Thursday, November 17, 2005

“It Is Time to Bring Them Home”

[[W A R]] * It’s one thing for somebody like U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), an unabashed liberal who voted against giving George W. Bush the power to make war on a recalcitrant Iraq back in 2003, to demand the setting of a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saddam Hussein’s homeland, as he did in August of this year. But it is quite another to hear 16-term Representative John Murtha Jr.--a conservative, “hawkish” Democrat from Pennsylvania, and the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress--define the Iraq conflict as “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion” and call for the “immediate redeployment of U.S. forces” to safer areas of the world.

To quote the 73-year-old former Marine, a top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee:

The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region. ...

Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. ...

I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won ‘militarily.’ I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq. ...

This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home.

(Video of Murtha’s speech is available here.)

By siding with others on Capitol Hill who’ve called for immediate or “date-certain” troop withdrawals from Iraq, Murtha, who was among the most decisive Democratic proponents of this war in the U.S. House, and whose authority on military issues is rarely questioned, may well help wavering Dems and minority moderate Republicans to make their own voices heard in today’s spreading antiwar debate. As National Review Online’s Rod Dreher opined this morning: “If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to ... then the president is in big trouble. I’m sure there’s going to be an anti-Murtha pile-on in the conservative blogosphere, but from where I sit, conservatives would be fools not to take this man seriously.”

Which is undoubtedly why some anonymous sources at the Pentagon, as well as House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), have already begun attacking the Pennsylvania congressman (see here and here).

THE WHEELS COME OFF BUSH’S BANDWAGON: “This will be remembered as the week when President Bush lost control over the Iraq war debate,” writes columnist E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. “His administration has perhaps six months to get things right. If the situation in Iraq fails to improve significantly, public pressure for withdrawal will become irresistible.” Read on.

THE IRAQ SYNDROME: “American troops have been sent into harm’s way many times since 1945, but in only three cases--Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq--have they been drawn into sustained ground combat and suffered more than 300 deaths in action,” writes John Mueller, a professor of Political Science at Ohio State University, in Foreign Affairs magazine. “American public opinion became a key factor in all three wars, and in each one there has been a simple association: as casualties mount, support decreases. Broad enthusiasm at the outset invariably erodes. The only thing remarkable about the current war in Iraq is how precipitously American public support has dropped off. Casualty for casualty, support has declined far more quickly than it did during either the Korean War or the Vietnam War. And if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline.” Read on.

CONGRESS SHOULD CENSURE BUSH. “President Bush used the occasion of Veteran’s Day to attack critics of the Iraq war as unpatriotic. In the face of the overwhelming evidence that the war was started on false premises, the president has the audacity to state that anyone who raises questions about the origins of the war are hurting our soldiers and giving aid and comfort to our enemies. The president makes no sense and has no shame,” argues Martin Halpern, a history professor at Arkansas’ Henderson State University. Read on.

READ MORE:Bush’s Betrayal of History,” by Sidney Blumenthal (Salon); “Pro-Defense Democrat Calls for Immediate Troop Withdrawal,” by William Branigin (The Washington Post); “Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout,” by Liz Sidoti (AP); “Decorated Veteran Murtha Versus GOP Chickenhawks,” by Bob Geiger (Yellow Dog Blog); “On the Losing Side of the Divide,” by Tim Grieve (Salon); “It’s Fighting Words,” by Stephen Elliott (The Huffington Post); “Bush Risks Alientating GOP on War,” by Tom Raum (AP); “Bill Clinton Calls Iraq ‘Big Mistake,’” by Lara Sukhtian (AP); “Veteran Lawmakers Allied Against Abuse,” by Liz Sidoti (AP); “The Senators’ Rebellion,” by Justin Raimondo (

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