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White House Denounces Democratic Congressman's Call for Iraq Withdrawal

The White House says it is baffling that Congressman John Murtha is calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Response came from South Korea, where President Bush is attending a Pacific region economic summit.

Democratic Congressman John Murtha has been one of the president's biggest opposition supporters of the war in Iraq. So the White House was particularly stung when the Korean and Vietnam War veteran called for an immediate withdrawal of troops.

In a written statement, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan acknowledged that Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran with a record of supporting a strong America. So he says it is baffling that the Pennsylvania lawmaker is now endorsing the policies of filmmaker Michael Moore and what Mr. McClellan calls the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.

On the eve of a historic democratic election in Iraq, the White House spokesman said it is not the time to surrender to terrorists. After seeing Congressman Murtha's statement, Mr. McClellan says the Bush Administration remains baffled as nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer.

Congressman Murtha has close ties to many top Pentagon officials as the senior Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee. In emotional remarks to reporters in Washington, the Congressman said it is time to bring U.S. troops home. America's military has accomplished its mission, he said, and its duty is done.

Mr. Murtha said U.S. troops have become a catalyst for violence as the primary targets of insurgents in Iraq who are united against American forces. The war is not going as advertised, he said, calling it a flawed policy wrapped in illusion.

The White House denunciation is particularly sharp as it links Congressman Murtha to filmmaker Moore whose movie Fahrenheit 9/11 skewered the Bush Administration's justification for going to war. Mr. Moore said releasing his movie before the 2004 election was meant in part to deny President Bush a second term.

The White House is engaged in a broad campaign to fend off criticism of the president's use of intelligence in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion. Vice President Dick Cheney this week said Democrats are being dishonest and reprehensible in alleging that the president purposefully mislead the nation to war.

Responding to the vice president, whose student deferments kept him from fighting in Vietnam, Congressman Murtha said sarcastically that he likes guys who have never been there criticizing those who have and then not liking to hear suggestions about what the Congressman says needs to be done.