By Tom Brune
Democratic lawmakers representing Long Island in Congress said Friday that they're glad President Barack Obama is ending the war in Iraq, and added that America now must take care of returning troops and families of those who died over there.
Yet Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the Island's lone Republican in the House, said he hopes the U.S. mission in Iraq isn't undone by Obama "pulling troops out too quickly" instead of keeping a stabilizing force of 30,000.
Obama declared the war in Iraq over Friday, keeping a campaign promise and prompting Republican criticism.
All five House members from Long Island and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) voted for the Iraq War resolution in 2002. But the Democrats later criticized the war.
"We've asked an incredible amount of our service members and their families," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills). "It's time for our troops to come home from Iraq and for us to be vigilant to threats, wherever they may emerge."
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) expressed relief.
"I have been waiting nearly nine years to hear the words 'America's war in Iraq is over' and for the words 'Mission Accomplished' to have real meaning," Bishop said.
"Unfortunately, it will never be over for the 4,400 families who lost a loved one, or the tens of thousands of wounded veterans."
The drawdown will free up money, Schumer said. "It's far more important to spend our dollars building up America than building up Iraq," he said.
Still, King said he worries about the troops' safety from attacks as they leave in the weeks ahead, a concern Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) shared.
"The president isn't just doing it to keep his word," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights). The State Department and other agencies, not the military, are handling key issues in Iraq, such as commerce and the Iran situation.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) urged Obama to end the other U.S. war: "It is time to shift course in Afghanistan to a counterterrorism mission with an aggressive drawdown of combat troops."