U.S Representative John P. Murtha (D/PA) made several debatable assertions in a speech today, calling for the immediate "redeployment" of American troops in Iraq (the speech in its entirety can be found here
The gist of his speech can be found in his opening and closing paragraphs:
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 can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
....Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME. (emphasis his)
He gives many reasons for his conclusions and I encourage you to read them. Unfortunately, his reasons are based far more on public emotion and partisan political aspirations than on any objective reality...especially in Iraq or among our US military.
Rep. Murtha is a veteran with 37 years service in the US Marine Corps. He is to be commended and respected for his service.
His military service does not, however, categorically give his opinions on US military involvement in Iraq any more weight those of anyone else who is in elected or appointed office with authority over US foreign policy and defense.
The point he makes may be worthy of debate but the evidence he musters in support of that point is shaky at it best and dead wrong at its worst.
For example, he states,
....the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.
Now no one is going to argue that the US intelligence on pre-war Iraq was anything but a total failure. It is wrong, however, to say that, "It (was) not a world intelligence failure." US intelligence was gathered from many allied sources including Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and many other intelligence agencies. All came to similar conclusions. Even the United Nations was convinced that the intelligence was accurate and did not dispute it.
Murtha is also incorrect in his charge that the intelligence was "misused." The Senate Intelligence Committee saw the same intelligence that the White House saw and came to the same conclusions about its significance. This has been affirmed in several reports, including a bi-partisan investigation by the US Senate. There has been no evidence of any kind that the Bush Administration either pressured the intelligence communities to skew their data or that they White House in any way twisted or excluded intelligence that did not support some "predetermined" conclusion.
Murtha continues to comment on the morale of US troops, especially those he has personally spoken with at Bethesda and Walter Reed Hospitals in the Washington DC area:
...what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.
I have no doubt, and no sane person would deny, that these are all concerns that eat away at the morale of our troops.
What Murtha conveniently leaves out, however, is the one thing that overwhelmingly frustrates, outrages and demoralizes our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And what is that? The anti-war bias of the mainstream media and the non-stop criticism of the President, the conduct of the war and of the soldiers who are serving their country with such honor and distinction by both the anti-war fringe and by the leadership of the Democratic Party....including Senators Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Dennis Kucinich, John Kerry and.....John Murtha.
If our troops are demoralized, it is because of the sort of speech that John Murtha gave yesterday...and the news coverage that it generated. Murtha might have served honorably in the Marines but I doubt that he could be elected "Dog Catcher" by any active Marine unit in Iraq, Afghanistan or on American soil.
In Vietnam, where Murtha served, the soldiers were the disillusioned ones who saw no point to what they were being asked to do. In Iraq and Afghanistan, ironically, it is the troops on the ground (volunteers soldiers to boot) that see the point about what they are doing, support what they are being asked to do and have frequently re-upped their service with the full knowledge that they will be required to return to Iraq or Afghanistan for second and third tours of duty.
No soldier wants war. No soldier likes war. No soldier will freely choose to fight a war that they believe to be "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." But that is exactly what members of the US armed forces are doing. Murtha's point is refuted by the actions of the very soldiers he claims to represent.
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.
First of all, what does he mean by, "Our military has accomplished its mission?" The Democrats have been ranting over and over again saying either that there was not legitimate mission in Iraq to begin with ("Bush lied. People died.") or that the President has never given a clear explaination of how we would know the mission was completed even if we had completed it!
Amazingly, Murtha seems to know what no other Democrat has dared even say exists: An actual goal for our invasion of Iraq.
Murtha, of course, doesn't believe there is one, either. But he does show his creativity in making one up out of thin air.....a purpose and goal that just happens, by coincidence, to support his preconceived notion that we need to get our troops out of Iraq now.
He reminds me of those good-old-days of Vietnam when critics of the war said, "Why don't we just declare "victory" and bring everybody home?" In essence, this is what Murtha is proposing. It was a lie then and it is still a lie today.
To his credit, he does not embrace the infernal urban legend that over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the past 1-1/2 years. His estimate of 30,000 has widespread support.
His statement that, "Over 15,500 (US troops) have been seriously injured" is, however, a complete misrepresentation of the facts as Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette
so exquisitely demonstrates. It seems that there have
been 15,000 troops wounded but
...... 8375 returned to duty within 72 hours.....7347 troops were wounded severely enough to require over 72 hours recuperation..... 2,791 Soldiers were wounded seriously enough to require evacuation to Stateside Army Medical facilities..... and 280 amputees have been treated in Army facilities as a result of the war.
As Greyhawk puts it,
A lot of unscrupulous types who just want to pretend to "support the troops" ignore these facts in favor of the less correct (and more impressive) claim that 15,500 troops have been seriously wounded, or maimed, or mutilated. The real numbers are big enough - I just can't understand why some feel the need to pad them.
I'd also like to comment on Murtha's assertion that
A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops...
This may be true but Murtha conveniently overlooks the fact that another recent poll
showed that only 12.56% of residents of Baghdad "support the pull-out of foreign troops 'at once'." In spite of this, claiming to speak on behalf of the Iraqi people, that is exactly what Murtha proposes to do! I suppose he should be encouraged that as many 12.56% of Iraqis agree with him!
This post is already longer than I had planned and there is more in Murtha's speech that is worth debating and/or criticizing. But I shall close out this post with reference to a comment that Murtha made in response to a question at a press conference today as noted in the New York Times
When asked about Mr. Cheney's remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Murtha replied sarcastically: "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."
In the Vietnam era, Mr. Cheney had five deferments and did not serve in the military.
responds to this by saying,
That's fever swamp stuff, the old "chickenhawk" charge that would be equally applicable to hundreds of Democrats in Congress as well as great war time leaders like FDR. It discredits the Congressman, not his targets.
In that same post, Hugh quotes an email he received from from someone who described himself as an "active duty officer with significant combat experience":
As to the Congressman's remarks regarding our Vice President, that is a direct assault on the Constitution of the US which clearly gives the civilians control over the military. You will not meet ONE officer in our Armed Forces who does not believe in this as an article of faith. We have sworn our very lives to its protection. I find it interesting that Cong. Murtha would attack that precept of our governing document. One caller mentioned FDR. What about President Clinton? Was he unqualified to conduct the war in Bosnia due to his contempt for our Armed Forces? NO. He was the president and that makes him the commander in chief, PERIOD. Murtha should be pilloried relentlessly for his seditious remarks and he should never be taken seriously again.Captain Ed
adds his own comment to Murtha on this point,
When will Democrats get through their head that our military comes under civilian control? This isn't Starship Troopers, where only veterans make decisions on war and peace, and most Americans wouldn't want to live in that kind of society. All due respect to Murtha's Viet Nam service, but being an enlisted man in Viet Nam doesn't make him the reincarnation of von Clausewitz, either. Dick Cheney has served as a Secretary of Defense and has his own expertise on military matters, even if Murtha doesn't want to admit it.
Considering that Rep. Murtha was posing as one soldier speaking on behalf of the other soldiers in the US Armed Forces, he sure seemed to tick off most of them.
Especially when a soldier cannot even tell when his side is winning.....