Wednesday, November 30, 2005

''Pelosi Calls for Withdrawal From Iraq''

"House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday embraced a call by a prominent member of her rank-and-file to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, two weeks after she declined to endorse it.
"We should follow the lead of Congressman John Murtha, who has put forth a plan to make American safer, to make our military stronger and to make Iraq more stable," Pelosi said. "That is what the American people and our troops deserve."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., accused Pelosi of playing politics with the war. "This war and the safety of the American people is simply too important for flip-flopping or indecision. We cannot afford to retreat," he said in a statement.

Republicans have criticized Murtha's plan as one of "cutting and running."

Pelosi, D-Calif., said she wouldn't call for a party caucus position on the plan by the Pennsylvania Democrat because "a vote on the war is an individual vote."

Nevertheless, she said, "I believe that a majority of our caucus clearly supports Mr. Murtha."

Two weeks ago, Murtha called for U.S. troops to begin returning home and said a complete pullout could be achieved in six months. He introduced a resolution in the House that would force the president to withdraw the 160,000 troops "at the earliest practicable date."

Murtha, a Vietnam combat veteran and Marine, voted in 2002 to give President Bush the authority to go to war. He has been a strong supporter of the military and an influential voice on defense issues during his three-decade House career — and his position switch set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill.

At the time, Pelosi emphasized that Murtha spoke only for himself, and not for her or the Democratic caucus.

She changed her position at a news conference after Bush sought to lay out the administration's Iraq strategy in a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy.

"I'm endorsing what Mr. Murtha is saying, which is that the status quo is not working and that we need to have a plan that makes us safer and our military stronger and makes Iraq more stable," she said. "I believe that what he has said has great wisdom."

A day after Murtha's Nov. 17 announcement, Republicans sought to put the House on record rejecting immediate withdrawal and forced a vote just before adjourning for Thanksgiving break. Democrats called the vote a political stunt meant to undermine Murtha and limit debate on the war. Most in the minority party, including Pelosi and Murtha, voted against immediate withdrawal in what they said was a protest, making the tally 403-3 against it.

Pelosi's counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hasn't endorsed Murtha's plan. "While Senator Reid does not agree with the immediate withdrawal plan Congressman Murtha proposed, he does respect the congressman for coming forward with a plan," Rebecca Kirszner, a Reid spokeswoman, said.

Some Senate Democrats support a phased withdrawal based on political and military conditions in Iraq, but not Murtha's plan.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he and other Democrats in the Senate believe the United States needs an exit strategy for U.S. troops in which there are "certain measurements for that success over a period of time."-from the AP story.

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