Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Legislators say it's time to quit Iraq


State House Bureau Chief
1 hour, 11 minutes ago

The New Hampshire House today voted 214-151 to call for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

The House resolution expresses support for the troops, opposes the surge of 20,000 troops into Iraq, calls for full funding of medical services to veterans, and for diplomatic talks to calm the region.

The resolution is a symbolic victory for war opponents. It does not bind the federal government or the state to take any action.

Most of the two-hour debate was not over whether to pass a resolution, but which of two versions to adopt.

The original version sponsored by Rep. James Splaine, D-Portsmouth, which passed, was the tougher of the two.

An amended version that emerged from committee called for withdrawal “upon task completion.” Critics said the change left the withdrawal question open-ended, and could leave American troops in place for years to come.

Those who fought the resolution said New Hampshire’s legislature is not the place for a debate on a foreign war. They also argued that calling for withdrawal would be a sign of weakness in the nation’s war on terrorism.

Minority Leader Michael Whalley, R-Alton, argued against the measure, saying it will hurt troops in the field.

“We will cause their pain to be greater than it would be otherwise,” he said.

“And for one brief moment we will give satisfaction to the enemy and they will feel one step closer to having beaten us.”

Many who spoke are veterans of the armed forces, but they were on opposing sides of the debate.

“We should be worried about what going on with criminals in our state, not with what’s going on in Iraq,” Rep. Alfred Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said. “We need to finish what we started.” A call for withdrawal “is a black eye for our state,” the retired Marine said.

Rep. Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, a U.S. Navy veteran, said the war is a proper subject for the Legislature.

“It is appropriate that it be discussed here, because it is the town square of New Hampshire. We should debate this,” he said.

Rep. David Smith, D-Nashua, said the resolution only hurts service members in Iraq and their families.

“If you don’t’ like war in Iraq, what we do here won’t make a difference over there, but it might make a difference to these young men and women down the road.

“I suggest if you want to send a message, contact your congressman.”

Rep. Robert Perry, D-Strafford, said that members of the armed forces are dying at a rapid rate with no end in sight.

He said 3,103 have died in the war, “24 more than when I spoke here in this hall a week ago."

Splaine said the debate was not about disrespecting those serving in Iraq.

“This is about the brave men and women who are in the armed services and how we can use our smarts in this country to fight the war on terrorism in ways that make sense. We need to find a way to end this war,” he said.

Rep. Peter Schmidt, D-Dover, also a retired Marine, said he supports the troops in the field, “but this is also a very incompetently waged war because ‘the Decider’ got it wrong.”

Rep. Eleanor Kjellman, D-Henniker, an Air Force veteran, mother of an Iraq Warveteran, said, “It is our duty to question the wisdom of this war and the broadening of it. It is our duty to ask when it will end.”

After the roll call was taken, a line of Republicans registered formal protests of the vote.

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