Ex-lawmakers push for a retreat on Iraq


WASHINGTON - A group representing 74 former members of Congress urged the Bush administration yesterday to "pull back from the brink of war" with Iraq and give United Nations inspectors "a chance to continue their work."

The group of mostly Democrats spoke out as anti-war demonstrations were being planned today and tomorrow in Washington and around the world.

"We fear for the innocent citizens of Iraq who will be killed by our bombs, and for the families in the United States who will receive body bags with the remains of their sons and daughters, if our troops are ordered to invade Iraq," they wrote.

Members of the group said their status as former lawmakers allowed them to voice their concerns without fear of political repercussions. Leading the charge were former Maine Rep. Thomas H. Andrews, who is the national director of the grass-roots coalition Win Without War, and former Pennsylvania Rep. Robert W. Edgar, who is general secretary of the National Council of Churches, a body of Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox Christian denominations.

Although some members said they might support a U.S.-led attack if it is waged with the support of the U.N. Security Council, the group said a war would be longer, deadlier and costlier than the administration is making it out to be.

"Even if an invasion of Iraq is successful in military terms, the aftermath is fraught with peril and unexpected consequences," the statement read. "Conflict may spread in the region. U.S. military personnel will have to remain in Iraq, perhaps for years. The United Nations would likely be weakened. And the United States would almost certainly emerge with a tarnished reputation as a world leader."

The White House had not received a copy of the statement, spokesman Scott McClellan said. "The United States Congress has already spoken in a very strong and bipartisan way to authorize the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein," he said. "There is nothing more that the president would like than to see a peaceful resolution."

Eight former House members from California signed the statement, the largest number from any state. They were Anthony C. Beilenson, John Burton, Ronald Brooks Cameron, Don Edwards, Richard H. Lehman, Thomas M. Rees, Jerome Waldie and Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey Jr.

McCloskey was one of four Republicans who signed the statement; the others were Paul Findley of Illinois, Charles Whalen of Ohio and John Buchanan Jr. of Alabama.

Aparna Kumar is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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