Dana Milbank writes in today’s Washington Post:
In his 37 years in the military, John Murtha won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with a Combat “V,” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. As a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania for the past 31 years, he has been a fierce hawk, championing conflicts in Central America and the Persian Gulf.
Yesterday, he was called a coward.
It was as sure as the sun comin’ up in the morning that the righties would smear Murtha for his speech calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Righties have utterly lost the ability to just disagree with someone. Opposition must be crushed.
After Murtha stunned the Capitol with a morning news conference calling for a pullout from Iraq because our “troops have done all they can,” the denunciations came quickly.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) accused Murtha of delivering “the highest insult” to the troops. “We must not cower,” Hastert lectured the old soldier.
Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) informed Murtha that his views “only embolden our enemies” and lamented that “Democrats undermine our troops in Iraq from the security of their Washington, D.C., offices.”
At a rival news conference called four hours after Murtha’s appearance, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who like Hastert and Blunt does not have military service on his resume, alerted the 73-year-old Murtha that “the American people are made of sterner stuff.” And Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) said the likes of Murtha want to take “the cowardly way out and say, ‘We’re going to surrender.’ “
Murtha wasn’t surprised.
Murtha, whose brand of hawkishness has never been qualified by the word “chicken,” was expecting the attacks. “I like guys who’ve never been there to criticize us who’ve been there. I like that,” the burly old Marine said, hands in pocket. Referring to Vice President Cheney, he continued: “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.”
If you really want to read what’s being said about Murtha on the Right Blogosphere you can find plenty of links of Memeorandum today. But you know what they’re saying. They are calling Murtha every vile name they can think of. For example, in a post titled “Democrats Keep Shifting Towards Surrender,” Captain Ed writes,
Rep. John Murtha pushed the national argument on the Iraq War further towards the International ANSWER/MoveOn agenda this afternoon by demanding an immediate start of an American retreat from Iraq, declaring that American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists. He based his conclusion not on the facts on the ground, but apparently his experience in Viet Nam, which he tossed around like a West Point degree all afternoon long.
This is, of course, a deeply dishonest representation of what Congressman Murtha actually said. But instead of addressing the congressman’s points, such as —
I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And 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.
— which must be what Captain Ed mistranslated into “American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists,” the Right does what the Right always does and erupts into a festival of mud-throwing.
I’d like the righties to answer two questions honestly. Yeah, I know, when pigs fly. But this is the discussion we should be having if rightes were capable of rational discussion:
The first question is What is our political objective in Iraq? I want a concrete answer, not just “peace, prosperity, and freedom,” because those are a tad open ended. This nation was founded (if you count from the ratificaton of the Articles of Confederation) 224 years ago, and we’re still working on those objectives ourselves. We’ve done better than a lot of other nations with them, granted, but even we don’t have them perfected.
I know a lot of you want to say Screw the objectives; let’s just get out. Maybe so, but right now I’m not trying to determine what our Iraq policy should be. Rather, I’m looking at the national discussion we are not having to determine what the policy should be.
I believe the original Neocon vision was to establish a pro-American government in Iraq headed by their buddy Ahmed Chalabi or a reasonable facsimile thereof. The recent reception Chalabi got in Washington makes me think the Neocons are still holding out hope for this. Cards on the table, rightes–is that still the goal? And if so, we need to talk. We need to talk about why the Neocons are stll married to Chalabi. We need to talk about whether a stable, democratic, and pro-American government, with or without Chalabi, is still possible in Iraq. Or, will we settle for any government the majority of Iraqis consider legitimate, even if that government doesn’t like us much, for the sake of regional stability?
In other words, given our current status (assuming we can agree on that), what can we realistically expect to achieve that would serve the best interests of the United States and Iraq? We should consider both the stability of the Middle East and the discouragement of terrorism. We should also consider rationally how much of our military resources we can afford to commit before we weaken our ability to respond to other problems beside Iraq.
Once we’re settled on the objective, we can go on to the second question — Is our military activity supporting that objective? One of Congressman Murtha’s points is that it isn’t. Yesterday the congressman said,
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.
General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, â€œthe perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.â€ General Abizaid said on the same date, â€œReducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.â€ …
…I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won â€œmilitarily.â€ 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.
Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. 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 Iraqi 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, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.
The congressman is hardly the first person to warn that our presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency. It is obvious to me we are simultaneously feeding and smothering the same fire. Righties lack the moral courage to address this issue; they just jerk their knees and deny it. But if civilians are being burned with white phosporous, even accidently, generations of Iraqis will remember. Assuming that establishing a pro-American government in Iraq is an objective, pissing off the populace seems counterproductive. At the very least we should be looking hard at our rules of engagment to minimize these little accidents. On the other hand, putting too many constraints on our soldiers puts them at greater risk.
The obvious solution is to expect the Iraqis to fight their own bleeping insurgency. But as Steve M. calculated, at our current rate “the Iraqi military will be able to replace the 160,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq in the year 2592.” No, that’s not an exageration. Based on the Pentagon’s own reports, we’re averaging 22 fully training Iraqi soldiers a month. So unless we can find a way to crank out fully trained Iraqi soldiers a damn sight quicker than we’re doing it now, we’re going to have to make up our minds what “victory” we will settle for. Otherwise 20 years from now the children of today’s U.S. soldiers in Iraq will be fighting the children of today’s insurgents.
The terrible truth that the Right refuses to face is that we could win a military objective and lose the political objective. I’m sure we could, if we really tried, obliterate Iraq, but I think even righties — some of ’em, anyway — ought to be able to comprehend that obliteration would be counterproductive to Iraqi freedom and prosperity and all that. We need to make some firm decisions about how aggressively the U.S. can pursue a military objective without utterly screwing up the political objective.
Congressman Murtha’s contention, stated above, is that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding our political goals. Are there any righties out there willing even to discuss this, beyond “You’re wrong” and “Murtha stinks”? Are our military actions furthering or impeding our political goals in Iraq? And if the answer is “impeding,” then what the hell are we fighting for?
If any righties wander by here and want to provide serious answers to these questions based on factual evidence, they are welcome to do so. Knee-jerk comments or gratuitious insults will, as usual, be deleted.