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Newsday - King's Iraq War Stance Differs From LI Colleagues

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Newsday - King's Iraq War Stance Differs From LI Colleagues

The district that Rep. Peter King represents in Congress sits right next to that of fellow congressman Steve Israel.

But with national polls showing an increasingly war-weary public and a battery of recent reports indicating continuing trouble with the American presence in Iraq, King is politically worlds away from Israel and the rest of the local delegation.

Yesterday, King leaned on the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus to explain why he remains the lone holdout in his support for keeping troops on the battlefield. "If nothing was happening on the ground, then I could support a timetable for withdrawal," said the Seaford Republican, who plans to leave today for Iraq and Afghanistan on a weeklong fact-finding tour. "But the fact that real progress is being made, I don't think we should tip our hands to the enemy as to what our dates are."
In testimony that stretched through the afternoon, Petraeus told lawmakers that military progress will allow the United States to reduce its troop level by next summer to the point it was before Bush ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq last spring.

Critics have said Petraeus buffed his assessment to accommodate Bush, who has rejected calls from Democrats and Republicans to find a speedy end to the war.

But King said he trusted the general's judgment, and believes that the country is making measurable progress toward achieving a stable Iraq. King made the assertion in Manhattan, more than an hour before Petraeus began his testimony and said he based his opinion on advance reports of Petraeus' appearance.

The testimony did little to persuade King's colleagues.

Rep. Timothy Bishop, (D-Southampton), said Petraeus' testimony appeared to be influenced by politics. "I think we are being presented with statistics that buttress a particular point of view," he said. "The violence remains unacceptably high, the number of civilian deaths continues at levels that are unacceptably high."

Israel, interviewed yesterday, said he once stood with King. "I supported this war early on - I saw it the same way Peter King did," he said. "But four years of excuses, of requests for more money, for more time, four years after we were told this would be a cakewalk, suggests to me the strategy is not working."


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