First off, Congressman John Murtha is a veteran who served his country honorably. I assume he loves the United States of America every bit as much as I do. So in this criticism--and it's a rigorous criticism--I am not questioning his patriotism. What I am questioning is his judgment. More specifically, his political judgment. Not just what he said, but when he said it. Murtha is wrong. Dead wrong. Horrendously wrong. Calamitously wrong.
Murtha raised the white flag over eighteen months ago when he said this war was unwinnable. Instead of employing the sustained will necessary for victory, Murtha embodies the sustained wilt that leads to failure. The stakes could not be higher. A defeat in Iraq would be monumentally worse than our bust in Vietnam. We as a country cannot allow defeat to happen and I cannot allow Murtha's words go without challenge. Why is he wrong? There are many reasons.
We have NOT done all we can. Murtha stated that "The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction." No we haven't, and we should not change toward Murtha's direction. We have thousands upon thousands of Iraqi troops to train, and our soldiers need to be there for that purpose. There are groups of Sunni paramilitary squads that need to be routed until the Iraqi troops are able to do it themselves. There is infrastructure that needs construction and reconstruction. Most importantly, the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq is in Iraq, and irreconcilable terrorists need to either leave or die.
We would be fleeing from the WAMI. The largest and most central front in the War Against Militant Islamists is Iraq. Ayman Zawahiri, in his own words, wrote that very thing in his step-by-step plan for a global Caliphate:
The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.
And so forth. The cornerstone of al Qaeda's war against the United States is right where we are. Congressman Murtha is helping Zawahiri and the terrorists accomplish Zawahiri's first stage. Our premature departure will be interpreted in the Muslim world (and perhaps the rest of the world) as a victory for al Qaeda, and al Qaeda will have stumbled upon a blueprint for success: Stick around and keep attacking until enough liberals say "uncle". Our early departure would mean that al Qaeda will have a base of operations in Iraq, and a growing one at that. Victory for al Qaeda will be a propaganda boon, helping them recruit more extremists to their evil cause. Al Jazeera is already spreading Murtha's loser-defeatist message. Whenever we've stepped away from terrorist attacks, terrorists have become emboldened because, in the past, we have affirmed their perception that the United States is a paper tiger. More emboldened terrorists means we will be at more risk of facing terrorist attacks, not less risk as Murtha believes. In his own words: "We also need to make sure that Iraq does not resume Afghanistan's former role as the host nation for terrorist training camps." Our immediate departure would do just that.
Tyrants across the world will wrongly believe that if they just gut it out a little longer, the Americans will fold and go away. This will make any future endeavors we undertake that much more difficult to execute. Our enemies need to know that when American soldiers show up, they will lose, so they might as well just give up now.
Murtha is betraying the American soldiers who have been there. By most accounts, the soldiers in-country have seen noticeable and significant progress. While it's commendable that Murtha goes to Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals "almost every week", he should spend more time in Iraq, talking to the soldiers on the ground, getting firsthand accounts of what's taking place. Murtha's problem is the mainstream media's problem: They observe and report the truth they see, but what they see is a slice. In effect, Murtha is telling those soldiers with life-altering injuries that their efforts and sacrifices were a waste. The best way to honor all of our military men and women is to win.
Murtha is right about manpower, though. At existing troop levels, we have unnecessarily lengthened the rebuilding period, and in so doing, put too much stress and strain on our soldiers. What we really need is not troop withdrawals, but troop additions. I don't know how many more we need, but if we seek a successful clear-and-hold strategy, the more boots on the ground the sooner the better.
Murtha is wrong that "our troops are the primary target of the insurgency". Far more Iraqi troops and civilians have died at the hands of "insurgents" and terrorists than Americans, by orders of magnitude. Our enemies aren't just fighting the coalition troops, they're fighting the Iraqi government and they're fighting people who don't share their view of Islam. By leaving before getting the job done, we are undermining the fledgling Iraqi government when it needs us most, and we are putting officials' lives in more peril. This is a recipe for chaos.
Murtha is betraying the Iraqi people. After the 1991 Gulf War, we betrayed the Shiites in southern Iraq and Kurds in northern Iraq, not giving them enough support to protect them from Saddam's vengeance. Departing before victory is achieved will be a second and inexcusable betrayal of the Iraqi people. Premature withdrawal will increase the chances of chaos and civil war. Without our involvement, there is the risk that the onetime oppressed will be the new oppressors. We should not and cannot turn our backs on these people.
Murtha is ignoring the political progress. Military and political progress are inextricably linked. Political progress cannot happen without adequate security. In the current situation, adequate security cannot happen without American troops. We have crossed several major political milestones and another one is scheduled for December 15th. Because we have provided a reasonably stable environment, two successful elections have occurred and the Sunnis are joining the political process. Abandoning Iraq now would be a clear signal to the Sunnis that they no longer need to join the political process.
Murtha has drunk the Daily Kos Kool Aid. He is a loser-defeatist whose own ideas must be defeated, decisively and mercilessly. Another military veteran has it right.
The Senate has responded to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who put their faith and trust in America and their government, by suggesting that our No. 1 priority is to bring our people home.
We have told insurgents that their violence does grind us down, that their horrific acts might be successful. But these are precisely the wrong messages. Our exit strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops, it is victory.
Americans may not have been of one mind when it came to the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. But, though some disagreed, I believe that nearly all now wish us to prevail.
Because the stakes there are so high -- higher even than those in Vietnam -- our friends and our enemies need to hear one message: America is committed to success, and we will win this war.
Another group also has it right: There is no end but victory.
Update: I'm not sure what happened, but I think I mistakenly forgot to hit the "New Post" button and typed over this post with the American Forces Should Withdraw in Six Months post. Anyway, my earlier updates are gone and I don't know how to retrieve them. Going on memory:
- Several made comments that I didn't link to Murtha's entire "unwinnable" quote. I didn't have the link at the time, but it was clear what Murtha was thinking 18 months ago if the administration did not move in his direction.
- I condemn the statements that Jean Schmidt made on the House floor. The real cowards on Friday was the House leadership for not putting Murtha's verbatim resolution up for a vote.
- I can't remember the third thing.
Sorry for the seven hours or so of confusion.
Update II: Yes, I changed the title to the post. In my view, Murtha's proposal is a path toward loss and defeat. Does this make Murtha a loser-defeatist by dint of his policy? There's really no need to go there, hence the change.