Congress Applying More Pressure for Troop Withdrawal

By Carolyn Bolls | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - A bipartisan bill that would force the Bush administration to establish a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq picked up two more Republican sponsors on Thursday.

The legislation, entitled "Homeward Bound," urges President Bush to begin pulling the U.S. forces by October 2006.

Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), were joined in their sponsorship of the bill on Thursday by Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa).

Meehan, Jones and Gilchrest voted to authorize military force in Iraq in October 2002.

"There's nothing radical about the timeline," Jeff Deist, spokesperson for Rep. Ron Paul, told Cybercast News Service. "It's actually more relaxed than the Bush administration's own thoughts."

If approved, the bill would require the president to announce his withdrawal plans by December 31 of this year. Troops must start to pull out "as soon as possible but not later than October 1, 2006," and all military operations are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, according to the legislation.

"Both those dates are far more modest than [what] the Pentagon and the chief general in Iraq are stating," said Deist. "It's encouraging that the generals on the ground in Iraq are starting to talk about getting our troops out of there and turning things over to the Iraqis.

"It's not that the Bush administration and the supporters of this resolution are really that far apart in their ambitions," Deist said.

However, political considerations are preventing the Bush administration from setting a timetable for withdrawal on its own, according to Deist. "I don't think the Bush administration particularly likes Congress telling him what to do in even a modest way."

In a letter to constituents last month, Rep. Walter Jones stated he is "NOT in favor of any immediate withdrawal," nor does he "support setting an end date at which time all troops must be out of Iraq."

Jones is remembered by many people for his move in March 2003 to rename the House cafeteria's French fries "Freedom fries." Jones said he had a change of heart about the war when he attended one of his constituent's funerals, a U.S. Marine, who was killed in action in Iraq. His North Carolina congressional district includes the Marine training base, Camp Lejeune.

"What I do support," Jones stated in his letter, "is a public discussion of our goals and the future of our military involvement in that country."

Jones cited other threats with which the American military should be dealing, including "Communist China," Iran, a "madman ruling North Korea," and illegal immigration.

According to Rep. Abercrombie, American occupation is no longer necessary because the U.S. soldiers currently have to "resolve political and social issues that need to be resolved by Iraqis themselves.

"That's unfair to the troops, their families, and the country," he said. "The strain of unending deployments has put unbearable strains on our military, particularly the Reserves and National Guard."

If the new Iraqi government is unable to stand on its own by the deadline established in the Homeward Bound bill, Abercrombie said "we [will] have to acknowledge that we'll be mired there for a very, very long time."

Kathy Barrett, press secretary for the newest co-sponsor, Rep. Gilchrest, told Cybercast News Service that the goal of the resolution was to "send a signal to the moderate Arab world in the Middle East that it is not our intention to permanently stay in Iraq.

According to Barrett, American troops should "leave and let those folks in Iraq and the rest in the Middle East to take care of their own business," once a stable democracy is established.

"[Gilchrest's] goal is not to ... embarrass the president or embarrass the administration," she said.

Gilchrest is a former Marine who was wounded in combat while serving in Vietnam. He has been to Iraq twice as a member of Congress.

"This is a very likely scenario," assured Barrett. "There are certainly a lot of indications that it's reasonable and certainly doable."

Last month the resolution was referred to the House Committee on International Relations and the House Armed Services Committee and is awaiting consideration.

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