by DrewEM, Thu Nov 17, 2005 at 11:36:07 AM EST
Congressman, Republicans say that Democrats who are calling for withdrawal are a advocating a cut-and-run strategy. What do you say to that criticism?
It's time to bring them home. They've done everything they can do. The military has done everything they can do. This war has been so mishandled from the very start. Not only was the intelligence bad, the way they disbanded the troops. There's all kinds of mistakes have been made.
They don't deserve to continue to suffer. They're the targets. They have become the enemy. Eighty percent of the Iraqis want us out of there. The public wants us out of there.
Democrats have called for an exit strategy in the past, but Republicans have said that it's a nonstarter. Is there anything -- do you think that the climate has changed in Congress that would give your legislation a chance?
I don't know whether the climate's changed or not, but I know one thing: It's the right thing to do. And setting an exit strategy with some kind of event-driven plan doesn't work, because they always find an excuse not to get them out.
There's times you just got to -- you got to change your mind about this thing, you got to change your direction. There's times when you just got to say, "What's the right thing to do?" The right thing to do -- our troops are the enemy, they're the targets.
When I went to Anbar province, General Huck (ph) said to me, "You know, the thing that's so discouraging? We got all this armor and everything, and the snipers are shooting right below the helmets." They blowing the turrets off tanks no matter how much armor that we put out there.
We're the targets. We're uniting the enemy against us. And there's terrorism all over the world that there wasn't before we went into Iraq.
Mr. Murtha, you say that -- your first point about bringing them home, consistent with the safety of U.S. forces. You know about these matters. What is your sense as to how long that would be?
I think that you get them out of there in six months. I think that we could do it -- you have to do it in a very consistent way, but I think six months would be a reasonable time to get them out of there.
Let me add something else: Let's say you wanted to go the other way; you wanted to put 500,000 troops over there. Now, we can't even meet the goals of 512,000. We're going to be 10,000 short in recruitment right now. Unless you have a draft, there's no way that you can have more troops.
And where are most of the attacks coming? On the roads to logistics. General Huck (ph) said every convoy is attacked.
I had a young Marine that -- I went to a young group that just came back, and he said that he'd been hit five times. Now, he wasn't wounded five times but his vehicle was hit five times, and people all around him were killed.
But what was the question?
My other question: What do you mean exactly by a quick reaction force in the region?
Well, the Marines in Okinawa -- remember in Somalia, we came back from Somalia and then we went back in. It only took us a couple days to take care of the Iraqi army, and now we're not talking about an army.
What I'm talking about is a terrorist camp that may affect our national security or the security in the region, we can go back in. But not a civil war or something like that. That's up to the Iraqis to settle that.
So I think the Marine force could be in there momentarily, within a couple days, within 48 hours they could be in there. And if the Kuwaitis would agree and they wanted to put a force in Kuwait, that would be a good place to have them; they could go right down the road.
Mr. Murtha, what about the goal of having an oasis of democracy in the Middle East and the idea that this leaving now would leave a breeding ground for terrorists right in the middle in the least-stable heartland?
Let's talk about terrorism. What the State Department said? There's more terrorism now than there ever was, and it's because of what? Is it because of our policy? I would say it's a big part. We have become the enemy there. We have united them against us.
So when they say that they want democracy, what was the first goal? The first goal was to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. The second goal was to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Well, they did that. And a third was to -- well, I guess the third was destroy the enemy, and then get rid of Saddam Hussein.
We've done our job militarily. It's time for us to get out.
You said that you had spoken with the caucus earlier today. What was their reaction? And are they willing to stand with you on this?
Well, you'll have to talk to them about that. I got a standing ovation, but you'll have to talk to them.
The president and the vice president are both saying that it is now irresponsible for Democrats to criticize the war and to criticize the intelligence going into the war, because everybody was looking at the same intelligence.
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.
I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for criticizing them. This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public knows it.
And lashing out at critics doesn't help a bit. You've got to change the policy. That's what's going to help with the American people. We need changed direction.
The troops -- what hurts the troops are the things that I listed before.
How did you come to this decision now? Obviously, it's something you've been thinking a lot about. But you just talk it through a little bit how you got here?
Yes. I'll tell you, I led the fight to go to war in '91. I was one of the few people that believed that Bush One was absolutely right about not going into Iraq.
You know why he didn't go into Iraq? He said, "I don't want to rebuild it and I don't want to occupy it." That's why he didn't go into Iraq after the '91 war.
I supported Reagan all through the Central American thing.
This was a decision that came because the troops and the targets -- they become the target -- and the lack of progress that I see.
When I go there, I see commanders that are discouraged; even though they say what they're supposed to say, you can tell the difference. And when I come back here and look at what is called the criteria for success, and the incidents have increased even though we've increased the number of troops, when the unemployment is 60 percent and we're the target and our kids are being killed because of that, it's time to redeploy them from Iraq.
Mr. Murtha, based on your meeting this morning, I assume you have Ms. Pelosi's endorsement of this.
No, you have to talk to her.
I was very careful not to say this was a caucus position. A lot of people suggested it should be. But I was very careful about this. This is my own position, my own conclusion that I have reached.
My long years in the Marine Corps, my long years in Defense, in reading -- I'm frustrated because in the first war, President Bush, we made some suggestions to him -- what did he do? He collected $60 billion -- and I was chairman of the committee at the time -- $60 billion from all the world in order to fight the war.
We paid about $60 billion. There were coalition troops -- a legitimate coalition. And I remember calling General Scowcroft saying, "Get this thing moving, get this war over with. There's 250,000 troops out there." He said, "We will not move until we got whatever Schwarzkopf wants." And that's what they did.
And they followed the U.N. resolution to a T. He didn't want a resolution, you remember. This was a very controversial thing, the '91 thing. People forget how controversial it was. And it only passed the Senate by two votes.
But he listened to us. He had a meeting every week and listened to what we had to say. And sometimes he took the advice; sometimes he didn't.
This outfit doesn't want to hear any suggestions. It's frustrating. And the troops are paying the price for it.
So you're effectively saying that this war should end, beginning as soon as possible and that all these troops can be brought home within six months, or that's your hope.
I say, they could be brought back -- I'm saying, within -- the safety of the troops. But I project it could be six months.
Six months to start it or six months to have them all back?
I think, in six months, you could have them all back.
What's your plans for the Defense conference coming up on the anti-torture?
Well, we thought it was going to be today but it doesn't look like it.
Do you intend to fight to keep the anti-torture language that the Senate has in the bill?
I think you'll see a big vote -- Republicans, many Republicans come to me; nobody's for torture, you know. And for us to send a signal to the world that we're for torture -- I mean, this is what caused a major part of the change in minds in Iraq and the United States is Abu Ghraib.
Some of those are my constituents who were at Abu Ghraib.
One young fellow who was the ringleader -- at least, they said he was a ringleader -- this guy was under a court order not to be allowed to see his family because he abused his family.
He couldn't carry a gun in the United States, yet they put him in charge of this group that got out of hand. He told them and they still -- they were so short-handed -- no supervision, no training.
You need strict guidance.
Captain Fishback came to see me five, six months ago.
He said, "We don't know what to do. We don't know what the guidelines are. I'd ask a lawyer and he'd say one thing. I'd ask the commanding officer, he'd say something else. Were you guys complicit in this, you guys in Congress part of this? Did you wink and say, 'Yes, go ahead and torture these people?'" He said they're not following the Geneva Convention.
We need to clarify exactly what the standards are. We need to make sure that the world knows we do not treat prisoners inhumanely or detainees inhumanely.
Fishback said, "I'd rather die than lower the moral standards of the United States." He said that in a letter to John McCain, and I believe that. I believe this is the thing that we have going for us in this country.
Do you believe that many House Republicans support your position on the torture?
Enough to keep it in?
I do. He's not going to veto that bill over torture, I'll tell you that, not a Defense bill when we got troops in the war.
Mr. Murtha, could you respond directly to what Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld say, that saying that we're going to get out in six months is giving the insurgents exactly what they want in Iraq? They just can outlast us.
I can only tell you this: Incidents have increased and there's no economic progress. And we have become the enemy. And 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there.
Saying it -- the president said it's tough to win a war. It's tough to wage a war. That's where the fallacy's been. To wage this war is where the problem's been.
Do you have any cosponsors?
I didn't ask for any. I'm not sure that -- I think I'll just sponsor it myself. I feel very strongly about this thing, and I'm not sure whether I'll ask for cosponsors.
What's your political strategy, though, going forward? Because you would have to convince some Republicans to get on your side, and there doesn't seem to be any that are willing to go out on a limb on this and buck the leadership. Do you have private conversations with any Republicans who say to you quietly, "I'm behind this"?
I have not yet because, obviously, anything I said before this time would have leaked out. You folks are so hard- working, so dedicated, have such an ability to get words out of people that I knew better than to say anything.
Do you have a political strategy moving forward to try to get some more support on this?
Well, I'm just starting to think about that.
Will you introduce your bill today?
OK, folks, one more question.
Have you had any discussions with anyone in the administration prior to coming out with this -- the idea that you were coming all the way around to having troops come back immediately? Have you had any discussions prior to coming out?
My experience goes back to the letter I sent to them. As a former chairman, as a ranking member of the Defense Subcommittee, five months later I get a letter from the assistant secretary.
So I didn't have much chance to speak to the administration about it.
And I know it wouldn't have made any difference. I mean, what they're saying is rhetoric. It's easy to sit in these air-conditioned offices and talk about what the troops are doing, send the troops to war.
But I tell you, these young folks are under intense activity over there; much more intense than Vietnam. You never know when it's going to happen.
One young commanding officer -- I just met with him the other day; went out to the hospital to see him. He's from Johnstown. He actually was the commanding officer of a unit in Johnstown. Three days before he's to go home, he walked up to this IED and it blew up. It blew him apart.
Luckily, he had the glasses on that we've provided for them, and it didn't blind him, for he'd have been blinded.
And I remember one young fellow -- and this is the last story I'll tell -- is he had pockmarks all over his face -- shrapnel all over his face, all over his body, arms, every place -- but he wasn't blinded. And I was so pleased because he had glasses on that we had made sure they got.
And I patted him on the hand and the vibration was so severe he almost screamed. And he turned his arm over and it was split the whole way up and his nerves were showing.
We've got to address. And these are long-term problems. This is not somebody you just put him out of the hospital. You've got long- term problems with these guys and the intensity that they have been through.
Thank you very much.
Senators Warner and Stevens have just been talking with reporters on the other side of the Capitol, and they said that they had yet to meet a single soldier in Iraq or at the hospitals here who thought it was time to pull out of Iraq.
What do you think they're going to tell you?
We're here to talk for them. We're here to measure success. The soldiers aren't going to tell you that. I told you what the soldier say. They're proud of their service. They're looking at their friends.
We are here. We have an obligation to speak for them.
Thank you very much.
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