The movement to immediately end the war in Iraq gained an unlikely spokesman last week: John Murtha, longtime Congressman from Pennsylvania, a ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. A consistent hawk for the 33 years he’s spent in congress, Murtha is a decorated combat veteran with a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Murtha, who retired from the Marine Corps as a Colonel, served in both Korea and Viet Nam.
Murtha, who supported the war in Iraq initially, proposed a bill Thursday to immediately withdraw all American troops from Iraq.
According to Congressman Murtha, “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 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.”
Murtha’s plan called for:
1) To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
2) To create a quick reaction force in the region.
3) To create an over- the-horizon presence of Marines.
4) To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
The proposal drew an extreme amount of heat in the House chambers.
At one point, it almost looked as though fights might break out, when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) told the assembled legislators, that "a few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp," an Ohio legislator and Marine Corps Reserve officer. "He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
The House Chamber was filled with shouts of “Take her words down,” meaning retract the statements, and mayhem ensued. Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) suddenly charged across the aisle to the GOP seats and had to be restrained. It took over 10 minutes before order could be restored.
The Republican House members hastily threw together their own version of the bill – effectively gutting it – and then they forced a vote. The bill went down to defeat 403 to 3.
Murtha has continued to speak out since then, appearing on all the weekend talk shows.
Predictably, the White House has already started a smear campaign against Murtha, labeling him as, "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party." Republicans have also made calls to investigate Murtha.
While Murtha’s bill went down in flames, it serves an extremely important purpose: for the very first time, it has moved the debate to end the war into congress.
This was an exceptionally courageous action for Murtha, particularly in view of his background.
I’m hoping this marks the beginning of the end.
Here’s the full text of Murtha’s address: