Could it be that at long last we finally have a voice of reason and responsibility when it comes the war in Iraq?

John Murtha, a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania finally seemed to say what has been on many peoples minds over the past year or so with regards to the “situation” in Iraq. He basically called to attention that “no progress” was being made and that the situation was militarily impossible to win as long as we are being viewed as occupiers by the general Iraqi populace. Basically, Mr. Murtha implored the Bush Administration to start bringing the troops home and to let the Iraqi’s handle their own business.

Now, had these statements come from some elite liberal snob from the far left wing of the Democratic Party they might have been disregarded but Mr. Murtha has a long and distinguished record of being a “hawkish” Democrat with close ties to the Pentagon and voted in support of the war. He now thinks his vote was a mistake and rather than retreat behind the spin or hide behind rhetoric, has publicly said so.

Humble Origins

Mr. Murtha grew up in rural Pennsylvania and as a kid worked delivering newspapers and in a gas station. After graduating from high school he enrolled in Washington and Jefferson but dropped out in 1952 in order to join the United States Marine Corps and to fight in the Korean War. Eventually, he rose through the ranks and became a drill instructor at Parris Island South Carolina. During his stint as a DI his superiors took notice of his talent and nominated him for Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia.

After his tour of active duty was over Mr. Murtha was discharged but he remained in the Marine Corp Reserve. In 1966 he decided to go back to active status and volunteered for service in Vietnam. While he was there he received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts along with a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After being sent home from Vietnam he remained active in the Reserves until he retired as a full bird colonel and was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

After that he opened his own business and decided to take advantage of the benefits then offered under the GI Bill and went back to college. He eventually graduated from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics.

A Life in Politics

Running as a Democrat, Murtha was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on his first try for office way back in 1968. In 1974 he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives and won. This victory was noteworthy for two things.

It made Mr. Murtha the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress and it also unseated the Republicans who had that seat for the previous 24 years. He hasn’t lost an election since.

Out of the frying pan

Although originally a suppporter of the war,(he voted for it), Mr. Murtha seems to have changed his views. With the pre-war intelligence being questioned almost daily and the number of attacks on American troops rising and the casualties mounting Mr. Murtha has called upon the President to articulate a plan or some kind of exit strategy to bring them home. He offered up the following resolution in order to articulate his stance.

Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft; Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan; Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom; Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency, Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq; Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified; Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action; Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That: Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date. Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region. Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

Into the fire

Naturally such strong comments were bound to ruffle some feathers from the leaders of both parties. What follows is a list of reactions from both Republicans and Democrats alike with regards to Mr. Murtha’s recent commentary and proposal.

Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellen

”it is "baffling that Murtha is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.

Democratic Senator and former Presidential Candidate John Kerry

"I must repectfully disagree with Mr. Murtha's comments."

Vice President Dick Cheney

”The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone - but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.

After which Mr. Murtha had this to say with regards to Mr. Cheney.

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done,"

Mr. Murtha also had this to say…

"I did not introduce this as a partisan resolution, I go by Arlington Cemetery every day. And the vice president, he criticizes Democrats? Let me tell you, those grave stones don't say Democrat or Republican, they say American."

Who are you calling a coward?

Perhaps the most embarrassing comments came from a rookie Republican Congresswoman by the name of Jean Schmidt from Ohio. In only her 75th day in the House she managed to start a firestorm when she allegedly received a call from one her state representatives by the name of Danny Bubp who wanted to deliver a "message" to Mr. Murtha. Mr Bubp, also a former Marine urged her that the Administration should “stay the course” and that “Cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

In my minds eye there are two problems with that statement. Fist of all, it’s quite apparent that Ms. Schmidt didn’t know that Mr. Murtha was a decorated Marine Corp veteran of the Vietnam War and had worked closely with both Republicans and Democrats and the Pentagon during his entire time in Congress.

Secondly, the former Marine she is quoting spent his time in the Marines behind the desk as a lawyer and has no combat experience whatsoever.

She later asked that her comments be stricken from the record and was granted her request.

Final Thoughts

I watched Mr. Murtha on Meet the Press yesterday and was impressed by his both his candor and his ability to be forthright. He seemed like an honest guy that I’d like to have a few beers with.

But, is it time to pull out?

I don’t know. I’m no military strategist or expert but the quagmire that we leave behind by pulling out immediately might result in full scale civil war. Who knows what kind of crapshoot that would turn out to be?

These days, I think that I’m in the mainstream with most Americans. I’m getting tired of hearing of the words “stay the course” and I just want to know where the course is headed.


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