An Iraq hawk says bring the troops home now

Jack Murtha, a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps, says the military has done all that it can do in Iraq.

Published November 17, 2005 6:22PM (EST)

Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha spent 37 years in the Marine Corps, rising to the rank of colonel and serving in combat in Vietnam while Dick Cheney was collecting deferments and tending to "other priorities" back home. As a member of Congress, he has been among the most hawkish of Democrats. When George W. Bush asked for authorization to go to war on Iraq in 2002, Murtha voted to give it to him.

Now, Murtha says, it is time for that war to end and for U.S. troops to come home. In an emotional speech during which he choked back tears, Murtha said today that the war is "not going as advertised."

"It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," Murtha said. "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 in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region."

Murtha said he has reached his conclusion after watching the war unfold over two-and-a-half years, touring Iraq recently, and visiting almost weekly with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. He says that he understands now that, while U.S. troops have done everything that has been asked of them, they are now serving as a target in Iraq, and their continued presence is making matters worse. In legislation he's introducing today, Murtha calls on Congress to put an end to troop deployments in Iraq and to redeploy forces already there "at the earliest practicable date." Murtha told reporters that it's reasonable to expect most U.S. troops to be out of Iraq within six months.

"This war needs to be personalized," Murtha said. "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. Thats why I am speaking out. Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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