PoughkeepsieJournal.com - Local lawmakers on different sides of fence on redeployment: "Thursday, December 22, 2005
Local lawmakers on different sides of fence on redeployment
By John Davis
He doesn't agree with Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha's calls to start redeploying and bringing home the troops in Iraq, but U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, applauds his colleague across the aisle for raising the issue.
'I think the most beneficial thing that's come out of the John Murtha's statement is it's reopened the debate about Iraq,' Sweeney said.
Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and ex-Marine colonel, voted in October 2002 to give President Bush the authority to attack Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein.
Murtha stunned many across the nation when in mid-November he announced the U.S. military mission in Iraq was accomplished and immediate withdrawal of the 160,000 U.S. troops there should begin.
War of words under way
Since then, Republicans in Congress supporting President Bush and Democrats agreeing with Murtha have waged a war of words on just when the troops should come home.
'I respect John Murtha. I just think he's plain wrong,' Sweeney said.
Sweeney said the large turnout of 11 million of 15 million voters Wednesday in Iraq's first parliamentary election %u2014 following a Jan. 30 election and Oct. 15 ratification of its constitution %u2014 proves the U.S. is meeting benchmarks in establishing a democracy.
'We are meeting significant milestones,' Sweeney said. 'We don't get elections in this country with 70 percent turnout.'
Murtha also ignited a debate on the reasons for going to war in maintaining the intelligence for doing so was wrong.
Bush admitted as much Wed-nesday. The president said the intelligence on the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was faulty, but, nevertheless, deposing Saddam Hussein and establishing a democracy justified the U.S. mission there.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, who voted against giving the president authority to attack, welcomed Murtha's bold statements on the prewar intelligence and the need to begin redeploying the troops there.
'His announcement has had a profound impact down here and across the nation,' Hinchey said in Washington last week. 'Jack is a very significant person and very much appreciated.'
Hinchey has proposed a resolution to hold Bush accountable for not only relying on faulty intelligence to invade Iraq, but for willingly misleading Congress into supporting the attack.
Hinchey's resolution, which is before the House International Relations Committee, would require the Bush administration to turn over to Congress all drafts and documents related to Bush's crafting of his 2003 State of the Union speech.
In that speech to Congress, despite warnings by the Central Intelligence Agency that the information was unproven, Bush claimed Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa, Hinchey said.
'It wasn't the information that was faulty, it was how it was manipulated and misused by this administration,' Hinchey said. 'In a democracy, you can't allow the government to lie to the American people.'
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, disagrees with calls to withdraw the troops in Iraq.
'I think leaving prematurely is exactly what the terrorists want,' Kelly said. 'Then they would use Iraq to export terrorism all over the world.'
Kelly said President Bush did the right thing in deposing Saddam and waging war against the terrorists in Iraq.
'There's no denying it's a far better Iraq than it was under Saddam,' Kelly said. 'We have to stay committed to fighting the terrorists on their own turf. This is a fight to protect America.'
New path suggested
Both of New York's senators in Washington, Democrats Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, voted in 2002 to give the president authority to attack Iraq.
Both say it's time for the president to more greatly engage Congress in defining the mission of the 160,000 American troops stationed there.
'I believe the administration has misused the latitude afforded to it to fight the war,' Schumer said Friday. 'Now is the time for the administration to reach out to both supporters and opponents of their Iraq policy to come up with some new ideas and real solutions. We need a path that both stabilizes the security situation in Iraq and provides maximum security for our troops.'
In a Nov. 29 letter to her constituents, Clinton stated, 'I believe we are at a critical point with the December 15th elections that should, if successful, allow us to start bringing home our troops in the coming year, while leaving behind a smaller contingent in safer areas with greater intelligence and quick-strike capabilities.'
John Davis can be reached at email@example.com