Saturday, November 19, 2005

Of Pride and Penitance

On Friday, Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), one of the most hawkish Democrats, put forward a resolution calling for the redeployment of troops now in Iraq 'as soon as practicable.' In an interview on MSNBC, Rep. Murtha, who has a long record of supporting the Pentagon, said that the continually changing mission and lack of a clear plan has been hurting morale. Rep. Murtha, a former marine colonel who served his country for thirty-seven years, fighting in Korea and in Vietnam while earning a bronze star and two purple hearts, certainly is qualified to know what he is talking about on the issue.

Now, it is entirely possible that many Republicans might disagree with this position. If so, this could have been an opportunity to discuss and come to a conclusion on whether to continue to allow the President to set the course in Iraq or whether Congress should intervene and require an explanation of the mission there.

However, instead of this, Republicans, led by one of the top blowhards in Congress, J.D. Hayworth, R-AZ (who used to be my Congressman until redistricting moved him back down into an exclusively Maricopa county district), chose to demogogue the issue. Instead of voting on Rep. Murtha's proposal as he stated it, they offered a substitute by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, which called for immediate withdrawal (as in immediate, just drop everything and get on an airplane and leave right now). Now, even those who oppose the war can see why this would not be the way to leave, and any redeployment must be done in an orderly manner with Iraqi army units given time to replace American forces and assume their duties. Hence the language in Rep. Murtha's original bill.

And it should be noted (especially in the context of what the debate degenerated into), that it was courageous politically of him to come forward and publically declare that he was wrong to have so vocally supported the war at the outset. It would have been much easier for him politically to simply sit back and let others, who perhaps had been against the war early on, lead the fight. But he did not, and it takes a certain amount of character to change your position as publically as he did and admit to having made a mistake.

But the language that was put forward instead essentially was of the 'do you still beat your wife?' tenor. It was designed to gain political points only. And, any congressional Democrat who objects to the war in the future, but voted against the resolution calling for immediate withdrawal as irresponsible, will probably be brought up as having voted for keeping the troops there. There is no in between with these guys (a planned, organized and 'staged withdrawal' not having entered into their lexicon).

That is, unfortunately, how the GOP often operates. Demogogue instead of debate, and use personal attacks to avoid discussing the real issues. The lowlight of the evening came when Rep. Jean Schmidt, the newest Republican in the house, having been elected a month ago in a special election, called Rep. Murtha by name, a 'coward.' Since Rep. Schmidt, a jogger, has probably had to dodge a couple of dogs, I guess she figures that gives her the right to lecture Jack Murtha about courage and cowardice.


dorsano said...

And not unexpectedly, a good number of Democrats ran for cover once Murtha started taking fire.

I've never been quite sure what the best course of action is in Iraq given our intervention - and I protested against this war before it was a war.

Murtha articulated well as to why we should leave - our presence there only increases the level violence, unites the belligerents against us and prolongs the day when Iraq can stand on its own.

I think that the GOP leadership has figured this out as well and I think they are pissed that a Democrat is leading.

It the mean time, both our people and Iraqis are still getting killed.

shrimplate said...

This was in the comments over in an Eschaton thread, and I think it's worthy of review here:

Staying the course is a powerful position for the Prez. Well, the most powerful left to him. The reason is that it contains a steaming pile for the Dems to step into.

First, a simple stay the course message is easily put across and easy to defend giving the most fervrent Bush supporters something to be, and say.

Second, if Bush refuses to publicly entertain any idea of an exit strategy, negative fallout from the war --free to be fully felt and realized when it does conclude-- will easily be attributted to those who 'insisted' upon 'early' withdrawl.

The arguments about apportioning blame quickly get mired in the goo of answering one question:
Who lost the war in Iraq for America? Those who wanted to see it through, or those who wanted to cut and run?

So, the Dems have a tough choice. Do the right thing by realizing that we have done what can and call for the troops to come home, or protect thier position by merely being in opposition and letting George fall on his sword while more die needlessly in Iraq.

A Faustian bargain to be sure. But if the Dems don't handle this right, doing the right thing could spell political disaster.

my two cents

ww | Email | 11.19.05 - 10:24 am

It's a dilemma, for sure.

Girl on the Blog said...

Received an Email from Howard Dean... this is part of the email and all that I have to say...

"Shameless Republicans immediately went on the attack. Dick Cheney, who has said that he had "other priorities" and collected 5 deferments while people like Murtha served in Vietnam, called Murtha's comments "irresponsible" and regretted that "the president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone." The White House spokesman, who has also never worn the uniform, pronounced himself "baffled" that Murtha, who volunteered for two wars, wanted to "surrender to the terrorists". A Republican Congressman said Murtha and others "basically are giving aid and comfort to the enemy".

Shame on them. Every one of us -- right now -- needs to let Jack Murtha know that we respect his service, respect his leadership, and respect his right to speak the truth. This man has spent his life serving us. The very least each one of us can do is let him know that no matter what dishonorable smear campaign Republicans wage we will be there with him."

Murtha, in my opinion, is a brilliant man and a honorable man. To belittle him the way GOP's have is disgusting.

I too believe that to pull our soldiers out all at once is a little much... but I do believe we need to gradually start pulling them out... not another American life needs to be given in this war!

Eli Blake said...


And not unexpectedly, a good number of Democrats ran for cover once Murtha started taking fire.

I'm not about to claim that a lot of congressional Democrats are any less spineless than some Republicans claim they are. Just those with a backbone are those like Rep. Murtha, who aren't afraid of being called names by the likes of Jeanne Schmidt for standing up and saying that the emperor has no clothes.

Frankly, it takes a lot more backbone to stand up and say you were wrong to support the war when it started, as he has (and a Republican congressman from North Carolina named Walter Jones did before Murtha, but since they don't want to be seen trashing a Republican, they waited for a Democrat who had supported the war stood up against it before launching their attacks).

And frankly, about all the GOP has left is to get more and more shrill on the name-calling. If you stop and think about it, who are the most visible Vietnam vets in Republican ranks? Sen. McCain, Sen. Hagel, and former defense secretary Colin Powell. Now, McCain and Hagel, while still supporting the war publically, have both raised serious questions about how we got into the war, the lack of planning, and the lack of a clearly defined mission, and Colin Powell quit after one term and has since become more vocal in criticism of the war.

Which pretty much leaves a bunch of people with no combat experience (like Jeanne Schmidt, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney) telling decorated veterans like Rep. Murtha, Senator Kerry, and former Senators Bob Kerrey and Max Cleland about how unpatriotic and cowardly they are if they raise questions about the war.

Barbi said...

It gripes me to no end to see Murtha's words edited in the media and taken out of context and content.

All the comments posted above me have spoken so very well that I haven't much more to add, but this:

"Without ethics, everything happens as if we were all five
billion passengers on a big machinery and nobody is driving the machinery. And it's going
faster and faster, but we don't know where."

--Jacques Cousteau (interview, CNN, 2/24/89)