The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gen. George Casey as the next Army chief of staff, despite reservations by several lawmakers over his direction of the Iraq war.
Casey was confirmed by a 83-14 vote. He had been the top U.S. commander in Iraq since July 2004, but President Bush replaced him with Army Gen. David Petraeus as part of an overhaul of his Iraq policies and his team of top U.S. officials in the Middle East.
The Senate a day earlier confirmed Navy Adm. William Fallon to replace Army Gen. John Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations throughout the Middle East.
Their approval comes as Democrats launch a full-court press against Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. House Democratic leaders are planning a vote next week on a resolution stating opposition to the buildup, while some senators are considering bogging down upcoming budget bills with anti-war measures.
Despite their opposition to Bush’s war strategies, Democrats defended Casey while Republicans who support Bush’s policies assailed the general, accusing him of mismanaging the conflict.
“Gen. Casey knows Iraq and the challenges the Army faces there,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this week, adding, “The principal failures that led to the chaos in Iraq were due to the civilian leaders.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Casey should be held accountable for giving Congress rosy assessments of the war as the violence got worse.
“I have questioned in the past and question today a number of decisions and judgments that Gen. Casey has made in the past two and a half years,” said McCain. “During that time, conditions in Iraq have gotten remarkably and progressively worse.”
Testifying this month before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Casey said he had asked for three fewer ground combat units than Bush is sending to Iraq. Bush announced Jan. 10 he would send five brigades to Iraq, whereas Casey had requested only two.
Casey said he does not oppose the deployment of the additional brigades because it would give U.S. commanders in Iraq flexibility.
Casey will replace Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who is retiring.
Retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell also was confirmed Wednesday on a voice vote to become the nation’s second national intelligence director.