11/18/2005

AP Wire | 11/18/2005 | District reacts to Murtha's Iraq withdrawal demand

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Candy man Bill Felix couldn't have been more surprised when U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., called for American troops to be pulled from Iraq as soon as possible.

"Actually, I was stunned," Felix said Friday from behind the counter where he has sold bulk sweets for decades in Johnstown, Murtha's home 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. "But then I said to myself, the man must know something because he's up close to it."

Best known for three catastrophic floods (in 1889, 1936 and 1977), Johnstown is depressed like many other former steel towns in Murtha's district, which zigs and zags through parts of nine southwestern Pennsylvania counties.

The ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Murtha has delivered millions of dollars in defense contracts since he was elected to Congress in 1974 and has reaped the benefits at the ballot box. Murtha defeated his 2002 challenger with 74 percent of the vote and ran unopposed last year.

Felix, a Republican who regularly votes for Murtha, said he favored the Persian Gulf War begun by President Bush's father. But he wonders about the wisdom of this war.

"We always get into things that we don't know enough about," said Felix, who said he was in his 60s. "Certain people have hated each other for 2,000 years, and 2,000 years from now if there's any of them living, and any of us living, they'll still hate each other."

On Thursday, Murtha choked back tears in calling for an end to military action.

"Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk," Murtha said. "It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."

"He was speaking what a lot of Americans have on their minds," said Gerry Creegan, 52, a secretary who commutes to Johnstown from Somerset.

George Hand, 45, eating a snack in a downtown park, said Murtha's remarks couldn't have come soon enough.

AP Wire | 11/18/2005 | District reacts to Murtha's Iraq withdrawal demand

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