2002 resolution. "This president hasn't had one."

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said senators are working on a draft of a binding resolution that would replace the 2002 authorization. It would set a March 2008 goal for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops and limit the mission of remaining units to training and supporting Iraqi troops and hunting al Qaeda terrorists.

But Snow said that kind of proposal would put constraints on troops in the field, not the president. "The people whose hands end up being tied are the folks who are in the theater of battle themselves," he said.

Senate Republicans have managed to use procedural votes to tie up a nonbinding resolution opposing Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. The House of Representatives passed a similar resolution against the plan this month.

Senate Democrats will need at least 60 votes to break a filibuster and move any proposal, but at least two of the seven Republicans who supported last week's measure -- Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- have indicated they would not support revising the war resolution.

Snow said the 2002 authorization remains relevant, because of its "extended conversation about the global war on terror and the fact that there are terrorist elements that the previous government had supported." He said the U.N. Security Council endorsed the U.S.-led multinational force now fighting insurgents there, giving it a mandate "to secure the stability and security of Iraq."

The war resolution gave Bush the power to depose the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, which the Bush administration accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al Qaeda.

But Iraq was found to have stopped its weapons programs under U.N. supervision in the 1990s, and the independent, bipartisan commission investigating al Qaeda's 2001 attacks on the U.S. found no evidence of a working relationship between the terror network and Iraq.

Congressional Republicans have challenged Democrats to cut off funding for the war if they're serious about ending it. But Levin told NBC that Democrats don't want to cut funding for troops in the field.

"Our differences are with the commander in chief and his policies, and we're going to fund the troops as long as they're there," he said. "Secondly, because that resolution would lose, the president would then use the defeat of a cut-the-funding resolution as a way of supporting his policy."

But Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said Monday that curtailing the mission of U.S. troops would create other problems.

"What if those troops are fired upon? Can they not return fire because the United States Senate says they're not to have a combat role?" Thune asked. "Just when I thought this debate had reached the low point on the depth chart, the Senate Democrats have drained a little more out of the pool."

CNN's Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


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Marines patrol in front of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this month.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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