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Republican critic of Iraq policy vows not to `starve' the war

WASHINGTON—A longtime Republican opponent of the Iraq war, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, broke ranks Thursday with Democratic Rep. John Murtha over Murtha's plan to attach conditions to war funds.

The split signals that divisions among war opponents are likely to emerge next week when Congress returns from recess. Murtha and other Democrats have said they'll look at how they might use congressional power over military regulations and funding to pressure the Bush administration to redeploy U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Murtha, D-Pa., chairs the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Last week he said he'd amend the bill funding the war so that U.S. troop deployments couldn't be extended beyond one year and so that troops would have at least one year at home between deployments and be certified as "fully combat ready" with training and equipment before being sent.

Murtha also said he'd try to prevent the military from using "stop-loss" orders to force soldiers to remain on active duty beyond the terms of their enlistments.

Murtha said those steps would effectively stop the troop increase.

"They won't be able to do the deployment," he said. "They won't have the equipment. They won't have the training."

Jones applauded Murtha's intention to require proper training and equipment, but he said he opposed any effort to "starve" the war.

"I believe that we must take great care to ensure that any effort to provide for our armed forces not be used as a proxy for resolving larger issues concerning the war in Iraq," Jones wrote in a letter to Murtha. "Any attempt to starve the war as a way of bringing it to a conclusion, rather than through a serious policy debate about the best way forward in Iraq, would be wrong."

Jones argued that until "elected officials in Washington" change the mission of the troops in Iraq, "their funding should be unfettered by appropriations strings."

Murtha didn't issue an immediate public response to Jones.

Jones was a co-sponsor of the nonbinding resolution the House of Representatives passed earlier this month that opposed President Bush's plan to send more than 21,000 additional U.S. soldiers and Marines to Iraq.

A conservative whose district includes the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, Jones voted in 2002 for the resolution that authorized the war in Iraq. Later, he concluded that pro-war administration officials had manipulated intelligence and that the war was unjustified. Jones called on Bush in 2005 to set a timetable to begin withdrawing troops by fall 2006.

Jones has personally signed more than 6,000 two-page letters to the families of all Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In his letter to Murtha, Jones said he holds accountable "those institutions and individuals who have made serious misjudgments leading up to, and during, the war in Iraq." But he added that he had assured his constituents and members of the armed forces that he wouldn't vote to cut off funding for troops in the field.

Jones easily won re-election in November to his seventh term.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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