By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning said Tuesday that President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq should be given more of a chance, and he offered a grim scenario if American forces are withdrawn amid growing political pressure.
With the Senate poised to again debate the Iraq war, Bunning replied succinctly when asked if he might support a proposal putting U.S. troops on track to leave Iraq in early 2008: "Hell no."
The Kentucky Republican then offered his pessimistic view of how events would unfold should American forces leave Iraq: "We have chaos. We have civil war. We have Iran dominating the Middle East."
"So the alternative is worse than what we have presently," he told reporters in a conference call.
Still, Bunning acknowledged that Congress' patience over the war is "about at the end right now."
"There is a limit," he said. "How much progress we are making will dictate that limit."
Bunning remained aligned with Bush on the war even as some other Republicans have defected.
A small group of GOP senators want Bush to adopt recommendations by the Iraq Study Group, which identified a potential redeployment date of spring 2008.
The jostling over Iraq strategy comes as the Senate takes up a defense policy bill, which will include proposals ordering troop withdrawals in the coming months.
Bunning said that Bush's troop surge, which sent some 30,000 additional soldiers to Iraq, has been fully in place for less than a month, yet many lawmakers are ready to declare it a failure.
Bunning said he would reserve judgment until a September report to Congress by military commander Gen. David Petraeus.
"I believe that we must truly give General Petraeus a chance to succeed in his mission," Bunning said.
Bunning said that calls have trickled into his offices from constituents speaking out about the war. By contrast, he said, his offices received 25,000 calls about the immigration legislation.
He expressed frustration with the performance of the U.S.-backed government in Iraq, which is under pressure to meet targets for political, economic and other reforms.
"They don't quite get it - what a democracy means and how important it is for their government to fulfill" the benchmarks, Bunning said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)