MIAMI – American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said to a crowd of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.

Murtha was the guest speaker at a town hall meeting organized by Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, D-Miami, at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus. Meek’s mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami, was also on the panel.

War veterans, local mayors, university students and faculty packed the Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre to listen to the three panelists discuss the war in Iraq for an hour.

A former Marine and a prominent critic of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, Murtha reiterated his views that the war cannot be won militarily and needs political solutions. He said the more than 100,000 troops in Iraq should be pulled out immediately, and deployed to peripheral countries like Kuwait.

“We do not want permanent bases in Iraq,” Murtha told the audience. “We want as many Americans out of there as possible.”

Murtha also has publicly said that the shooting of 24 Iraqis in November at Haditha, a city in the Anbar province of western Iraq that has been plagued by insurgents, was wrongfully covered up.

The killings, which sparked an investigation into the deadly encounter and another into whether they were the subject of a cover-up, could undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq more than the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib in 2004, Murtha said.

“(The United States) became the target when Abu Ghraib came along,” Murtha said.

U.S. efforts to win over Iraqis were tarnished when it was revealed that U.S. military personnel had abused and humiliated people held at Abu Ghraib, a prison outside Baghdad.

Most in the crowd, like Alnoor Jamal, agreed with Murtha and the need to redeploy troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

“This town hall meeting was very interesting, but of course it was one-sided,” said Jamal, 49, of Miami. “I believe we are in a mess over there (in Iraq).”

Jamal said the United States should remove troops from Iraq, but only after they help Iraqis rebuild their communities.



(c) 2006 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): JOHN MURTHA

AP-NY-06-24-06 1951EDT


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