Murtha mocks good news in Iraq, vows to fight for pull­out

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By S.A. Miller

House Democrats’ point man in the war-fund­ing show­down with the White House on Nov. 20 dis­missed U.S. mil­i­tary gains in Iraq and vowed to tighten the purse strings un­til Pres­i­dent Bush ac­cepts a pull­out plan.

“Look at all the peo­ple that have been dis­placed, all the [lost] oil pro­duc­tion, un­em­ploy­ment, all those type of things,” said Rep. John P. Murtha, chair­man of House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions de­fense sub­com­mit­tee. “We can’t win mil­i­tar­ily.”

The Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat con­ceded vi­o­lence was down dra­mat­i­cally and some nor­malcy re­stored on Iraq’s streets, but he said U.S. vic­tory re­mains unattain­able as long as Bagh­dad fails to pass na­tional-rec­on­cil­i­a­tion laws.

“To change the po­lit­i­cal law, it doesn’t seem to me you need the mil­i­tary sta­bil­ity,” Mr. Murtha told re­porters on Capi­tol Hill.

The dim view of U.S. mil­i­tary progress in Iraq and a re­solve to force a pull­out have been echoed by the two top Democrats on Capi­tol Hill — Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid of Ne­vada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia.

The fund­ing stand­off will force the Pen­tagon to make bud­get cuts at bases in the U.S. to cover the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in­clud­ing send­ing fur­lough no­tices to as many as 100,000 civil­ian em­ploy­ees, White House press se­cre- tary Dana Perino said.

She said the fur­lough no­tices could start go­ing out be­fore the Demo­crat-led Congress re­turns from a two-week Thanks­giv­ing break.

“We are call­ing on Congress [. . . ] to send the pres­i­dent sup­ple­men­tal war fund­ing with­out ar­bi­trary sur­ren­der dates and with­out mi­cro­manag­ing the war be­fore they leave for their next vacation, which is go­ing to be around the Christ­mas hol­i­days,” Mrs. Perino said.

“I think that Amer­i­cans have seen what our troops have been able to do this year,” she said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but they have started to make some sig­nif­i­cant gains, and to pull the rug out from un­der them now seems ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

House Democrats two weeks ago passed a $50 bil­lion emer­gency war­spend­ing bill that man­dated a U.S. pull­out start in 30 days with a goal of al­most all troops leav­ing Iraq by De­cem­ber 2008.

Mr. Bush promised to veto the bill, and Se­nate Repub­li­cans blocked the bill in a pro­ce­dural vote Nov. 16.

The White House has said Congress’ ef­fort to dic­tate troop lev­els un­der­mines the abil­ity of Mr. Bush and the gen­er­als to wage the war.

The con­fronta­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of the stand­off in May over $120 bil­lion of war funds for 2007, which ended when Democrats backed down rather than face crit­i­cism for not sup­port­ing troops on the bat­tle­field.

Mr. Murtha said this time the pres­i­dent was to blame for the pend­ing cuts at bases in the U.S., pos­si­bly in­clud­ing closed child care cen­ters, li­braries, fam­ily and youth ac­tiv­ity cen­ters, and coun­sel­ing ser­vices for re­turn­ing troops and their fam­i­lies.

“Rather than work­ing with Congress on a re­spon­si­ble war-spend­ing pack­age, this ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­e­cut­ing a plan to plun­der from th­ese es­sen­tial base-bud­get ac­counts in or­der to fund a con­tin­u­a­tion of the pres­i­dent’s mis­guided war,” he said.

The $50 bil­lion bill would have paid for about three months of war- fare while law­mak­ers de­bates the rest of the $196.4 bil­lion war re­quest for 2008.

The Pen­tagon be­gan shuf­fling funds to cover war costs last week, right af­ter Mr. Bush signed the $471 bil­lion de­fense spend­ing bill, which did not in­clude war funds but per­mit­ted some ac­count trans­fers.

Crit­ics of the Democrats’ pull­out plan say it called for re­treat and sur­ren­der just as U.S. forces are win­ning ground against ter­ror­ists and in­sur­gents in Iraq.

The troop-surge strat­egy im­ple­mented this past sum­mer by Army Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, has pro­duced mea­sur­able se­cu­rity gains, al­though the fledg­ling Iraqi gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to move slug­gishly to adopt na­tional-rec­on­cil­i­a­tion laws.

U.S. mil­i­tary fa­tal­i­ties dropped sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in Oc­to­ber. Iraqi civil­ian deaths also de­clined markedly, from 1,791 in Au­gust to 750 in Oc­to­ber, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported. Mor­tar rocket at­tacks by in­sur­gents last month were the low­est since Fe­bru­ary 2006, as were the num­ber of “in­di­rect-fire” at­tacks on coali­tion forces.

Iraqi of­fi­cials plan to re­duce check­points, ease cur­fews and re­open some roads in and around Bagh­dad be­cause of im­prov­ing se­cu­rity. Sunni Arab tribal lead­ers in west­ern An­bar prov­ince, now al­lied with the U.S. mil­i­tary, say al Qaeda is “al­most de­feated” in their on­cechaotic re­gion.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Rep. John P. Murtha, chair­man of House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions de­fense sub­com­mit­tee, blames Pres­i­dent Bush for the Pen­tagon’s pend­ing cuts at bases in the U.S. to cover the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.