Lamont on Iraq

"When Jack Murtha stood up we finally we had a Democrat who was so well regarded in the military saying that staying the course is not a winning strategy in Iraq--and it was Sen. Lieberman who took the Republican talking points and said that these critics were undercutting the credibility of the president. And then when [Lieberman] wrote that piece in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Our Troops Must Stay,” that was a defining moment for me.

If Lieberman were to start attacking the prosecution of the war, sort of the way that John Kerry and Hillary Clinton are doing, would that keep you out of the race?

Too late now. We’ve got the dead, the casualties, the hundreds of billions spent. At this late hour to say, “On second thought, I’ve changed course and think it’s wrong”—I think we should hold people accountable.

If he had done this two years ago, if he had said, “Look, I thought the invasion was justified, but it’s not working and the situation is getting worse and I think it’s time we started bringing our troops home,” and he had taken a lead on that, would I have been as incented to get into this race? No.

What should we do, right now, in Iraq?

Move our front-line troops out of harm’s way. Start bringing the 130,000 troops who are stuck in the middle of that bloody civil war onto the periphery, and start bringing our combat troops home.

But can we maintain our reconstruction efforts without the cover that American forces at least try to maintain?

You’ve got 230,000 troops in the Iraqi army who are more or less trained, you’ve got a police force that is ridden with militias, obviously, but if the Iraqis can put together this unity government over the course of the next 30 days, anything is possible. Perhaps the Arab League, the Saudis, even the U.N. can help with some of the security functions, so reconstruction can start again.

I think Americans should remain in the background, aiding in the construction—we can’t desert the people of Iraq, but right now our front-line military presence is not making the situation better. It is stirring things up, making it worse."


The War in Iraq

Three years ago, President George Bush rushed our country to war in Iraq and Senator Lieberman has cheered him on every step of the way. No, there was no imminent threat to America, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and we were not greeted as liberators.

Today, America is no safer, Israel is no safer, Iran is more dangerous, Osama bin Laden is still at large, and our brave troops are stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war. I believe that those leaders who got us into this mess should be held accountable.

Looking forward, I salute the patriotism and wisdom of Congressman Murtha and others who emphasize that “stay the course” is not a winning strategy for Iraq or America. Our best chance of success requires that the Iraqis take control of their own destiny. America should make clear that we have no designs upon their oil and no plans for permanent bases. While we will continue to provide logistical and training support as long as we are asked, our frontline military troops should begin to be redeployed and our troops should start heading home.


(U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, a decorated Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who is among the most hawkish Democrats in Congress, said yesterday [Nov 17,2005] the United States should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq immediately.

" We have become a catalyst for violence," Mr. Murtha told a news conference. "Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further militarily. It is time to bring them home."

A dozen Republicans hastily put together a press conference where some accused Mr. Murtha, 73, and the Democratic Party of "waving a flag of surrender" and undermining U.S. troops.

Despite divisions over the war within the Democratic caucus, several Democrats said Mr. Murtha's position change could create a profound shift within their party, particularly among those who feared speaking out against the war.

In his announcement, Mr. Murtha said he had weighed the risks of an overstretched military, an "out of control" deficit and the situation on the ground in Iraq, which he believes is getting worse with each day. He noted only half of the $18 billion Congress allocated for Iraq's reconstruction has been spent and that unemployment in Iraq is above 40 percent. His many visits to Iraq, he said, had convinced him that Iraqis want U.S. soldiers to leave.

" Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically," Mr. Murtha said. "I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops is impeding this progress."

Mr. Murtha proposed withdrawing U.S. troops immediately -- a process he believes could be completed within six months -- and said the U.S. should continue its efforts to stabilize and secure Iraq diplomatically. The visible withdrawal of troops, he said, would assure Iraqis who will participate in elections in mid-December that their nation is "free from U.S. occupation."

He said the coalition forces should keep "a quick-reaction force" in the region and an "over-the-horizon presence" of Marines who could go back into Iraq in emergency situations.

Mr. Murtha, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense, was clearly anticipating the criticism that came within minutes of his announcement. Asked about President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's contention that those who criticize the war efforts and the pre-war intelligence are irresponsible, Mr. Murtha had his own rapid-fire response.

" I like guys who've never been [in combat] that criticize us who've been there," he said.

" I like guys who got five deferments," Mr. Murtha said, referring to Mr. Cheney's five deferments during the Vietnam War, "and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.... Lashing out at critics doesn't help a bit. You've got to change the policy." )

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