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Cape Cod Times - June 19, 2005

Delahunt pushes for Iraq withdrawal

FALMOUTH - U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt yesterday said his 2002 vote against authorizing the Iraq war was the best decision he's made in Congress, and that the U.S. prosecution of the war has harmed national security by fostering "anti-Americanism" worldwide.

Speaking at a forum on the war held at Morse Pond Middle School, Delahunt, D-Quincy, also said he thinks congressional Republicans will put increasing pressure on President George Bush to define a plan for the United States military to leave Iraq.

He called attention to a resolution jointly sponsored by two congressional Republicans and two Democrats that would require the U.S. to begin a military withdrawal by Oct. 1, 2006.

"I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say the Republican leadership will take note of that," he said.

Delahunt said he has signed on to the bipartisan bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Jones voted for the war. He is the congressman who proposed renaming french fries "freedom fries" in response to France's opposition to the U.S.-led war.

In a radio address yesterday, President Bush said the United States would not leave Iraq until the nation's elected, post-Saddam government shows what it can do for its people. The president has declined to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S troops.

More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the war to date.

Officially billed as the host and moderator of yesterday's two-hour forum, Delahunt, now in his fifth term as the 10th District's congressman, served as one member of a three-member panel. He was joined by Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich, a political scientist and Army veteran who specializes in military affairs; and Husain Haqqani, a former adviser to the Pakistani prime minister who is now a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bacevich, author of a new book "The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War," said practical realities would force the Bush administration to consider an exit strategy soon, or else find a way to inspire new and genuine public enthusiasm for the war.

The Army's struggles to find new recruits; there is waning support from allies and the U.S. public and also sinking morale among U.S. troops; and an elusive, ill-defined enemy combine to make the war "unsustainable," he said.

Regardless of when the U.S. ends its occupation of Iraq, Bacevich said there's "at least a 50-50 chance that it's going to be a disaster," perhaps one that leads to civil war.

Haqqani said the Bush Administration's claim to have waged the war for the sake of democracy in Iraq rings false in many ears throughout the Muslim world, given America's willingness to overlook repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim nations on which it depends for natural resources or political support.

The appearance of hypocrisy fuels anti-Americanism and inspires radical Muslims to join terrorist organizations, he said. More than military might, he said, the war on terrorism requires "winning hearts and minds."

"This is a different kind of war," Haqqani said. "This is about people wanting to turn themselves into weapons."

The forum was attended by about 150 people, primarily opponents of the war, including representatives of Military Families Speak Out, which advocates for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops immediately.

Some people wore white surgical gloves smeared with fake blood, signifying, they said, the blood on the hands of all Americans because of the U.S. role in the war. One man, Peter White of Yarmouth, chairman of the Cape Cod Green-Rainbow Party, dropped his bloody gloves on Delahunt's lectern before storming out of the auditorium.

Several people asked Delahunt to seek impeachment proceedings against President George Bush, but the Congressman said he would not. He said such a move would be futile and would polarize the nation.

On Thursday, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., held a public forum on Capitol Hill to discuss newly disclosed British government memos that say the Bush Administration deliberately deceived Congress about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify the war. Some Democrats have called for an official inquiry.

Delahunt said he hadn't learned anything new from the memo. "The failure of intelligence has been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed - and is overwhelming," he said after yesterday's forum. "I don't need the Brits to tell me that."

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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