It’s not just the left

This will make the war bloggers bristle. From the quite conservative NRO:

Don’t know how many of you caught Rep. John Murtha’s very angry, very moving speech just now in which he called on the White House to institute an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. CNN didn’t air the entire thing, but as I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift. Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he’s a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. Murtha, a conservative Dem who voted for the war, talked in detail about the sacrifices being borne by our soldiers and their families, and about his visits out to Walter Reed to look after the maimed, and how we’ve had enough, it’s time to come home. He was hell on the president too.

If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to — and listening to him talk was like listening to my dad, who’s about the same age, and his hunting buddies — then the president is in big trouble. I’m sure there’s going to be an anti-Murtha pile-on in the conservative blogosphere, but from where I sit, conservatives would be fools not to take this man seriously.

Let the swiftboating of Murtha begin! But mark my words, this may well be a turning point. Murtha is not Cindy Sheehan, and the usual anti-liberal invective won’t stick in this case.

The Discussion: 30 Comments

Fewer and fewer people I think are accepting the swift boating via the “effete liberal” routine of even the Pelosi’s and Feingold’s. It’s rapidly dwindling down to the core circle-jerk known as the blogroll at Pajamas Media.

But when the circle is no longer unbroken and NRO starts to waver, then the political retreat away from Bush and Iraq will have begun in earnest.

November 17, 2005 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

Awww, but I don’t want them to pull out TOO fast. Not before they draft and send over all the trust-fund chickenhawk college boys and send them over for a while.

November 17, 2005 @ 7:09 pm | Comment

The sad thing is that, as opposed to the war as I was, I don’t see how leaving now helps us in any way. It’s a recipe for failed statehood in Iraq and instability in the region that will just pull us back in at some point in the future. Of course, muddling along status quo doesn’t help much either.

What I would much rather see is the occupation and reconstruction managed *competently*, although I suppose it may be too late for this. And too much to ask from a manifestly incompetent administration. (I note that our local client government there has learned from our low standards at Abu Ghraib. Everything sends a message.)

With all due respect to Murtha, where was all this righteous indignation before the war? Where was the clear-eyed analysis of the realities of occupation and reconstruction? Where was the attempt to make the nation understand what it would mean to be *at war*, and the investment that would require? Where was the rational analysis of the political cost and international consequences?

I appreciate Murtha’s point of view, and I secretly enjoy his dissent, but looking at the political discussion now I see way too much “Well, this sucks” and not enough “How did we get here, and what can we learn from it?”

November 17, 2005 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

A lot of people believed the Bush-Rummy promises that it was easily doable. I can’t fault them all – none of us foresaw the mind-boggling incompetence and lack of preparedness that defined the occupation. Remember, the highest officials promised us we’d be greeted as liberators. I believed them myself for a while, especially when I saw that at first we really were greeted as liberators, just as Chiang Kai Shek was greeted by the native Taiwanese.

That was when some of us still had some faith in our government. We learned the hard way that we were deceived at every step of the way. This will surely create a domino effect, giving those squeamish Dems the excuse they need to see the light and jump ship along with Murtha. Then Repubs will follow, because they know they’ll lose the next election if they don’t.

As to whether we should stay or run… I’d rather cut and run than stay there and continue what we’re doing today. Ideally, we’d stay and manage things competently. But under Bush, it’s impossible. Things can only get worse. Frankly, I’m totally, 100 percent confused about what to do next. It’s such a lose-lose situation. It’s just a matter of picking the least horrific option.

November 17, 2005 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

Richard, that is a depressing but true analysis. I feel like we’ve well and truly painted ourselves into a corner. The military is stretched, our international political capital is exhausted and our strategy is failing.

Our options are…uh…We’ll get back to you.

November 17, 2005 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

By the way, worth a look at Dan Froomkin’s WaPo column today dissecting Cheney’s remarks to the priesthood about the war.

November 17, 2005 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

God help the US if it cuts and runs from Iraq over a mere (and yes, in military terms it is a mere) 2,000 casualties. No tyrant, terrorist or hegemonic state will ever fear it again. No ally will ever have confidence in US protection or promises.

Taiwan had better make a quick accomodation with China, because the idea that the US would actually come to its defense would be risable in Chinese eyes.

November 17, 2005 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

I agree with Murtha’s criticisms, but have to say that to retain any credibility as a power, we have to stick it out.

November 17, 2005 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

At what point do we go home, Lirelou? In other words, we stick it out until what, exactly? Because I really don’t see any end to this mess. Algeria, Vietnam, Israel and the Palestinians…. I just see another never-ending nightmare.

November 17, 2005 @ 8:14 pm | Comment

Until the Iraqi’s can do the job themselves.

What if they can’t?

Here’s a suggestion: Without making any public statment regarding dates, internally commit to a reasonable period of time (say, for example, 2 more years). If the Iraqis still can’t do the job then, make it known to the Kurds and the Shiites that we are finished and would not object to them partitioning the country along religious/ethnic lines.

The US can say that it went above and beyond the call to give the Iraqis a unified demcratic state. But the Sunnis refused to do there bit, so we we and the rest of the Iraqis wash our hands of them.

Let them have their unoccupied, oil free, sandbox all to themselves.

Shiite and Kurdish states would be perfectly capable of defending themselves from the Sunnis in Iraq and, while the rump Sunni state might be a potential terrorist haven, the Kurds would be more than happy to grant the US whatever military facilities it needs — right next door — to deal with that eventuality.

Not a perfect solution, but then, what is?

November 17, 2005 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

The US can say that it went above and beyond the call to give the Iraqis a unified demcratic state. But the Sunnis refused to do there bit, so we we and the rest of the Iraqis wash our hands of them.

Total victory for Iran, among other things. Also, I don’t recall our mandate from the UN to partition Iraq after our (illegal) war.

God help the US if it cuts and runs from Iraq over a mere (and yes, in military terms it is a mere) 2,000 casualties.

We’re not “cutting and running” and the issue isn’t 2,000 casualties. It’s that the war was lost when we went in, and cannot be redeemed no matter how many die. The public has finally realized that it was lied to and cheated, and now it is responding rationally to a war which we have lost.


November 17, 2005 @ 9:36 pm | Comment


1973: “God help the US if we cut and run from Viet Nam after ten years and 60,000 US dead. No tyrant, terrorist or hegemonic state will ever fear us again.”

1991: 16 years after the US pulled out of Viet Nam, the Soviet Empire collapsed, and the whole world was in awe of US power.

2005: The world STILL respects US power, but the world will respect/fear us even MORE if we get our military out of the quagmire in Iraq, so that we can use it elsewhere…….
…..Kim Jong Il will fear the US even more, if we’re not bogged down in Iraq……

November 18, 2005 @ 4:19 am | Comment

I’m for staying, and continuing, even if the price rises.

I don’t know how much longer, but leaving now is too soon.

I’m completely appalled that the US ever blundered into such a war, but I’m with General Powell (ha!!) on the Pottery Barn Rule. We gotta try harder to get *something* working there, even if it seems a near-hopeless task. Even if it means significantly more casualties. We can’t so easily run away from a mess of this scale, not after starting it, against almost everyone’s advice.

If the US is to ever re-gain some part of its dignity as an international spokesman for freedom or human rights it’s got to show it’s willingness to go to great lengths to try to right such a blunder.

This is not going to be easy, especially after the hooded guys wearing electrodes.

But American voters re-elected Dubya, and sleptwalked into a war. It’s a little late to worry about the cost after the Abrams roll into the capital.

November 18, 2005 @ 4:31 am | Comment

Like I said Slim, I have no answers. Leaving is intolerable, and so is staying if it’s forever. All the king’s horses….

November 18, 2005 @ 5:15 am | Comment


I see your point, but:

1. America’s dignity as an international spokesman for human rights is NOT contingent on cleaning up this mess. Why? Because this war never had anything to do with Human Rights to begin with.

2. If anything, leaving Iraq will restore America’s credibility as a country which knows how to admit when it makes a mistake.

3. When the British Prime Minister got news of the surrender at Yorktown (a few months after October 1781, I forget exactly when), he clutched his heart and said to his assistant, “Oh God, we are ruined!” Meaning, the British Empire is ruined. And his friend said:

“Sir, there is a lot of ruin in a nation.”

The British should have cut and run after the Battle of Lexington. Or, later, after they met stiff resistance at Bunker Hill. Or as soon as they understood that it was a no-win situation. America should have cut and run from Viet Nam in 1963. Or even in 1968. Or even 1971. As John Kerry (whom I mostly despise, but he was right about this) said,
“How do you ask anyone to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

In principle I see the points about how cutting and running might diminish US prestige and credibility – but those points are based on false assumptions. At least two false assumptions:
1. That there is any realistic chance of cleaning up the mess we have made in Iraq (there is none) and
2. It’s also a mistake to assume that US prestige and credibility and power are all contingent on some kind of “success” in Iraq. No. As the Brit said in 1782, “there is a lot of ruin in a nation”, and to believe that we must ALWAYS find a way to clean up our mistakes, is really a kind of narcissistic fantasy.

November 18, 2005 @ 5:20 am | Comment

Sorry to sound harsh, but in my view, it is not about the Americans anymore, but about the Iraqi’s. They have the right to live in a stable and peaceful country and the US, because of it’s past actions, has the responsability to help them establish it. So retreat for me don’t seem like a viable option.
But instead of a military army, which is very unlikely to win the kind of guerilla warfare (with suicide bombers) that is going on there now, wouldn’t it be time to send in an army of diplomats and have those Sunnites, Shïïtes and Kurds (sorry if I spell this wrong in English) start really talking to each other on how they see the future and development of their country. And maybe it would help if the beefy contracts for reconstructing the country went to some more regional companies. Just to avoid Iraqi’s start thinking the whole damn war was started to please Halliburton and Co.

November 18, 2005 @ 10:50 am | Comment

Ivan, I think it’s less about prestige and credilibility, more about national responsibility.

You said it was false to assume…

1. That there is any realistic chance of cleaning up the mess we have made in Iraq (there is none)

I don’t assume that there is any realistic chance, in fact my personal outlook on military success is pretty dismal. But the likelihood that we can ever militarily prevail is not what should drive the decision. We have to at least make an honest effort to straighten things up after we kicked over their anthill. We certainly can’t keep our military there forever, not even if we want to, but the national sacrifice we’ve made so far isn’t great enough, in my opinion, to offset what we did to their country’s economy, order, and infrastructure.

If we just pull out, I’m afraid the situation is likely to dramatically worsen for the average Iraqi. Jeez, can’t we at least get the juice going again before we pack up the tanks and sail over the horizon?

So, it’s not about winning, it’s about at least making a serious effort. IMO we haven’t reached that point yet, especially when you consider the number of our casualties versus theirs.

2. It’s also a mistake to assume that US prestige and credibility and power are all contingent on some kind of “success” in Iraq.

I agree, they aren’t. I would say they are more contingent on our making an honest effort to clean up after our mis-guided invasion. If we can stick around a while longer and at make a stronger national effort to produce some tangible improvements, that would go a long way in minimizing the damage all around. Not as good for everyone as a “win”, but a lot better than just bugging out.

Some things need to be done back home, too. In my opinion, American voters are going to have to wise up and get a little more closely involved in what their government is doing if they want to avoid costly mistakes like this in the future. A little more serious participation in the electoral process would be a good place to start.

For the moment, what’s most needed is a clear and cold-eyed national dialog as to what we can realistically expect to do for Iraq, try to identify the big pay-off things, and try harder to produce some tangible results. I think its very doubtful we can pull off a military victory, but we must at least do our best to get them closer to a condition where they can chart their own courses, one nation or otherwise.

Personally, as a Democrat, I find this a galling process, like having to clean up after the elephants at the zoo.

November 18, 2005 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

Slim, I agree with everything you said. I have to add, however, that if Bush refuses to engage in that cold-eyed dialogue, as he has totally refused to in the past, then I would say we should pull out. Just continuing on Bush’s terms – stay the course without explanation, accountability, self-assessment or criticism – is unacceptable and even the right (and Murtha is a solid conservative) is fed up with it. I’ve always been of the school that cutting and running was not an option. In recent weeks, however, I find myself more and more drawn to that idea in the absence of a better solution. Obviously, we don’t just pack up overnight. We do all we can to improve things and fix what we’ve broken. We make a sincere effort to make Iraq as prepared as possible. But this notion of indefinite commitment to an amorphous and perhaps unattainable goal – it’ll destroy us.

82 civilians were killed in Iraq today by insurgents. The ones we cavalierly claimed were in their “last throes” a few months ago. That’s all we get from Bush, slogans and vacuous platitudes. There has to be a time for accountability and truth. The American people are getting very restless.

November 18, 2005 @ 9:25 pm | Comment

What concerns me is that we will have three more years of “staying the course” – unless something very dramatic happens in the midterm elections. I don’t see Bush changing direction unless he’s forced to. Those bases being constructed by Halliburton are pretty indicative that the Bush Administration plans a permanent US presence in Iraq.

What happened today in the House was fascinating, by the way. Did anyone see it? You would have thought you were watching the UK Parliament, it got so loud – booing, gaveling, personal insults. Murtha had introduced a resolution to withdraw; the Republicans countered by introducing a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal, which they said was their “interpretation” of what the Murtha resolution meant. The Dems were incensed, claiming that Republicans were distorting the Murtha resolution and introducing their own version as a manipulative trick to avoid discussing the Murtha resolution, and saying that the Republicans and the Administration refused to have any kind of honest dialog on Iraq and US options there. The capper came when the Representative from Ohio – can’t recall her name, the one Hackett almost beat – basically called Murtha a coward. The Dems were absolutely livid.

Some pretty interesting political theater on C-SPAN these days…

November 18, 2005 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

Here is a link describing the aforementioned Congressional fireworks. Pretty good summation of what I saw…

November 18, 2005 @ 9:38 pm | Comment

I say that the fight against Americans began with Abu Ghraib. It began with the invasion of Iraq. That’s when terrorism started.

John Murtha, News Hour, 18 November


Really? So, 9-11 was a navigational error?

November 18, 2005 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

I think – and I think you know – he meant terrorism in Iraq. There was none under good old Saddam. Mass murder, torture, brutality, but no terrorism.

November 18, 2005 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

No more platitudes from our great wartime codpiece in chief!

“We will never back down and we will never give in and we will never expect less than complete victory,” Bush said during a quick layover at this military installation that is home to the primary U.S. Air Force unit in Korea. “We will defeat the enemy in Iraq.”

The president, wearing a brown leather bomber jacket with a patch that said “Commander in Chief,” said a pullout would leave Iraq open to terrorists who would launch attacks on the United States and moderate Arab states.

“I’m going to make you this commitment: This is not going to happen on my watch,” he said.

Always the same shit.

November 19, 2005 @ 2:45 am | Comment

Richard, I have to agree that

(1) if a serious re-assessment of our goals and capabilities appears impossible (i.e. Bush’s insistance that we just keep following our failed “plan”), and

(2) if there appears to be little or no chance of accomplishing anything useful for the Iraqis, and

(3) it honestly seems that our continued presence is actually making the situation worse,

… then it’s time to go.

I’m not convinced we at are at that point yet. However, the latest kick-back scandal and the billions already disappeared down the Haliburton Hole make me fearful that our efficacy is limited, at least with the group we have running things from Washington now.

At least I think we can all agree that at this point seems a a choice between Terrible and More Terrible.

November 19, 2005 @ 4:51 am | Comment

the aforementioned Congressional fireworks.

O’Lisa, I read about that. The cracks are widening!

Other heartening news – another public figure takes a stand against the US officially advocating the use of torture (emphasis added):

LONDON (AFP) – Admiral Stansfield Turner, a former CIA director, accused US Vice President Dick Cheney of overseeing policies of torturing terrorist suspects and damaging the nation’s reputation, in a television interview.

“We have crossed the line into dangerous territory,” Turner, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s, said on ITV news.

“I am embarrassed that the USA has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible. He (Mr Cheney) advocates torture, what else is it? I just don’t understand how a man in that position can take such a stance.”

Full story (not much more) here:

Hard to put into words the extreme contempt I feel for an administration that has transformed the United States a nation that advocates and uses torture.

November 19, 2005 @ 5:06 am | Comment

Shanghai – what you said. Every time Bush opens his mouth and talks about “spreading democracy” I don’t know whether to laugh or to scream in outrage.

November 19, 2005 @ 9:45 am | Comment

While I largely agree with what Murtha said, I would have prefered that he hadn’t said it.

I agreed with his logic when I read it, but when I heard his broadcast I automatically put him down as a raving political without even listening to what he was saying.

He spoiled things by turning an otherwise sensible argument into an ideological rant. When you do that half of the audience automatically become defensive and turn off, and the other half start to become more radicalized and so loose credibility.

His cause would have been much better served if he had stood in the background and agreed while a mother of a dead 20 year old vetern told America how its presence in Iraq was causing unrest with tears in her eyes.

People are far more liekly to be open to your cause if you aim at their heart strings than they are if you try to get them fired up. At least in this case.

November 19, 2005 @ 11:48 am | Comment

I heard him to. I was extremely impressed. His speech marks a turning point, opening the door, finally, to ratrional discussion about how to end this terrible war.

November 19, 2005 @ 11:52 am | Comment

Richard, you might have been impressed, but your a campaigning liberal you were already convinced before he started speaking.

The people who have to be convinced are the moderates and the fence sitters, and they are turned right off by Murtha’s bullish style and ‘we’re right, they’re wrong’ attitude.

PLus, the way Murtha presents his arguments is seen as being antagonistic by the right. It galvanizes the against him and gives them pleanty of amunition that they can use against him or to brand him as a raver with his own axe to grind.

He did himself no favors.

November 20, 2005 @ 4:15 am | Comment

W’ll se, ACB. If he was such a disaster, why does the right seem so hysterical?

November 20, 2005 @ 5:43 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.