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Baptist Congressman Wants Time Frame for U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq

A Baptist congressman is among Democrats pressuring the Bush administration to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

On Thursday Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Vietnam veteran and military hawk, stunned colleagues when he called for removing 160,000 U.S. troops from Iraq “at the earliest predictable date,” prompting a war of words with the White House.
 
House Republicans responded with a hastily written resolution calling for immediate withdrawal, which was defeated just before Congress broke for Thanksgiving by a vote of 403-3. Democrats called it a political stunt that cut off thoughtful debate. Nearly all, including Murtha, voted against it.
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Earlier, North Carolina representatives David Price and Brad Miller introduced a joint resolution directing the president to provide Congress with a detailed plan for ending occupation of Iraq, claiming ratification of an Iraqi constitution in October and elections scheduled Dec. 15 set the stage for an exit strategy.
 
Aug. 12 at Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he is a member and has taught Sunday school, Price gave about 100 constituents a speech similar to remarks he made earlier on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
 
“The war in Iraq has been terribly costly in terms of lives, resources, and our country’s diplomatic and security interests,” Price said. “Our challenge now is not merely to cut our losses, but to extricate ourselves in a way that prevents Iraq from reverting to tyranny or chaos, that denies a basing point to international terrorism, and that leaves the country intact, able to defend and govern itself.”

“We are not now on course to achieve this objective,” he said. “The Bush administration neither has a strategy for success nor even acknowledges the need for course correction. We must do better. It is the duty of this Congress to demand candor, accountability, and a strategy calibrated to achieve our goals.”

Price and Miller’s resolution says failure by the president to state clearly the mission of U.S. armed forces in Iraq or to set forth a specific plan or time frame for accomplishing that mission has contributed to a belief that the U.S. plans to occupy Iraq on a long-term basis, which in turn has fueled an insurgency with escalating violence.
 
“The ratification of the Iraqi constitution and the scheduled parliamentary elections are critical steps in establishing a functional, stable government in Iraq and present an opportunity for the United States to establish a plan to withdraw United States Armed Forces from Iraq that would support the legitimacy of the Iraqi Government and the assumption of responsibility by Iraqi forces for security and public safety,” the resolution reads in part.
 
The resolution calls on the president to present a plan to Congress for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, including a date for initial withdrawal and the expected time frame for completing the pullout.
 
Introducing the joint resolution Oct. 24, Price criticized President Bush for “glib assurances and stay-the-course rhetoric,” which he charged have compounded mistakes and poor planning hindering the war effort.
 
“Such failures must not become a rationale for extending our occupation of Iraq,” said Price, one of 156 members of Congress who voted against an Oct. 11, 2002, resolution authorizing the president to use military force against Iraq. Five months later, on March 19, 2003,
 
“Mr. Speaker, we should never have started this war,” Price concluded. “We should have and could have utilized other means of containing and controlling whatever threat Saddam Hussein represented. No ideal option is available to us now in ending it. But the October 15 vote offers the best opportunity we are likely to have to begin the process of withdrawal credibly and hopefully: to turn the responsibility for Iraq’s future over to the Iraqis themselves and to repair the diplomacy and foreign policy from which the invasion of Iraq has been such a tragic departure for our country.”
 
Price’s resolution, one of several proposals being floated in Washington, is similar to the first resolution voted on by the Senate several days ago, which required both and exit strategy and timetable, Price aide Bridget Lowell said Friday. The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday adopted a final measure 98-0 urging the president to outline a plan for withdrawal, while rejecting Democrats’ call for a timetable.
  
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.