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Context of 'November 17, 2005: Conservative Democrat Murtha Calls for Immediate Troop Withdrawals'

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John Murtha during his press conference.John Murtha during his press conference. [Source: Larry Downing / Reuters]Representative John Murtha (D-PA), one of the most conservative and hawkish Democrats in the House of Representatives and a longtime supporter of the military, stuns opponents and fellow Democrats alike by calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Fighting back tears, Murtha, a former US Marine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, says the troops in Iraq suffer from poor equipment and low morale. Moreover, the troops’ presence there now serves as an impediment to Iraqi progress towards stability and self-governance. The war is “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he says, and adds, “Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.” Islamic insurgents “are united against US forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence.… I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, [Bush] 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.… It’s time to bring [the soldiers] home.” Murtha submits a bill to compel the withdrawal of troops as soon as feasible (see November 17, 2005). Congressional Republicans counter with accusations of cowardice (see November 18-21, 2005) and even siding with terrorists over their country. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says: “Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans.”
Democratic Leaders Cautious - Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and campaign chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) react cautiously to Murtha’s call for withdrawal. Pelosi has privately said that she will call for a complete withdrawal of troops in 2006, but does not yet join Murtha in his call for withdrawal, merely saying that he deserves to have “his day.” Emanuel is even more cautious, saying, “Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha.” As for Iraq policy, Emanuel says, “At the right time, we will have a position.”
Mishandling of Intelligence - Murtha joins with other Democrats in accusing the administration of deliberately misrepresenting intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and its connections to al-Qaeda. Vice President Cheney has called such accusations “dishonest and reprehensible.” President Bush responds: “I expect there to be criticism. But when Democrats say that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people, that’s irresponsible. They looked at the same intelligence I did, and they voted—many of them voted—to support the decision I made.… So I agree with the vice president.” Asked about the comments, Murtha retorts, “I like guys who got five deferments and [have] never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.” Cheney received five deferments during the Vietnam War which allowed him to sit out the war; Bush was a Texas Air National Guardsman who did not leave the country during that war. Other Democrats say that they were themselves misled about the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
Angry Rhetoric from Both Sides - The White House issues a statement in response to Murtha’s call for a pullout, declaring that Murtha is “endorsing the policy positions of [liberal filmmaker] Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) responds that Bush and Cheney “have begun a new campaign of distortion and manipulation. Because of the polls showing that Americans have lost trust in the president and believe he manipulated intelligence before the war, the president and vice president have abandoned any pretense of leading this country and have gone back on the campaign trail.” They could not find weapons of mass destruction, Kennedy says, and “they can’t find the truth, either.” Kennedy’s Senate colleague Ted Stevens (R-AK) responds by accusing Kennedy and other Democrats of attempting to “undermine the people standing abroad by repeatedly calling [Bush] a liar.” House Republican Geoff Davis says Murtha’s statements are “shameful.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says that if the US does not prevail in Iraq, it will invite another 9/11-type attack: “Four years have expired without a second attack on our homeland because we’ve aggressively projected America’s fighting forces in the theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) counters that the White House has “shamelessly decided to play politics” over Iraq. “We need a commander in chief, not a campaigner in chief,” Reid says. “We need leadership from the White House, not more whitewashing of the very serious issues confronting us in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/18/2005; New York Sun, 11/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Ted Stevens, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Hastert, Geoffrey C. (“Geoff”) Davis, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Duncan Hunter, George W. Bush, John P. Murtha, Harry Reid, Michael Moore

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Jean Schmidt making her statement on the floor of the House.Jean Schmidt making her statement on the floor of the House. [Source: Pensito Review]Representative Jean Schmidt (R-OH) accuses fellow Representative John Murtha (D-PA) of cowardice. Murtha, an ex-Marine, decorated Vietnam veteran, and longtime military supporter, has called for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible (see November 17, 2005) and November 17, 2005). Schmidt says she is merely quoting the words of a constituent when she says on the floor of the House: “Yesterday I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young Marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. 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. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body—that we will see this through.” Democrats, appalled by Schmidt’s words, boo and shout her down; Democrat Harold Ford (D-TN) charges across the chamber’s center aisle and shouts that Schmidt’s attack is unwarranted. Democrat Martin Meehan (D-MA) shouts: “You guys are pathetic! Pathetic.” The conflict comes during a debate over a Republican “stunt resolution” that calls for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all troops from Iraq (see November 18, 2005).
Defending Murtha - Some House Republicans later defend Murtha’s patriotism: Henry Hyde (R-IL) says, “I give him an A-plus as a truly great American.” But Democrats are unforgiving. “This is a personal attack on one of the best members, one of the most respected members of this House, and it is outrageous,” says Jim McGovern (D-MA). In the Senate, John Kerry (D-MA) says, “I won’t stand for the swift-boating of Jack Murtha.” Kerry is referring to false accusations against him launched during the 2004 presidential election by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that challenged his Vietnam record. [Think Progress (.org), 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/19/2005]
Schmidt Withdraws Statement - After the speaker pro tempore, Mike Simpson (R-IL) orders that her words be “taken down” (documented as possible violations of House rules), Schmidt attempts to backpedal: “Mr. Speaker, my remarks were not directed at any member of the House and I did not intend to suggest that they applied to any member. Most especially the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. I therefore ask for unanimous consent that my words be withdrawn.” [Jesse Lee, 11/18/2005]
Bubp: Never Discussed Murtha with Schmidt - Three days later, Bubp, the reserve Marine colonel and Ohio state representative Schmidt claims to be quoting, says that he never discussed Murtha with Schmidt and would never impugn a fellow Marine’s patriotism. “There was no discussion of him personally being a coward or about any person being a coward,” Bubp says. “The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House—I don’t know, she’s a freshman, she had one minute. Unfortunately, they came out wrong.… My message to the folks in Washington, DC, and to all the Congress people up there, is to stay the course. We cannot leave Iraq or cut and run—any terminology that you want to use.… I don’t want to be interjected into this. I wish she never used my name.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Mike Simpson, John P. Murtha, Martin Meehan, Jim McGovern, Harold Ford, Danny Bubp, John Kerry, Jean Schmidt, Henry Hyde

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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