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US Lawmakers Debate Iraq, Prisoner Detention


There has been more intense debate in Congress about the question of how long U.S. military forces will remain in Iraq. Lawmakers also addressed the issue of the interrogation and treatment of terrorist suspects at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Debate took place as the House of Representatives considered foreign relations legislation covering the State Department and other needs over the next two years.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen proposed an amendment declaring that U.S. forces should not withdraw until it is clear that the goal of establishing a free and stable Iraq is or is about to be achieved.

"The continuing presence of U.S. and coalition forces must be determined by the achievement of concrete objectives, not by arbitrary dates on the calendar," she said.

Democrats had complained bitterly about the amendment the previous day, calling it an overtly partisan attempt by majority Republicans to reverse declining support among Americans for the war in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California amplified on that criticism, saying the amendment attempted to ignore realities about Iraq.

"Realities like the fact that the administration has no plan on how to end the war. Realities like the fact that our brave troops have become the rallying point for the insurgency. Realities like the fact that our occupation has become a recruiting tool for foreign terrorists," she said.

But Congressman Mark Green was among Republicans warning that the setting of any timetable would send the wrong message to Iraqi and U.S. soldiers, and a dangerous signal to terrorists.

"Those who support setting a deadline are pulling the rug out from democracy, and pulling a rug out from the [Iraqis] who might come forward," said Mr. Green. "Please, for the sake of our soldiers, their families and the Iraqis who are courageously battling bombs and bullets to rebuild their land, do not set a deadline."

In addition to calls by Democrats for a timetable, a proposed bipartisan House resolution, backed by two Republicans and two Democrats, calls for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq no later than October first, 2006.

Equally emotional debate occurred on the issue of the interrogation of terrorist suspects at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay.

An amendment by Republican Dana Rohrabacher sought to put Congress on record describing the capture, detention and lawful, humane interrogation of detainees there as essential to the defense of the United States and its coalition partners and the successful prosecution of the war on terrorism.

"We should be clear," she said. "The Guantanamo prison is reserved for some of the world's worst terrorists. Those there pose a grave threat to our national security. Those there were primarily captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan."

"[The language] of the amendment [says] lawful and humane interrogation, [but] we find in experience that this interrogation that has been carried out as a result of this so-called war on terrorism has often not been lawful and not been humane," Democrat Maurice Hinchey responded.

Debate on the Guantanamo amendment came in the wake of emotional exchanges in recent weeks sparked by suggestions by some lawmakers that the facility should be shut down.

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