Friday, November 18, 2005
Shame on them
I want to tell you about John Murtha. He's a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania. He's also a combat veteran and retired Marine Corps colonel.
Murtha spent 37 years in Marine Corps, earned the Bronze Star, two purple hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. And for the last thirty years he's been one of the most respected voices in Congress on military issues -- universally respected by Democrats, Republicans and military brass alike.
Republicans have disgraced themselves by viciously attacking John Murtha with such disrespect that not only veterans, but every decent American should be angry.
What did Murtha, a decorated combat veteran, do to draw fire from a White House led by a president and vice president who evaded service in Vietnam? He questioned their management of the war in Iraq. Here's part of what he had 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.
Send Congressman Murtha a note telling him that you will not be silent while he is attacked:
I will deliver your message to him personally, along with my own thanks for his service to our country and his continuing courage in the face of threats.
Lies and manipulation characterized the Republican case for war, and lies and manipulation have been the primary weapon against anyone who questions their failed leadership.
First it was Senator Max Cleland, who left limbs in Vietnam, being savagely attacked in 2002. Then John Kerry, who received three purple hearts, being smeared in 2004. The history of this war has shown that Republicans value political posturing more than the service of America's veterans.
Republicans don't want a serious debate about Iraq because they know the American people are simply not with them. They cannot respond to the substance of Murtha's criticism -- or any criticism -- because they are wrong.
Jack Murtha is already fighting back. When told of Cheney's comments he reminded people where Cheney was while he was in Vietnam: "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."
But Jack can't beat this back alone. Show him that Americans know that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves:
Enough is enough -- we cannot allow another veteran to be smeared by George Bush's cronies.
Thank you for taking a stand.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
P.S. -- Here is the full text of Murtha's statement yesterday:
"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 is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, 'the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.' General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."
"For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.
"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.
"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.
"The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.
"Much of our ground transportation is worn out and in need of either serous overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." We must rebuild out Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.
"Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.
"I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the condition on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included to Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have not received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American causalities have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.
"I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won 'militarily.' 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 untied 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 Iraq 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, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United Stated occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a "free" Iraq.
"My plan calls:
"This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.
"Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That's why I am speaking out.
"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."
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