By STEVE HARTSOE, Associated Press Writer
Congressman Walter Jones said Thursday he has about 50 co-sponsors on a joint resolution that calls on President Bush to announce by year's end a plan for withdrawal from Iraq.
The resolution — introduced in June by Jones, another Republican and two Democrats — calls on the president to begin executing the withdrawal by Oct. 1, 2006. It does not set an end date.
"I think that people have finally understood what we're doing," Jones said after a meeting at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, noting that people have mistakenly thought the resolution was binding.
The initial resolution sponsors are Ron Paul, R-Texas, who voted against the war, and two Democrats who have opposed it, Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii. Jones said the new supporters include five Republicans.
It is the first such resolution put forth by lawmakers from both parties, although an overwhelming number of Democrats and six House Republicans voted in 2002 against sending troops to Iraq.
Jones said the reason for going to war — Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction — has been proven false.
"If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have supported the resolution," said Jones, who had coined the term "freedom fries" as a show of support for the war in Iraq.
He said that if numbers are accurate that between 75,000 and 100,000 Iraqis have been trained as soldiers and police, then it's approaching time for the country to start defending itself.
Jones said he has sent letters to families of fallen troops. He's also met with family members of troops killed in Iraq, including with Cindy Sheehan, the California woman who was sitting outside President Bush's ranch in Texas to protest the war. Sheehan left the ranch Thursday because her mother suffered a stroke.
He said the meeting about six weeks ago, which included other families who had lost loved ones, was emotional, and that Sheehan didn't say anything about going to Texas.
"You know, that's her right. I think anybody that's lost a loved one, who feels that we should be there long or not be there long, they should have that right to express it," Jones said.