Thursday, January 18, 2007

Human Rights Watch World Report, January 2007, "Vietnam"

Events of 2006: Human Rights in Vietnam

Vietnam’s tenth Communist Party (VCP) Congress saw a significant turnover in the Politburo, as younger members replaced key aging party veterans. New faces, however, did not bring significant improvement in human rights practices.

having one of Asia’s highest growth rates, Vietnam’s respect for fundamental human rights continues to lag behind many other countries, and the one-party state remains intolerant of criticism. Hundreds of political and religious prisoners remain behind bars in harsh conditions.

During 2006 the government released a handful of prisoners of conscience but arrested dozens more, including democracy activists, cyber-dissidents, and ethnic minority Christians.

Authorities continue to persecute members of independent churches, impose controls over the internet and the press, restrict public gatherings, and imprison people for their religious and political views. Media, political parties, religious organizations, and labor unions are not allowed to exist without official oversight, or to take actions considered contrary to Party policies.

The year saw unprecedented labor unrest, official efforts to muzzle an emerging democracy movement, and ongoing repression of Buddhists and ethnic minority Christians.


The year began with a series of wildcat strikes by thousands of workers at foreign-owned factories and those with heavy foreign investment around Ho Chi Minh City. They demanded wage increases and better working conditions. The strikes quickly spread to the central and northern provinces, but died down when the government increased the minimum wage at foreign-owned companies to US $54 a month—a 40 percent increase, and the first since 1999.

Democracy Movement

In April 2006 more than 100 people publicly signed an “Appeal for Freedom of Political Association” and a “Manifesto for Freedom and Democracy.” The initiators of the movement (called the 8406 Bloc, after the date of the Manifesto) included Father Nguyen Van Ly, dissident Hoang Minh Chinh, and writer Do Nam Hai. By August, more than 2,000 people had signed the public appeals.

In October, activists announced the creation of an independent labor union as an alternative to the party-controlled labor confederation. Dissidents also launched several unsanctioned independent publications during 2006, including Tu Do Ngon Luan (“Freedom of Expression”) and Tu Do Dan Chu (“Freedom and Democracy”).

The government responded by detaining and interrogating many of the more prominent activists and confiscating their documents, computers, and cell phones (see below).

Free Expression and the Internet

Vietnam’s Law on Publications strictly bans publications that oppose the government, divulge state secrets, or disseminate “reactionary” ideas. There are few privately-owned media outlets; most publications are published by the government, the Party, or Party-controlled organizations.

In 2006 the state media, which have usually been allowed to write about corruption, covered the embezzlement of government and donor funds by transportation ministry officials.

The government blocks websites considered objectionable or politically sensitive, monitors email and online forums, and makes internet cafe owners responsible for information accessed and transferred on the internet by their customers.

A new law, Decree No. 56, “Administrative Sanctions on Information and Culture Activities,” calls for steep fines for activities such as circulating “harmful” information, defaming the nation and national heroes, or revealing “party secrets, state secrets, military secrets and economic secrets.”

Repression of Dissent

Activists who launch unsanctioned publications or use the internet to disseminate opinions critical of the government are harassed, detained, and imprisoned. At this writing, at least two cyber-dissidents remained in prison.

Nguyen Vu Binh is serving a seven-year sentence for espionage for his internet postings, testimony submitted in writing to the US Congress on human rights, and communication with activists inside Vietnam and abroad.

Truong Quoc Huy, detained in 2005 for more than eight months after participating in internet discussions about democracy, was re-arrested in an internet cafe on August 18, 2006. He had reportedly expressed public support for the democracy movement.

In mid-April two journalists were detained at Ho Chi Minh City airport and prevented from attending a conference in Manila on free expression in Asian cyberspace.

On April 20 police arrested two Montagnard students and held them for 18 days in a district prison in Dak Lak, where they were beaten, interrogated, and accused of using the internet to send lists of political prisoners to advocacy groups abroad.

On June 30 police raided the home of dissident Nguyen Thanh Giang and confiscated books and documents. On August 12 police raided the homes of five dissidents, including Nguyen Khac Toan, Nguyen Van Dai, and Hoang Tien, as they prepared to launch an independent publication. In October Do Nam Hai and two other dissidents were called for “working sessions” with the police.

US citizen Cong Thanh Do (Tran Nam), a representative of the People’s Democracy Party, was arrested on August 14. Upon Do’s expulsion from Vietnam on September 21, the state press said he had been arrested for disseminating anti-government information. At this writing, six Vietnamese arrested in August because of alleged links to the People’s Democracy Party remained in detention.

In November, four Vietnamese and three Vietnamese-Americans arrested in 2005 were sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment, or time served, on terrorism charges, for allegedly smuggling radio equipment in to Vietnam. Suspected democracy movement supporters Truong Quoc Huy and three others arrested in August — Nguyen Ngoc Quang, Vu Hoang Hai, and Pham Ba Hai — were charged with conducting anti-government propaganda.


Public demonstrations are rare, especially after government crackdowns against mass protests in the Central Highlands in 2001 and 2004. Decree 38, signed by the prime minister in 2005, banned public gatherings in front of places where government, Party, and international conferences are held, and requires organizers to obtain government permission in advance.

In advance of the Party Congress in April 2006 and President Bush’s visit in November, police in Hanoi rounded up street children and homeless people and sent them to compulsory “rehabilitation” centers on the outskirts of the city where some were badly beaten. Soldiers were dispatched to villages in the Central Highlands to prevent possible demonstrations during Bush’s visit.


Vietnam’s 2004 Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions affirms the right to freedom of religion. However, it requires that all religious groups register with the government in order to be legal, and bans any religious activity deemed to cause public disorder, harm national security, or “sow divisions.”

Followers of some religions not officially recognized by the government continue to be persecuted. Security officials disperse their religious gatherings, confiscate religious literature, and summon religious leaders to police stations for interrogation.

Buddhist monks from the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), including its Supreme Patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang, and second-ranking leader, Thich Quang Do, remain confined to their monasteries.

Despite regulations to streamline the registration process, hundreds of Christian house church organizations that tried to register in 2006 were either rejected outright, ignored, or had their applications returned unopened. These included 500 ethnic minority churches in the Northwest Highlands. In the Central Highlands, some Montagnard churches linked to the government-approved Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN) were reportedly able to register. However Montagnards belonging to unregistered Christian churches came under heavy pressure to join the ECVN or recant their beliefs, despite a 2005 decree banning such practices.

In May, fifty police officers raided the home and church of Mennonite pastor Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and demolished repair work he had done to the Mennonite church building. Quang, a former political prisoner, was one of the signatories of the Bloc 8406 manifesto.

Even registered groups face problems. More than fifty monks and nuns from the officially-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Church (VBC) demonstrated in July 2006 to protest the unfair imprisonment and torture of eight Buddhists and the beating to death in custody of a monk. The case, which was heard on appeal at Bac Giang Provincial People’s Court in June 2006, resulted in their temporary release.

Prisons and Torture

Hundreds of religious and political prisoners remain in prisons throughout Vietnam. They include more than 350 Montagnards who have been sentenced to prison terms since 2001, largely for peaceful political or religious activities, or trying to seek asylum in Cambodia. There is compelling evidence of torture and other mistreatment of detainees. Prisoners are reportedly placed in solitary confinement in cramped, dark, unsanitary cells; and beaten, kicked, and shocked with electric batons.

Police officers routinely arrest and detain suspects without written warrants. Trials of dissidents are closed to the public, media, and detainees’ families. Under Administrative Detention Decree 31/CP, individuals can be put under house arrest for alleged national security crimes for up to two years without going before a judge.

Key International Actors

Vietnam’s donors, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Japan raised strong concerns when news broke in January about major embezzlement of donor funds by the transportation ministry, which resulted in the resignation and arrest of several ministry officials.

While noting political prisoner releases, the EU, Vietnam’s largest donor, placed Vietnam on its list of countries of concern in its human rights report for 2006. In May, a European Parliament delegation to Vietnam called for the release of prisoners of conscience, free access for the international press to the Central Highlands, and an end to the death penalty. In September, the United Kingdom praised Vietnam’s progress on poverty reduction but said it would link ongoing aid to progress on human rights, anti-corruption, good governance, and financial reform.

Relations with the United States reached an unprecedented high in 2006, with the resumption of its human rights dialogue, which had been suspended since 2002, and the visit of President George Bush in November. The US removed its designation of Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violations, and it was expected that by the end of the year the US would grant Vietnam “Permanent Normalized Trade Relations.”

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Iraqi leader criticizes comments by Bush, Rice

By Leila Fadel
McClatchy Newspapers
January 18, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki voiced frustration with both President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday, saying their recent criticism of the Iraqi government probably helped the "terrorists."

Al-Maliki, whose relationship with the United States is strained, was especially upset about Rice's comment last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when she said that al-Maliki's government is working on "borrowed time."

"Such statements give moral boosts to the terrorists and push them towards making an extra effort and making them believe that they have defeated the American administration, but I can tell you that they haven't defeated the Iraqi government," he said during a meeting with a handful of reporters.

The interview was al-Maliki's first public comments since Bush announced last week that he's sending 21,500 additional American troops to Iraq. The Times of London posted audio of the interview on its Web site. McClatchy Newspapers didn't take part in the interview.

Al-Maliki also criticized Bush for saying that the chaotic execution of Saddam Hussein looked like a "revenge killing" during an interview Tuesday with PBS' Jim Lehrer.

"I would like to correct President Bush that Saddam, that person, was not subjected to any act of revenge, any physical attack," al-Maliki said. "It was a judicial process that ended with him executed or sentenced to death according to Iraqi law, which sentences such criminals to death."
Al-Maliki said he thought Bush was responding to news media pressure. "I know President Bush and I know him as a strong person who does not get affected by the media pressure, but it seems that the pressure ... led to the president giving this statement."

Al-Maliki's relationship with the United States has been deteriorating for months over various issues, including control of the military forces in Iraq, the strategy for fighting the war and U.S. killings of Iraqi civilians.

On Wednesday, in what may have been a sign of the state of relations between the U.S. and al-Maliki, Rice flew from Kuwait to Europe directly over Baghdad but didn't stop to meet with Iraqi officials.

Al-Maliki has come under increasing pressure to disarm Shiite militias allied with his government, especially the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and is believed to be behind the killings of hundreds of Sunnis across the capital. Al-Sadr's supporters hold five seats in al-Maliki's Cabinet and form the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Al-Maliki's comments came one week after Bush announced that 17,500 of the additional U.S. troops would be committed to a Baghdad security plan intended to target "extremists" in the capital. The plan is supposed to be Iraqi-led, with U.S. forces acting as a support system. But some here fear that the plan will allow Shiite militias to continue their campaign to force Sunni residents out of the capital.

Al-Maliki predicted that the government's need for U.S. troops would decrease in the next three to six months.

Advisers to al-Maliki and legislators have indicated that al-Maliki gave only a tepid welcome to more forces in the capital.

"I believe that if we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down," al-Maliki said. "That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping and arming them."

Al-Maliki blamed high casualties on an ill-equipped Iraqi army.

"I can strongly say that we could have been in a better situation right now regarding the equipment we have and the weapons we have," he said. "If that had happened it would have greatly decreased the level of our losses and the losses of the multinational forces as well."
Audio of Maliki's interview with reporters can be heard at:

Iraq resolution may expose GOP divide

By Anne Flaherty
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A Democrat-driven resolution on Iraq that has attracted the support of at least two Republicans threatens to expose fissures within the GOP over the unpopular war.

Republicans are deeply divided on the war in Iraq and how Congress should react to
President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to join the estimated 130,000 already there.

Ten Republicans met behind closed doors late Wednesday with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a bid to generate consensus on Iraq. The senators emerged from the meeting to announce that no deal had been reached.

"This is a very fluid situation," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

The meeting came after Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, both Republicans who have sparred with the administration on the war, announced that they would co-sponsor the resolution.

The resolution would put the Senate on record as opposed to sending more troops to Iraq. It also calls for the U.S. military mission to switch from major combat to training Iraqi troops, counterterrorism and keeping foreign fighters out of Iraq.

"It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq," the resolution states.

Hagel called the resolution a "genuine bipartisan effort." He is a possible presidential contender in 2008 and helped draft the proposal with Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.

However, some Republicans denounced the proposal as a political ploy to embarrass the president. Sen. John Cornyn, a Bush supporter, predicted the resolution would fail.

"If my Democrat colleagues are truly opposed to the mission in Iraq, then as the new majority in Congress they should schedule a serious debate and a vote on cutting off funding for our troops," said Cornyn, R-Texas.

Hagel shot back: "To somehow come up with a conclusion that it shows a lack of seriousness, I am a bit befuddled by what the Texas senator is trying to describe."

The resolution does not call for a withdrawal of troops or threaten funding of military operations, as many Democrats have suggested. Instead, it says the U.S. should transfer responsibility to the Iraqis "under an appropriately expedited timeline" that is not specified.

Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said his panel will debate the measure on Jan. 24, the day following Bush's State of the Union address. A swift committee review would pave the way for debate on the floor as early as that week, although Democrats say it is likely Republicans on the committee will want to make changes.

Biden said modest changes to the bill might be used "to attract those who share our view but may not like our specific language."

Bush sought to stave off a major showdown between the administration and Congress on Iraq by inviting GOP skeptics of the plan to the White House on Wednesday. But many of those members emerged from the meeting to say they still opposed sending more troops, although they were unsure whether they would back the resolution.

Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, one of several Republicans wary of Bush's plan, said he is concerned the resolution may go too far. Coleman spokesman Tom Steward said the senator is open to an increase in the Anbar province, for example.

"Senator Coleman has repeatedly conveyed his specific concerns to the president and is hopeful that Congress can find bipartisan common ground on this resolution going forward," Steward said.

Alternative proposals have already begun to surface. House GOP leaders backed a bill that would protect funding for U.S. troops, while Senate Republicans prepared a resolution supportive of Bush's strategy.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that resolution would say the Senate believes the war in Iraq cannot be lost "and this strategy could bring about success if properly supported."

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is considering an alternative proposal that could attract GOP attention. Rather than denouncing the president's strategy, it would voice support for recommendations by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. That panel did not recommend sending more troops unless specifically requested by a military commander.

Other Democrats have plans of their own. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he wants legislation capping the number of troops in Iraq at existing levels — a plan that attracted support from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who has his own bill threatening the funding of troops.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., on Wednesday announced legislation that would require Bush to obtain congressional approval for additional troops in Iraq if the Iraqis cannot show progress after six months.

Dodd and Clinton are among several Democrats with 2008 presidential aspirations.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Maliki Stresses Urgency In Arming Iraqi Forces

Need for U.S. Troops Could Drop 'Dramatically'

By Joshua Partlow
The Washington Post
Thursday, January 18, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Jan. 17 -- The Iraqi government's need for American troops would "dramatically go down" in three to six months if the United States accelerated the process of equipping and arming Iraq's security forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday.

The head of Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government defended his country's independence and sovereignty and called on U.S. leaders to show faith in his ability to lead.

Maliki disputed President Bush's remarks broadcast Tuesday that the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing" and took exception to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Senate testimony last week that Maliki's administration was on "borrowed time."

The prime minister said statements such as Rice's "give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said. "But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government."

Speaking through an interpreter to a group of reporters for an hour in his offices in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Maliki found several ways to say that Iraq is beholden to no country. He defended Iraq's constitutional right to the death penalty, its commitment to dialogue with Iran and Syria despite U.S. opposition to those governments, and its determination to use Iraqi troops to lead the latest effort to pacify Baghdad.

At a time when Bush has committed an additional 21,500 troops to the fight in Iraq, Maliki went further than he has before in establishing a time frame for drawing down the U.S. presence.

"If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down. That's on the condition that there are real strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping them and arming them," Maliki said.

In a statement issued by Maliki's office Tuesday, he said Iraq would continue to build up its armed forces "so it will be possible to withdraw the Multinational forces from cities, or withdraw 50,000 soldiers from Iraq."

Maliki faces deep skepticism in Iraq and abroad about whether he has the political will or ability to steer his country away from civil war, or even to keep his position as prime minister. His comments amounted to a defense of the viability of his government, which he pledged to lead "until I achieve the peace and prosperity that Iraq deserves."

In an interview Dec. 24, Maliki sounded less committed to his office. "I wish I could be done with it before the end" of his four-year term, he told the Wall Street Journal. "I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through parliament."

In the interview Wednesday, Maliki said many American and Iraqi lives would have been spared if the Iraqi forces had been better equipped. But he did not elaborate on what he wanted in terms of weapons or materiel, or whether his needs exceeded what is proposed in the $1.5 billion military sales agreement Iraq reached with the United States last month. Under that deal, the Iraqi government will receive an additional 300 armored personnel carriers, 600 more "up-armored" Humvees, helicopters and other equipment this year, according to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. Iraq's proposed 2007 budget devotes $7 billion to building up the armed forces.

"President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki agreed in November to accelerate not only the training of the Iraqi security forces but also accelerate the transfer of equipment," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Wednesday.

One Maliki aide said the prime minister wants "heavier weapons" and is concerned that Iraqi security forces are outgunned by militias and insurgents.

"Basically the level of weapons in the current army is really a disgrace," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. In many cases, gunmen are "definitely better armed" than the police and the army, the aide said.

Bush administration officials have long expressed concern in private about delivering military equipment to Iraq because of uncertainty that it would be kept out of the hands of militiamen, common criminals and insurgents.

The prime minister's critics in Iraq and Washington say he is unable to target the Shiite militias run by his political allies, but Wednesday he reiterated his commitment to defeating militants of any sect. Over the past few days, he said, his government had arrested 400 members of the Mahdi Army, the burgeoning Shiite militia led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a political supporter of Maliki, and staged a mission in the Shiite holy city of Karbala targeting people who attempted to assassinate a member of the provincial council. He said he has prohibited the Iraqi security forces from openly paying homage to sectarian leaders, such as Sadr, or from joining political parties.

"There will not be any house or party headquarters or any office that has impunity from security operations," he said.

A Sadr spokesman, Abdul Razak al-Nadawi, denied that 400 Mahdi Army members had been arrested and said he was unaware of an operation in Karbala.

Maliki addressed at length Bush's recent critical comments about Hussein's hanging, in which attendees shouted Sadr's name and told Hussein to "go to hell" while he stood at the gallows.
The execution, Maliki said, followed a legitimate trial and conviction -- for Hussein's role in the killing of 148 men and boys from a Shiite village in the 1980s -- and Hussein "was not subjected to any act of revenge, any physical attack, and it was a judicial process that ended with him being sentenced to death according to Iraqi law."

"I know President Bush and I know him as a strong person that does not get affected by the media pressure, but it seems the pressure has gone to a great extent that led to the president giving this statement," Maliki said.

Maliki spoke slowly and seriously for most of the conversation, but occasionally broke into a smile, such as when he was asked whether Bush needs him more than he needs Bush. "This is an evil question," he said, laughing.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who was traveling with Rice in Europe on Wednesday, defended the secretary's comment about the Maliki administration. "It was a restatement of what others have said, including the president, underscoring the importance and urgency of the Iraqi government acting on behalf of the Iraqi people," he said.

A convoy carrying members of a U.S. democracy group was ambushed Wednesday in Baghdad, and four of the workers, including an American woman, were killed, an official with the group told the Associated Press.

Gunmen attacked the three-car convoy belonging to the National Democratic Institute, said Les Campbell, the group's Middle East director. Besides the American, a Hungarian, a Croat and an Iraqi were killed, he said.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a truck laden with explosives blew up outside a police station, killing 10 people, including four policemen, and wounding 45 others, according to the Kirkuk police chief. The blast damaged houses and destroyed cars, collapsed a mosque and took down a cellphone tower. There is growing conflict between ethnic Kurds and Turkmens in the city, and the police station was located in a predominantly Turkmen area.

Later in the day, a second car bomb exploded in Kirkuk outside a Kurdish political office.
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a suicide attack near a busy restaurant in a market in the Shiite slum of Sadr City. The blast killed 20 people and wounded 23 others, according to Brig. Gen. Abdullah Sami of the Interior Ministry.

Staff writer Karen DeYoung and staff researcher Robert E. Thomason in Washington, staff writer Glenn Kessler traveling with Rice, and special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Senate plans vote against troop surge

By Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
January 18, 2007

Senators introduced a resolution yesterday disapproving of President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, setting up a confrontation with the White House, which warned that those who vote for it will face charges that they don't support the troops.

The resolution -- written by the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- has no binding effect on Mr. Bush, but the authors said they hope an overwhelming vote will prove the president lacks the support to move forward.

"This resolution will give every senator a chance to say where he or she stands on the president's plan," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and Foreign Relations chairman. "The single and most effective way to get him to change course is to demonstrate that his policy has waning or no support from both parties."

The White House pleaded for lawmakers to take more time, study the president's plan and ask more questions.

Mr. Bush last week proposed sending more than 17,000 additional soldiers to Baghdad to help Iraqi troops stem sectarian violence and 4,000 more Marines to Anbar province to fight al Qaeda. He said Iraqi officials have promised more troops of their own and have pledged not to interfere as the U.S. and Iraqi forces go after politically sensitive targets.

The president's spokesman, Tony Snow, said yesterday that Mr. Bush is going to forge ahead with his plan and said members of Congress should be wary of how their opposition will affect the troops.

"Think about what message resolutions would send," Mr. Snow said. He said he will not be the judge of what does or does not support the troops, but said, "It is a question that those are talking about these resolutions will have to answer to themselves and to the public."

Some House and Senate Republicans skeptical of Mr. Bush's proposal went to the White House yesterday to hear the administration's case, while Vice President Dick Cheney met with Republican senators on Capitol Hill. Now Republican leaders are trying to craft a unified position.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, emerged from the meeting with the vice president to tell reporters that Republican senators unanimously support "fair procedures" for voting on the new resolution. It was a stance far short of the nearly full support they've shown the White House on the war during the past four years.

In the House, Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, offered a bill to ensure that Congress does not cut off or restrict funding for troops in a combat zone such as Iraq, and Republican House leaders urged support. But opposition to Mr. Bush's plan is firming up.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, announced her support for the Senate resolution opposing the troop surge, and Sen. Sam Brownback said sending more troops to the region is a bad idea.

The Kansas Republican who has long been supportive of Mr. Bush and is now considering a White House run, said he's "been committed to a free, safe and secure Iraq from the very beginning."

But after a visit to the front lines last week, he said he "found less reason for optimism."

"Sunni leaders blame everything on the Shi'a. Shi'a leaders, likewise, blame everything on the Sunnis. The Kurdish leadership pointed out that the Sunni and Shi'a only meet when the Kurds call the meeting," he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Even more frustrating, he said: "All of this suggests that at the present time, the United States cares more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference."

Also back from a trip to Iraq was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

"We saw American service men and women performing bravely and magnificently, and we also saw a strategy that is not working," said the likely presidential contender. "I, personally, did not see the kind of tangible evidence of actions that we should be expecting from the Iraqi government."

She, along with fellow Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, called for more troops to be deployed in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and another possible 2008 candidate, said he will offer legislation capping the number of troops in Iraq and requiring the president to get congressional approval before adding more.

But Mr. Snow said that would "bind the hands of the commander in chief."

"To tie one's hand in a time of war is a pretty extreme move," he said