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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 18th, 2007 - 01:06:08

John Murtha: �It�s a whole new ballgame�
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 18, 2007, 01:00

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"The president does not have legal authority to go into Iran there�s no question in my mind about that; and he wouldn�t have the capability of doing that even if he wanted to." --Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), ABC "This Week"

The traditionally hawkish Congressman Jack Murtha has been the standard bearer for the Democrats in his opposition to the war. He led the charge against the occupation of Iraq, calling it "a failed policy wrapped in an illusion" and, now, he�s threatening to sabotage Bush�s plans for sending another 21,500 troops to Iraq -- the so-called "troop surge."

The crusty ex-Marine doesn�t mince words and he�s not afraid of the "Swift-boaters" and hatchet men on the Bush team. He sticks to the facts (and his principles) and takes great pride in defending the interests of the men and women who wear the uniform.

Good for you, Jack.

On Sunday, Murtha appeared on ABCs talk show, "This Week" with George Stephanopolous. He used the opportunity to blast the administration and Bush�s plans to send another 21,500 troops into the Iraq meat-grinder.

Murtha immediately warned that he would use the power of the purse to "look at how much money the Pentagon has and try to change the direction of this war." He added, "The public has spoken."

Stephanopolous, taken aback, asked if Murtha were planning to "defund" the war.

Murtha, who was recently appointed chair of the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing Pentagon spending, answered, "If we have our way there will be substantial change and substantial pressure put on this administration . . . The allies don�t want us over there. The Iraqis don�t want us over there and we expect that even the Republicans will support us when we get our bill up."

He then added ominously, "[We want a] redeployment of troops out of Iraq" and "[we will] restrict funding until some of the problems are fixed at home."


Other Democrats have reluctantly winched themselves onto the antiwar bandwagon, sensing that public support is rapidly eroding. Only Murtha has consistently put himself in the line of fire by threatening to cut off the funds which lubricate the war machine.

Murtha is demanding that the administration "stop extending tours of duty, stop depleting our strategic reserves, and retrain returning soldiers so they can be �recycled�" according to the normal procedures. He knows that the military is gravely over-stretched, so he�s trying to derail the war with bureaucratic red tape.

"We don�t like to micromanage the Pentagon," averred the Pennsylvania congressman, "but we have to because they are not paying attention to the public. You cannot sustain a war when only a small percentage of the people support it."

Commenting on Bush�s desperate plan to surge more troops into Baghdad, Murtha said, "George, we sent 10,000 troops into Baghdad five months ago and it got worse! We had the highest number of casualties among Americans and Iraqis in that month."

"We don�t want any permanent bases, we don�t want any torture we�re going to try to close down Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," Murtha said. "I don�t think you get any information from people who�ve been there for four years, George. I think its time to send them back to the countries they came from."

Stephanopolous continued to press Murtha on the main issue: "Do you expect Congress to restrict funding for this war this year?"

Murtha: "I expect them to restrict funding until some of the problems are fixed at home. We have no units that can be deployed to Iran or North Korea. The troops are inadequately trained and equipped. We want the strategic reserve to be improved. We don�t want tours extended, we don�t want torture, and we don�t want permanent bases."

Murtha wisely used his time on national TV to provide his own frank analysis of the present conflict: "You know they say that al Qaeda is causing the divisions and sectarian violence? The invasion itself is what causes the sectarian violence . . . It�s the occupation causes the violence. That�s the problem we have and we have to change directions."

That�s the message the American people should be hearing every day.

Murtha will face stiff opposition from Vice President "last throes" Dick Cheney who proclaimed last Sunday on FOX News "that we cannot have a war run by a committee." (It�s called "democracy," Dick.)

He�ll also clash with Bush who no longer believes he is accountable to Congress for his actions. ("I fully understand that Congress could try to stop me from doing it. But we�re going forward.") On top of that, he�ll face the predictable wrath of the media and the warmongering psychos, McCain and Lieberman.

Still, if you had to stake the future of the US Congress on one man, you couldn�t make a better choice than Jack Murtha. He�s a political warhorse who towers above the amalgam of windbags, phonies and opportunists who fill out the Democratic leadership. He�s willing to put his neck on the chopping block and go toe-to-toe with the gangsters and cutthroats in the Bush administration.

That�s what it�s going to take to end this bloodbath.

Besides, he�s optimistic about his prospects for success. When Stephanopolous asked him if he really believed he could change the policy in Iraq, Murtha perked up and responded confidently, "Let me tell you, George; it�s a whole new ballgame now."

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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