Mass. delegation hails confirmation of US pullout from Iraq as Brown urges caution

WASHINGTON – The White House announcement confirming an end-of-the-year pullout of all troops from Iraq was roundly applauded by critics of the war among the Bay State’s congressional delegation, but the sentiment was hardly universal.

Senator Scott Brown, the lone Republican in the 12-member Massachusetts congressional delegation, said he remained concerned that a “rush to the exits will create an irreplaceable void and put at risk the gains made by our troops and Iraqi military partners.

“I’m skeptical of any withdrawal plan that is based upon timelines without an appreciation for the reality on the ground,’’ the senator, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

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Brown’s view was not shared by some other members of the delegation, who were among the fiercest voices against the war in Iraq.

“We shouldn’t have been there in the first place,’’ said Representative Barney Frank, an early and outspoken opponent of the war.

“I’m very happy,’’ he said, adding “The next step is Afghanistan.’’

Under President George W. Bush, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Since the war began, 4,479 U.S. personnel have died – including 77 from Massachusetts, according to iCasualties.org.

The pullback announced today confirms a commitment made by Bush before leaving office and fulfills a pledge made by Obama when he was seeking the presidency.

Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said he welcomed the pullout from Iraq and also urged the Obama administration to “accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, so that we can put these misadventures behind us once and for all.

“The war in Iraq has cost us dearly – in lost lives, lost billions and lost standing in the world. It is past time to bring our brave troops home to their families – where they belong,’’ McGovern said. “They deserved – but rarely got – a policy from their government that was worthy of their sacrifice.’’

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Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the troop withdrawal doesn’t mean the United States is turning its back on Iraq.

“We are creating a new partnership that shifts from a clear military focus to a new relationship that is more expansive, hinging on increased diplomatic, economic and cultural relations,’’ he said. “At the same time, we are committed to our security relationship with Iraq.’’

Kerry added: “These moves appropriately reflect the changes on the ground. American troops in Iraq will be coming home, having served with honor and enormous skill.’’

In her first bid for Congress in 2007, Representative Niki Tsongas ran on a platform that included the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. She said the first bill she filed called on Iraq to assume greater responsibility for its security and sought a responsible timetable for US troops to leave.

“I believe that the ultimate adoption of a timetable by former President Bush and its subsequent execution by President Obama was the result of efforts like these in Congress that were backed by the voices of the millions of Americans who demanded an end to this war,’’ said Tsongas, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman Edward J. Markey, the senior member of the Massachusetts delegation, praised President Obama for delivering on his pledge to the American people, while hailing the service of the country’s troops. “They fought bravely, under difficult circumstances, and they deserve the permanent thanks of the American people as they now return home to their families and their loved ones.’’

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Markey also used the announcement to urge passage of the Obama administration’s efforts to create jobs.

“The greatest thanks we can now give our heroes and their families is to pass the Obama job creation plan so those who sacrificed so much overseas get the help they’ve earned finding good jobs here at home,’’ Markey said.

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