Monday, November 21, 2005

Ah, yer Murtha wears Army boots

One of the big news items of the past few days, of course, was the introduction of H.J.Res. 73 in the House by John Murtha (D-PA) calling for withdrawal from Iraq. Leaving out the "Whereas"es and the "Be it resolved"s, this is what the resolution said:
Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
While no timetable was mentioned in the resolution, while speaking to reporters, Murtha estimated that no more than six months should be necessary for the withdrawal. His press statement (Thanks to Tim at Democratic Left Infoasis for the link.), after arguing that the war was damaging US military readiness, offered a simple but devastating list of particulars about Iraq drawn from the DOD's own quarterly reports to Congress:
Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by the 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 has 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 casualties have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism. ...

A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. ...

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.
All of which the GOPpers and assorted other buffoons could not allow to be said undisrupted, so the Mean Machine was turned up to full-throated roar. GOPper Kay Granger of Texas called it "reprehensible and irresponsible ... a policy of retreat and defeatism." Jean Schmidt (R-OH) notoriously declared she had a "message" for Murtha: "Cowards cut and run - Marines never do." (She later retracted the statement, insisting that oh my goodness, she never meant that to refer to anyone in Congress, on my no! Some GOPpers tried to defend her by saying she didn't know Murtha had been a Marine. I have no clue why that was supposed to make it better.)

Over at the White House, Scotty McMouthpiece accused Murtha of advocating "surrender to the terrorists" and dragged out what he apparently regarded as an ultimate insult: He said Murtha was "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore." GASP! The crowd draws back in unified horror!

The very next day, the House misleadership pushed for a vote. But not on Murtha's resolution, rather on a GOPper alternative which simply said: "It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately."

This was, of course, designed to fail. It was also intended to serve as a way both to embarrass Dums who are not ready to actually end the war any time in the foreseeable future and to be able to claim the issue of withdrawal had been dealt with. And of course, fail it did, by a vote of 403-3 as the Dims chose to vote against it in an attempt to drain it of any significance. (The three brave souls who took the opportunity to speak truth to power were Jose Serrano [D-NY], Robert Wexler [D-FL], and Cynthia McKinney [D-GA]. Six more Dems voted "present." They were Jim McDermott [WA], Jerrold Nadler [NY], Maurice Hinchey [NY], Michael Capuano [MA], Major Owens [NY], and William Lacy Clay [MO].)

Okay, so here's my question about all of this: If the pro-war crowd was so sure Murtha's resolution was a loser, supported only by the "extreme liberal wing" among the Dummycrats - you know, Michael Moore and alla them there folks - so sure that voting for it would be embarrassing, why didn't they schedule a vote on Murtha's own resolution? Why did they instead engineer a vote on their version, which stripped away any nuance and eschewed phrases like "earliest practicable date" in favor of the meaningless (and physically-impossible) "immediately?" Why did they change it from a binding statement to a "sense of the House" resolution?

I can see only one answer: They were scared. Scared that Murtha's resolution would get a fair, a noticeable, measure of support. I don't think for a second it would have passed; there are still too many in Congress terrified of being labeled "soft on commu-," excuse me, "terrorism." But the GOPpers know how to count votes and I strongly suspect they didn't like the numbers they saw. Personally, I think it may have gotten as many as 100 votes. No, that's nowhere near a majority, but it's more than the first moves calling for withdrawal from Vietnam got. And it would have been more than enough to demonstrate a genuine level of discomfort in the House about the war, a discomfort encouraging and energizing to those who want to put a stop to the carnage.

Certainly that level of discomfort (and frustration in general) is running higher all the time. The Dem leadership called the way the GOPpers dealt with the resolution "a disgrace" and said it showed an "absence of any sense of shame." When Schmidnik called Murtha a coward,
Democrats booed and shouted her down - causing the House to come to a standstill.

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., charged across the chamber's center aisle screaming that Republicans were making an uncalled-for personal attack. "You guys are pathetic. Pathetic," yelled Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.
Other than Murtha's resolution itself, I think that's the best bit of news to come out of this. I wonder when was the last time the House was stopped in its tracks like that.

So yes, I think the were scared and that they had cause to be. If I'm right about that (and of course I think I am, otherwise I wouldn't have said it), that would also explain two other things which otherwise don't seem to make much sense.

The first is that right in the middle of this, word came out, CNN reported, that
[t]he top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.

Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades - usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each - begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.
Ah, so a withdrawal is already in the works! Relax, everyone, things are well in hand! However, later in the article, well below the soothing "pull out ... early next year" lead, it says that
[t]he plan, which would withdraw a limited amount of troops during 2006, requires that a host of milestones be reached before troops are withdrawn.

Top Pentagon officials have repeatedly discussed some of those milestones: Iraqi troops must demonstrate that they can handle security without U.S. help; the country's political process must be strong; and reconstruction and economic conditions must show signs of stability.
In other words, this is essentially the same plans that have been floating around for some time with the same requirements for anything more than a token but politically-useful-heading-into-the-fall-elections withdrawal. There is absolutely nothing new here, no change from existing policy, nothing to report. Announcing it now would seem to have only one purpose: defusing support for Murtha's resolution.

The other otherwise-odd news has RawStory reporting that
Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother's lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee, ROLL CALL reports Friday. ...

According to a June 13 article in The Los Angeles Times, the fiscal 2005 defense appropriations bill included more than $20 million in funding for at least 10 companies for whom KSA lobbied. Carmen Scialabba, a longtime Murtha aide, works at KSA as well.
This sudden devotion to ethics on what would appear to be a relatively minor matter in comparison to what some GOPpers are dealing with these days, particularly as it's based on an accusation made over five months ago, would seem curious but for the timing, when it can be taken as another way to drain Murtha's support and as a warning to others: If we can't slime you as soft on terrorism, we'll slime you some other way.

Bottom line on all this: The hawks are running scared. They have lost the argument, they have lost the war, they are losing their grip on the public mind.
Public support for the conflict has dropped sharply over the last few months. Only 35 percent of those surveyed in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll published Monday supported the Bush administration's handling of the conflict, and 54 percent said the invasion was a mistake.

The poll also found that 19 percent of Americans want to see the troops come home now, and 33 percent said they wanted them home within a year. Only 38 percent said they should remain "as long as needed."
And just to be clear, there is no overlap between those first two figures. (Complete results can be found here.) To the degree the poll is accurate (the margin of error was +/-3%), a majority of Americans want the troops out within a year. Murtha's position - get them home in about six months - is, contrary to the Mean Machine, not only acceptable, it's quite mainstream. Gee, I guess Michael Moore ain't so "radical," after all.

In fact, just for fun, a quick calculation: So 19% want the troops out now, and 52% (19+33) want them out in no more than a year. Let's just say for the heck of it that the level of support for a six-month time frame splits that difference, that is, a little over 1/3 of the public would go for that. Translate that into an equal proportion of votes in the House and Murtha's resolution would have gotten 154 votes (435 x .355, rounded down). Do you or do you not think a result like that would have rocked the hawks (and the media) back on their heels?

So yes, they are running scared. They are losing on this and they know it. And the one thing they are desperate to do now, and why all the manipulation about Murtha's resolution, is that they want to avoid legitimizing opposition. The only thing they have left is the sense among the majority that they are not the majority, that others do not feel as they do. Murtha threatened to strip that from them and in so doing give voice to the scores of millions among us who are a combination of discouraged, fed up, and outraged.

And giving the people a voice that they can't control or manipulate is perhaps the one thing they fear most.

Footnote: One thing I didn't see in any of the new accounts but discovered when trying to look up the text of the resolution on Thomas is that Murtha had 13 cosponsors: Xavier Becerra (CA-31), Michael Capuano, (MA-8), Michael Doyle (PA-14), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), James McGovern (MA-3), Michael McNulty (NY-21), James Moran (VA-8), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Hilda Solis (CA-32), and Anthony Weiner (NY-9).

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