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Meanwhile, back in the war capital

Congress fiddles while Iraq burns

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Is there an anti-war movement in Congress? Only if you're talking about the war on Social Security. As far as Iraq is concerned, the Republicans who control the Senate and House are proceeding to pass President Bush's $82 billion "emergency" appropriations bill, which will bring the tab for the war there (the bill also includes Afghanistan and some other war-on-terror stuff) to more than $200 billion in two years.

Not incidentally, the only thing House Republicans even thought about objecting to was the $600 million in the bill for a new U.S. embassy in Baghdad--which will be the biggest in the world. Think we're leaving any time soon?

On the Democratic side, just 26 other Democrats signed California Rep. Lynn Woolsey's Jan. 12 letter to the White House urging the president "to take immediate steps to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq" or co-sponsored her congressional resolution on the same subject.

None were from North Carolina.

Even Rep. David Price (D-Chapel Hill), who voted against the war and continues to think it was a terrible mistake, says, "I do not agree with the idea of setting a date certain for withdrawal."

Price thinks the U.S. should be transferring authority to the Iraqis as fast as possible and trying to bring in "other countries and international organizations" to help. But he sees "a very real danger" of Iraq disintegrating into chaos or tyranny if we leave now, and he thinks the Shiite majority isn't ready to govern--and that they agree.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-Raleigh), who wasn't in Congress when the war vote occurred but came out against it at the time of the invasion, agrees with Price that "chaos and violence along religious and ethnic divisions" would almost certainly follow a U.S. pullout now.

"Establishing a functional, democratic government in Iraq will require a significant commitment of American troops and funds, and it will take time," Miller says to constituents who ask his position. It's a "bitter pill to swallow," he adds. "Ultimately, however, I am more willing to [pay it] than I am to abandon Iraq to become Afghanistan under the Taliban."

Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington), who supported the war and whose district includes some of Raleigh and southern Wake County, did not return our calls or e-mail.

Neither Price nor Miller plans to attend the protest in Fayetteville. Organizers say Woolsey did contact them and is expected to attend--the only member of Congress so far to do so.

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