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Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051117/ap_on_go_co/congress_iraq Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 1 minute
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 17 3:54 PM
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      Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout

      By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 1
      minute ago

      WASHINGTON - An influential House Democrat who voted
      for the
      Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal
      of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing
      unease in Congress about the conflict.

      "It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John
      Murtha, D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish
      Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of
      our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the
      present course. It is evident that continued military
      action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the
      United States of America, the Iraqi people or the
      Persian Gulf region."

      House Republicans assailed Murtha's position as one of
      abandonment and surrender, and accused Democrats of
      playing politics with the war. "They want us to
      retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of
      surrender to the terrorists of the world," Speaker
      Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement.

      Murtha estimated that all U.S. troops could be pulled
      out within six months. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he
      choked back tears during his remarks to reporters.

      Murtha's comments came just two days after the Senate
      voted to approve a statement that 2006 "should be a
      period of significant transition to full Iraqi
      sovereignty" to create the conditions for the phased
      withdrawal of U.S. forces.

      In recent days, President Bush and other top
      administration officials have lashed out at critics of
      the war and have accused Democrats of advocating a
      "cut and run" strategy that will only embolden the

      Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the fray
      Wednesday by assailing Democrats who contend the Bush
      administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq,
      calling their criticism "one of the most dishonest and
      reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

      Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam,
      angrily shot back at Cheney: "I like guys who've never
      been there that criticize us who've been there. I like
      that. I like guys who got five deferments and never
      been there and send people to war, and then don't like
      to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

      Referring to Bush, Murtha added: "I resent the fact,
      on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for
      criticizing them."

      The top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense
      subcommittee, Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for
      his grasp of military issues over three decades in
      Congress. He planned to introduce a resolution
      Thursday that, if passed by both the House and the
      Senate, would force the president to withdraw U.S.

      Murtha could not say whether his caucus supports his
      position. And, although he is a close adviser to House
      Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., she was absent
      from his news conference.

      Later Thursday, Pelosi said she supported his position
      that the president's policy is not working and must be
      changed but she stopped short of endorsing his call
      for immediate withdrawal. "Mr. Murtha speaks for
      himself very eloquently and the district he
      represents," Pelosi said.

      For months, Pelosi has pushed for the Bush
      administration to outline an exit strategy, although
      she has stopped short of calling for an immediate
      troop pullout. Some Senate Democrats have called for
      an immediate or phased withdrawal.

      Murtha voted to give the president authority to use
      force against
      Saddam Hussein in 2002 but in recent months has grown
      increasingly troubled with the direction of the war
      and with the Bush administration's handling of it.

      "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a
      flawed policy wrapped in illusion," Murtha said.

      Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Murtha's call for
      withdrawal was "reprehensible and irresponsible."

      "It shows the Democratic Party has chosen a policy of
      retreat and defeatism which will only encourage the
      terrorists and threaten the stability of Iraq,"
      Granger said.

      First elected to Congress in 1974, Murtha is known as
      an ally of uniformed officers in the Pentagon and on
      the battlefield. The perception on Capitol Hill is
      that when the congressman makes a statement on
      military issues, he's talking for those in uniform.

      Known to shun publicity, Murtha said he was standing
      up because he had a constitutional and moral
      obligation to speak for the troops.

      His voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as he
      related several stories of visiting wounded troops,
      including one who was blinded and lost both his hands
      but had been denied a Purple Heart because friendly
      fire caused his injuries.

      "I met with the commandant. I said, 'If you don't give
      him a Purple Heart, I'll give him one of mine.' And
      they gave him a Purple Heart," said Murtha, who has two.
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