WASHINGTON – A powerful Democrat and Iraq war foe said he intends to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would effectively end President Bush's plans to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq by setting limits on which troops can be sent.
Using an unusual medium — a recorded interview posted on the Internet — Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said his bill would prevent troops from being sent back to Iraq too soon or too poorly equipped. Troops being sent back to Iraq for another tour would have to stay in the United States at least one year before being redeployed. The bill would also end "stop-loss" policies by preventing the president from retaining troops in Iraq after their enlistments expire.
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Murtha, who is chairman of the defense subcommittee to the House Appropriations Committee, said he is formulating legislation with teeth because he doesn't think Bush's plan to send more troops to Baghdad and al Anbar province would accomplish the goals of bringing peace to the country or returning troops home sooner.
The Bush administration "won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment. They don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work," Murtha said in the post on the Democrat-friendly Web site MoveCongress.org. "This vote will limit the options of the president and should stop this surge."
Murtha's proposed legislation drew a heated response from the House's top Republican, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, who said the bill would "cut off funding for troops in harm's way by making sure the reinforcements they need to complete their mission in Iraq never arrive."
"While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements, and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely," Boehner said in a statement.
"The American people will not support a strategy that involves pulling the rug out from under American troops in the combat zone by cutting off their reinforcements and forcing them to face the enemy without our full support," Boehner added.
Murtha said the legislation would not necessarily deprive the administration of money but would redirect it, and it would be crafted to protect the troops, not harm them.
"We need to make sure that everybody understands we're going to support the troops. We're going to give the troops everything they need. We're not going to .. make any of them vulnerable," Murtha said. "But we're going to make darn sure that they have what they need before they go over."
By crafting legislation with those goals in mind, Murtha said, "that stops the surge for all intents and purposes."
The Pennsylvania Democrat added that he is also considering language in the legislation that would close the military prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and the bill might include a provision requiring the president to get approval from Congress before taking any military action against Iran.
Murtha said his legislation would be added the defense appropriations bill, and he plans on submitting it in mid-March before the House Appropriations Committee.
Murtha's appearance on the Web site was part of a broader push to gain support of a troop withdrawal from Iraq. He also taped a message to be played before 1,200 planned viewings of the antiwar film "The Ground Truth" on Thursday. The viewings are part of a grassroots effort organized by MoveOn.org to lobby Congress for legislation blocking the troop surge.