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US Rep Murtha: Time To Close Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp January 12, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Military News, Politics, US News.

WASHINGTON (AP)–A veteran congressman who more than a year ago shocked his colleagues by demanding that President George W. Bush set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq said Friday it was time to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terror suspects.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., suggested that fellow Democrats, now the majority in both chambers of Congress, might decide to force the closure by eliminating funding for the prison. The facility, at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, has drawn widespread international condemnation, including from some U.S. allies.

“We have to close the prison at Guantanamo,” said Murtha, who is now in his 17th term in the House of Representatives and who heads the House subcommittee that controls the Defense Department’s budget. He said Democrats would decide later whether to pursue the idea.

The Bush administration has said the camp is still needed. It currently holds almost 400 detainees suspected of links to the al-Qaida network or the Taliban militia, which formerly ruled Afghanistan. Many have been held for years without formal charges.

Murtha is a retired Marine colonel, twice-wounded and decorated for valor during the Vietnam War. He has developed a reputation during his career as conservative Democrat who is among the House members most favorable toward the military.

Thus even though others have demanded closure of the prison, such a position by Murtha would be especially meaningful. More significantly, as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, he has extraordinary power regarding military spending.

His November 2005 comments that Bush’s strategy for the Iraq war was “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion” sparked a heated debate among Americans and U.S. lawmakers. He demanded a deadline for withdrawal – the first from such a high-ranking lawmaker.


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