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Woolsey Renews Push for Exit Strategy in Iraq

In her latest attempt to pressure the Bush administration to revise its Iraqi policies, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), is planning to bring several national security experts before a hearing next week to discuss strategies to conclude the conflict.

Woolsey, co-chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Caucus, is leading a bloc of House Democrats in calling on the White House to conclude the United States’ role in the Iraq conflict. She is also helping to lead a group of about 50 Members who recently formed the Out of Iraq Caucus.

The unofficial Sept. 15 hearing, to which both Democrats and Republicans have been invited, will focus on ways to end the war and plans for transferring power back to the Iraqi people, Woolsey said.

“I have called on the president to develop a plan to bring the troops home from Iraq, and of course he’s not doing that. This is a bipartisan hearing to develop a plan for an orderly end to the war and start the process of transferring the power back to the Iraqi people,” Woolsey said Friday.

“Hearings are essential because the Bush administration has failed to make a plan to end the war and the Republican leadership has failed to hold hearings,” she continued. “We must start this discussion.”

Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a Vietnam veteran, retired Gen. Joseph Hoar, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, and Tom Hayden, a former California legislator and civil rights activist who has been a leading voice against the Iraq war, are among the speakers.

Also expected to participate are Ken Katzman, a Middle East analyst at the Congressional Research Service, David Mack, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and Anas Shallal, founder of Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives.

Some 25 Democratic Members are expected to attend the Sept. 15 session, according to Woolsey’s office. Woolsey also said several Republican Members, including Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.), have indicated they will participate for at least a portion of the hearing.

The liberal wing of the Democratic Caucus has been the most vocal corner of Congress in pushing for an end to the Iraqi conflict and a plan to bring the U.S. forces home. But some Republicans have been heard on the subject as well. Jones has joined Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) in offering a bill calling for a time line for the troop withdrawal.

Democratic leaders have steered clear of calling for an immediate return of the U.S. forces. Rather, those leaders, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have pressed President Bush to come up with a “strategy for success” in the region.

To this point, President Bush has paid little heed to his Congressional critics and continues to insist the country must stay on its current path in Iraq. He said last month that withdrawing the troops now would be a “mistake” and would “weaken the United States.”

His position remained unchanged throughout August as media attention focused on Cindy Sheehan and her protest of the war outside Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch. Sheehan’s son served in the U.S. Army and died in the conflict.

Woolsey said Members cannot sit on the sidelines, adding that she hopes her hearing will start the process of developing sound strategies to end the war.

“We just have to keep pushing,” she said. “To stand around and wait without insisting on it isn’t good enough. We have to be heard. … We just have to keep pushing.”

Woolsey’s hearing falls on the same day as a rally outside the White House sponsored by several anti-war, and liberal-minded groups. Those organizations, led by Progressive Democrats of America, are also putting together a petition to call on Congress for an exit strategy to the conflict.

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