What John Murtha Wrought

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Santorum, Murtha, Bush, Specter

John Murtha and George Bush, back when they were closer. [Website of Congressman John Murtha]

Ambassador Barbara Bodine in the studio with Chris Lydon

Ambassador Bodine in the studio with Chris [Brendan Greeley]

Did John Murtha force a real conversation about leaving Iraq? On November 17, he described the war as a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion. The White House responded directly and immediately with a press release that linked Murtha’s speech to the policies of Michael Moore. Then, on November 20 we hear the President in China suggesting, essentially, that we’re preparing to leave Iraq.

And we’re making good progress. More and more Iraqis are taking the fight to the enemy, and day-by-day, they’re assuming more responsibility for their own security. And as the Iraqi security forces gain strength and experience, we can lessen our troop presence in the country without losing our capability to effectively defeat the terrorists. A reduced presence of coalition forces will clearly demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no ambitions to occupy their country. As I’ve often said, we’ll stay as long as necessary, but not one day more.

George W. Bush, President’s Remarks to the Travel Pool in China

Tomorrow the President is addressing the U.S. Naval Academy. The LA Times says he’ll herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops. Regardless of what the White House says about John Murtha, are we preparing to get out of Iraq? Is Iraq ready for us to get out of Iraq? Murtha said “the American public is way ahead of us” on Iraq. Has the domestic fight shifted, from “do we stay in Iraq” to “how to get out, and whose fault was it that we left”?

Steve Clemons

Writes The Washington Note


Barbara Bodine

US Ambassador to Yemen, 1997-2001

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government

Director, Governance Initiative in the Middle East

Anatol Lieven

Senior Research Fellow, New America Foundation

Covered Central Europe for The Financial Times; Pakistan, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union and Russia for The Times (London); and India as a freelance journalist.

Gary Rosen

Managing editor, Commentary magazine.

Editor, The Right War?: The Conservative Debate on Iraq.

Extra-Credit Reading

Senator Joe Lieberman, Our Troops Must Stay, WSJ Opinion Journal (free registration required)

Congressman Jack Kingston, Live from Iraq, as dictated to staff and posted to REDSTATE.ORG

Bush sings the Clash, “If I go there will be trouble and if I stay there will be double”, [Signal to Noise]

Lyrics to the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, LYRICSFREAK.COM

Fred Kaplan, Bush’s Can’t-Lose Reversal, Slate

Stuck in the Pottery Barn Open Source

An Arab Exit Strategy, Open Source

Related Content

  • Sean

    Bush gets just enough troops home/Iraqi self-governing to ensure another

    Rebub. Congress in 2006.

    Iraqi govt doesn’t exactly impress so significant US presence until…

    …remainder of troops come home triumphantly in time for 2008 Pres. Election.

    Complete with ticker tape parade.

    Dems never get an opportunity to “win” war but could be pinned with “failure”

    if they don’t cooperate.

  • A little yellow bird

    John Murtha/Cindy Sheehan are ’08’s presidential ticket!

  • Potter

    Are we going to start a bombing campaign as we get the troops out of Iraq? ( I did not read Sy Hersh yet but daily Kos quotes CNN’s interview with him:

    HERSH: Well, you know, what I was writing about in The New Yorker this week is our plan is to pull out American troops if we start to do that. And I think the president probably will next year. But the war is not going to slow down. We’re going to increase the pace of air operations. There’s going to be more bombing in direct support of Iraqi units now.

    BLITZER: Let me read to you what you write in The New Yorker magazine, the article entitled “Up in the Air.” “A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units.”


    I am horrified. I have lost my superlatives.

  • I think the process of disengagement can’t begin soon enough. Still, it seems to me that the rain of bull**it will continue as long as we keep pretending that this was ever a good idea even in theory. What we need is a broader debate on our foreign policy in general. There’s potential confluence with old-line conservatives along the lines of “A Republic, not an Empire.”

    The US cannot (and should not) unilaterally maintain a world order, and you cannot give people freedom. That’s not how it works. We need to learn to let people solve their own problems; seems to me that if we removed our garrisons from Iraq and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the jihadis will have plenty to keep them occupied in their own back yard. Oil is an issue, but it’s going to be an issue one way or another. Energy independence is a sleeping giant of an issue — SUVs though they may love, most Americans understand that there’s a problem and they’re hungry for leadership that’s pointing to a solution.

    Nuclear proliferation is another issue, but the reality of the situation is we’re not going to able to stop this. We’re going to have to learn to deal with it, and that’s something we can only be done through globally operative consensus.

  • Oil is an issue, but it’s going to be an issue one way or another. Energy independence is a sleeping giant of an issue — SUVs though they may love, most Americans understand that there’s a problem and they’re hungry for leadership that’s pointing to a solution.

    That’s poorly written.

    “Oil is an issue” is meant in the sense that oil is a problem.

    “Energy independence is a sleeping giant of an issue” is meant in the sense that it could be politically electrifying.

  • I’ve spent 14 months in Iraq since the invasion, working on various aid and civil affairs projects for the U.S. Government. It has been an often frustrating experience, but progress is being made in many aspects of Iraqi life. I have seen the new Iraqi government begin to stand up and function. The army and police appear more numerous and better trained than before. Civil society and free media are blooming. On the other hand, the atrocities of bombings, etc., continue. I blame the reckless, underresourced and manned occupation for the growth of the insurgency to present levels. Rumsfeld, in particular, has a lot to answer to the U.S. and Iraqi people for.

    Listening to the show, I thought of an instant message converation I had yesterday with an Iraqi engineer I worked with. We agreed that the terms of the debate in the western media bore little resemblance to the real issues.

    We thought the issues are: (1) our obligation to the Iraqi people for “breaking” the previous order, however immoral it was, and for supporting that order up until 1990 despite its immorality, versus (2) the question of whether the U.S. has the ability to make things better in Iraq now that we’ve broken it, or as I put it, “our many screw-ups.”

    In my last analysis, I think we have to stay for at least a few more months to give the new Iraqi government and its security forces cover, and to help rebuild the country.

  • Sean

    Great show again gang! Nice balanced coverage.

    Great question from a caller about Bush’s peace/withdrawal advisors!

    C’Rice doesn’t seem to fit the bill very well.

    If there ever was a foreign policy objective it is long forgotten or regretted.

    No, the invasion of Iraq was a sure way to lock in a repub. congress.

    To load up the supremes with conservatives.

    To ultimately reinstate US isolationism as this blog has rightly investigated.

    Here’s an idea for a future show.

    How can the dems profit from this if at all?

    It just doesn’t seem possible right now or even in 2006 or 2008

    but perhaps in 2010 or 2012?

  • cheesechowmain

    Excellent show. Thank you Chris and the radio open source crew and the guests.

    Steve Clemens made an important point that America has exposed it limitations. Friends and foe alike are adjusting their policies. It’s highly probable/plausible that WMD profiliferation will rise. Without a willingness within the America policy making institutions to reform its outlook on internationalism, there is no chance for coalition building or developing strategies and tactics towards WMD reduction. We find ourselves in the unsavory position of having exposed our limitations while concurrently reducing the number of friends or our ability to influence our friends in coalition building. This is a serious obstacle created by the Neo-con strategy and the tactics in Iraq. The Neo-cons have lifted the skirt on US power.

  • loki

    Barbara Bodine? Wasn’t she the Ambassaor in Yemen who thwarted the FBI investigation of El Queda.

    James Fallows is the guy to listent. His articles on Iraq have been priceless.

    Iraq the 51 state;now Iraq no army.

  • dkr

    George Bush makes me sick. He is manipulative and it disgusts me. The only reason he is making this speech is because his party doesn’t want to be defeated in 2006 and 2008 -> NOT because people are dying do to his enormous error in judgement. He has no humanity, morals, or ethics. I sincerely hope that Americans REMEMBER and UNDERSTAND what has happened do to these cronies and hold them accountable regardless of their attempts to do damage control. It is too little, too late. He has written checks that he can’t cover and they are bouncing all over the place. We have not even BEGUN to see the damage from what he has done, not only here, but across the world.

  • cheesechowmain
  • loki

    Thanks cheesechowmain! Bodine’s obstruction of justice cost John O’Neil his job in the FBI. Later he was killed on 9/11 in the World Trade center attemting to resuce lives. Shame on Bodine! Sham on W! W took a long vacation before 9/11 and took another one before Katrina.

  • Gizmo Logix

    Lets cut to the chase….

    Stay the course, so that we can keep driving our SUVs!

    So, as you drive to the mall this weekend for your Xmas shopping. Think about how much Iraqi blood (and American) as been lost for you to buy that tie for your dad. Live it up!


  • Potter

    I usually do not read Alexander Cockburn but this was a good one on the subject:

    Revolt of the Generals

  • elphaba

    I think that the one thing the Democrats can’t get away from is that they voted to go to war in Iraq, with only a few exceptions. Bush reminded them of that after Murtha blasted him.

    Why did they vote to go to war in Iraq? Is it really what John Kerry said, he wanted to give the President the power so he could put all the pressure on Saddam Hussein that was needed. Did they think he knew something they didn’t? Were they afraid of public opinion?

    At least a person can respect Murtha for saying he made a mistake. He’s taken a strong, unpopular stand. Is he really not getting support from fellow Democrats?

    Of course it would be wrong to pick up and leave Iraq immediately, but exit strategy must be talked about. I really don’t know what we should do, given the reality of having GW Bush for another three years. Is this administration capable of doing anything right in Iraq? I think they were ignorant enough to believe the mushroom compost they spread around America. (The Iraqis will greet us as liberators, hand over the oil to our control and buy lots of coke and hamburgers.) Arrogance and ignorance is a terrible combination.

  • dwowens

    Sean says: “Great show again gang! Nice balanced coverage.”

    Balanced? Wow. That’s amazing.

    I tuned into a podcast for the first time after listening on the radio for many years. I thought Lydon was biased on the radio… but this feature went beyond what I’d heard before even… not only in terms of the guests invited, but also in terms of how the guests were moderated and in terms of Chris’ own commentary.

    NPR is not doing itself or its listeners a service by allowing itself to be so biased. A backlash is due.