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Pallone Praises Cindy Sheehan's Efforts to Focus Attention on Iraq War

Location: Westfield, NJ

September 12, 2005

NJ Congressman Unveils Plan To Internationalize Efforts in Stable Areas Of Iraq To Bring Some Troops Home

Westfield, N.J. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today praised Cindy Sheehan for her persistence in attempting to get answers from President Bush on his administration's war strategy in Iraq. The New Jersey congressman invited Sheehan to come to New Jersey to discuss Iraq and to share her story. Pallone and Sheehan were also joined at a news conference in Westfield by Springfield resident Fran Middleberg, whose son served in Iraq.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier killed in combat in Iraq, who has requested and thus far been denied a meeting with President Bush to discuss her opposition to the war. Last month, Sheehan spent several weeks protesting outside the president's home in Crawford, Texas.

"In August, Cindy went to Texas to speak to President Bush about the war in Iraq and ended up refocusing the American public's attention on the war," Pallone said. "As a mother who lost a son in Iraq, Cindy deserves to know if the Bush administration has a strategy for success in Iraq. I admire Cindy for not backing down, and for continuing her crusade to bring our troops home as soon as the situation on the ground in Iraq allows."

Pallone also unveiled a plan to stabilize Iraq and begin the process of bringing American troops home. Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense says 14 of the 18 Iraqi provinces have been secured by the U.S. military. The New Jersey congressman believes it is time to turn control of these 14 provinces over to either the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or United Nations that would be responsible for ensuring these areas remain secure, training Iraqi troops and working with the Iraqis on reconstruction.

"It's time the Bush administration come to the realization that the only way we will succeed in Iraq is to truly internationalize the security, training and reconstruction efforts," Pallone said. "If the Bush administration believes 14 of the 18 provinces are secure, we now have a golden opportunity to turn control of a large portion of the nation over to NATO or UN forces."

Pallone believes handing control over to an international organization in all but four provinces would allow the U.S. military to focus exclusively on the provinces not yet secure. He also believes internationalizing the reconstruction efforts will encourage other nations to begin investing in the reconstruction efforts. The U.S. government continues to spend $1 billion per week on the war in Iraq.

"Internationalizing the war will take some pressure off U.S. forces and allow the Pentagon to bring some U.S. troops home," Pallone continued. "It will also dispel the notion that the U.S. is a permanent occupying force, a theme used by the insurgents to justify their continued attacks on Americans and Iraqis."

Pallone opposed giving President Bush the authority to attack Iraq in 2002. He argued then that the president acted without exhausting diplomatic means to rid Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction, and that it was necessary to secure international support under the auspices of the U.N. or NATO before going to war. He has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration's lack of accountability over expenditures for both the Iraq War and reconstruction efforts.

"The president's conduct of the war has been largely unsuccessful and there doesn't appear to be an exit strategy," Pallone said. "I don't believe that we can stabilize Iraq and bring our troops home without the support of an international organization utilizing the NATO example in Bosnia or the U.N. example in the Gulf War."

The New Jersey congressman chose to hold the press conference in Westfield, the New Jersey town President Bush last visited to highlight his Social Security privatization plan.

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