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Cheney says no to Iraq withdrawal

Market Watch | November 21 2005
By William L. Watts

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday said that the quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq suggested by a senior Democratic lawmaker would undermine the fight against terrorism.

But Cheney also softened Republican criticism of Rep. Jack Murtha, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee for defense, calling the decorated Vietnam veteran "a good man, a Marine, a patriot" who was "taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

Longstanding partisan divisions over the war exploded last week when Murtha surprised lawmakers with a speech calling for the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq over a six-month period.

In response, the White House last Thursday issued a statement saying it was "baffled" that Murtha, a veteran with close ties to the Pentagon, would align himself with filmmaker "Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing" of the Democratic Party, and warned that withdrawal would be tantamount to a "surrender to the terrorists."

Anger was on open display on the House floor Friday night, when freshman Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio said a constituent had urged her to tell Murtha: "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Schmidt, who drew loud protests from Democratic lawmakers, later withdrew the comments, saying that despite having mentioned Murtha by name, she hadn't directed her remarks at the legislator.

Cheney, meanwhile, reiterated blasts at Democratic lawmakers who have accused the Bush administration of distorting prewar intelligence in an effort to build the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"What is not legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible, is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence," he said in the speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

The vice president also said that the flaws in the Iraq intelligence are "obvious in hindsight. But any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false."

As to the call for withdrawal, Cheney added that such a move would embolden al Qaida and other terrorist organizations. "It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone."

Democrats said Cheney's speech neglected to provide any sign of what the administration has learned from a failed strategy in Iraq.

"The vice president and this administration have a credibility problem. Rather than giving our troops a plan to move forward in Iraq and changing their failed course, they continue to ignore the facts and lash out at those who raise legitimate questions about how the administration misused intelligence in its rush to war," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a statement.


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