Congresswomen Propose Troop Withdrawal in Six Months

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Three California Democrats in Congress announced a bill Wednesday that they say would force President Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq within six months.

Their legislation would repeal the authorization for the use of force, fully fund a six-month withdrawal of U.S. forces and military contractors in Iraq, and prohibit permanent military bases from existing there. It would also provide economic and political aid to the Iraqi government.

The bill draws heavily on discussions the three lawmakers - Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee - had with former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) and William Polk, co-authors of a new book advocating withdrawal.

Critics of an immediate withdrawal worry it would destabilize the region and allow insurgent forces more freedom to take over the vulnerable government in Baghdad.

Addressing those concerns at a news conference announcing the plan, Woolsey said, "Our leaving may cause a blip, could cause it to become slightly worse, but it will be for just a short time. I truly believe our leaving is going to calm things down."

Woolsey said the departure of U.S. forces would encourage other nations to involve themselves in rebuilding Iraq "because the stability of Iraq will directly affect the stability of their own country." She later identified Iran as one of these nations, adding that the U.S. could not avoid talking to Tehran about Iraq.

President Bush on Jan. 10 announced plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq to address the continued growing violence in Baghdad and the Al-Anbar province.

While Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress have been critical of Bush's proposed troop "surge," they have also been hesitant to call for a quick withdrawal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed an alternative to Bush's plan that would begin a phased withdrawal in four to six months. The plan has not been produced in legislative form yet.

By contrast, the Woolsey-Waters-Lee proposal would have all troops removed within six months, and it likely faces an uphill battle.

Calling the bill the "first comprehensive legislative proposal to end the occupation and provide a framework to bring stability back to Iraq and the region," Woolsey said the November election gave Democrats a mandate to bring about strategy change in Iraq.

"It's time to honor that mandate," she said. "It is now up to the Congress to catch up with the will of the American public."

Lee, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Woolsey, said "it's time to support them [the troops] in a real way, and that's by bringing them home."

The three congresswomen, who have all opposed the war in Iraq since it began in March 2003, said that apart from ending the conflict and bringing troops home, their proposal would also cost less than maintaining troops for two years.

They estimate their bill would require $56.3 billion to implement. Most of the money would go toward establishing an entitlement fund to ensure physical and mental health coverage for soldiers.

The trio said maintaining a presence in Iraq would cost $278.3 billion for two years.

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