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Iraqis, US Bishops, Walter Cronkite Call for US Withdrawal


January 17, 2006
Act for Change & LA Times & Associated Press

In a remarkable concensus, leaders of Iraq's new government, a coalition of US Bishops and former CBS News icon Walter Cronkite have all called for the US to end its occupation and withdrwal from Iraq. At the Arab League Conference, Iraq's representatives declared that opposition forces in Iraq have a "legitimate right" to oppose the US occupation.

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Iraq's New Government Calls for US Withdrawal; Endorses Fight against Occupation

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It's rare that all the diverse factions in Iraq's new government can agree on something. But recently, at the Arab League conference in Cairo, they spoke with one voice — they want a timetable for US troops to leave Iraq. They also, shockingly, agreed that opposition forces in Iraq have a "legitimate right" to oppose the US occupation and fight American troops, so long as civilians are not targeted.

When even those leaders the US is supporting have agreed that attacks on US forces are legitimate, it's time for us to get our troops out of there.

If you aren't willing to listen to the growing majority of Americans who favor withdrawal from Iraq, maybe you should listen to the leaders of Iraq's diverse factions -- especially in a rare instance when they speak authoritatively and with a unified voice.

It is time to begin bringing the troops home.

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Bishops Urge US to Transition Out of Iraq
Larry B. Stammer / Los Angeles Times

(January 13, 2006) — Declaring that the United States was at a crossroads in Iraq, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Thursday the time had come to withdraw U.S. troops as fast as responsibly possible and to hand control of the country to Iraqis.

"Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner than later," said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., speaking for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wenski, chairman of the bishops Committee on International Policy, said recent statements by the Bush administration that troop levels would be reduced were not enough. He said the US must send an unmistakable signal that the goal was not to occupy Iraq "for an indeterminate period," but to help Iraqis assume full control of their government.

The eight-page statement, in the works for months and delivered to the White House and members of Congress on Thursday, was candid in its assessment of the war, which U.S. bishops and the late pope, John Paul II, had opposed from the start.

It underscored failures but also highlighted successes in the nearly three years since the US-led invasion. Weapons of mass destruction were not found; more than 2,200 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed; U.S.-held prisoners were tortured and mistreated; and violence was continuing in the streets.

The bishops said they remained "highly skeptical" of Bush's doctrine of "preventive war." But they also saw signs of hope, including the Iraqi elections.

"Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to 'cut and run' versus 'stay the course,' " Wenski wrote, speaking for the bishops conference.

In an interview Thursday, Wenski said the bishops purposely decided to avoid the word "withdrawal" in favor of "transition" to avoid the impression that bishops were advocating that the US "cut and run."

"No matter what the debate might have been about going into Iraq, now that we are there, our presence gives us a whole set of new moral obligations that we have to try to fulfill in a responsible way," Wenski said.

"Our nation is at a crossroads in Iraq," the statement said. "We must resist a pessimism that might move our nation to abandon the moral responsibilities it accepted in using force, and might tempt us to withdraw prematurely from Iraq without regard for moral and human consequences.

"We must [also] reject an optimism that fails to acknowledge clearly past mistakes, failed intelligence, and inadequate planning related to Iraq, and minimizes the serious challenges and human costs that lie ahead," it said.

John Carr, a senior staffer on the Catholic bishops committee, said the statement was intended to set the stage for what bishops hoped would be a vigorous but civil discussion on what the US must do next.

"Candidly, there seems to be more talk on Sunday morning TV talk shows than there is in the Congress or within the Bush administration, at least in the public sense," Carr said. "The great temptation is to try to justify past policies instead of acknowledging where we are and what we need to do."

On Thursday, Catholic bishops forcefully restated their abhorrence to torture and said the US must live up to constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and abide by international accords outlawing torture.

Bishops were careful not to criticize U.S. troops. By raising "grave moral questions" about the decision to invade Iraq, bishops said they were not questioning "the moral integrity of those serving in the military."

Bishops also called for religious freedoms in Iraq, including tolerance for non-Muslims, and the protection of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers.

They said that as the US pursued the war on terrorism and the rebuilding of Iraq, it should not forget pressing concerns at home and abroad, particularly caring for the poor.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times


Cronkite: Time for US to Leave Iraq
David Bauder / Associated Press

PASADENA, Califoria (January 16, 2006) — Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he'd say the same thing today about Iraq.

"It's my belief that we should get out now," Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters.

Now 89, the television journalist once known as "the most trusted man in America" has been off the CBS Evening News for nearly a quarter- century. He's still a CBS News employee, although he does little for them.

Cronkite said one of his proudest moments came at the end of a 1968 documentary he made following a visit to Vietnam during the Tet offensive. Urged by his boss to briefly set aside his objectivity to give his view of the situation, Cronkite said the war was unwinnable and that the US should exit.

Then-President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told a White House aide after that, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

The best time to have made a similar statement about Iraq came after Hurricane Katrina, he said.

"We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States," he said. "Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home."

Iraqis should have been told that "our hearts are with you" and that the United States would do all it could to rebuild their country, he said.

"I think we could have been able to retire with honor," he said. "In fact, I think we can retire with honor anyway."

Cronkite has spoken out against the Iraq war in the past, saying in 2004 that Americans weren't any safer because of the invasion.

Cronkite, who is hard of hearing and walks haltingly, jokingly said that "I'm standing by if they want me" to anchor the "CBS Evening News." CBS is still searching for a permanent successor to Dan Rather, who replaced Cronkite in March 1981.

"Twenty-four hours after I told CBS News that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday I was already regretting it and I've regretted it every day since," he said. "It's too good a job for me to have given it up the way that I did."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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