On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 403-3 to reject an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. -- The vote was the result of a Republican-devised stunt that attempted to turn Rep. John Murtha's denunciation on Thursday of the massive presence of U.S. troops in Iraq against Democrats pressing the administration's Iraq policy on many fronts. -- In fact, as the complete transcript of his speech shows, Rep. Murtha (D-PA 12th) proposed not an "immediate withdrawal" but rather: "To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces. To create a quick reaction force in the region. To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines. To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq." -- Mostly lost in the hubbub and name-calling was Murtha's main point: "I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress . . . [T]he U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily." -- Chances are that Murtha's action will stimulate innumerable conversations about the Iraq war over American dinner tables on Thanksgiving Day. -- As a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam with a Bronze Star, two Purple Harts, and the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry, and as the ranking Democrat on the Defense Subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Murtha's views should carry weight. -- Yet the 73-year-old veteran was called a "coward" on the floor of the House by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH 2nd), though "after several minutes of frantic negotiation [she] retracted her remarks," the Los Angeles Times reported. -- Rep. Schmidt is a rookie Republican legislator, a lawyer from the suburbs of Cincinnati in her 50s with no military experience (though her web site does report that she has completed 54 marathon races to date)....
LAWMAKERS REJECT IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL
By Liz Sidoti
November 18, 2005
WASHINGTON -- The House on Friday overwhelmingly rejected calls for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq, a vote engineered by the Republicans that was intended to fail. Democrats derided the vote as a political stunt.
"Our troops have become the enemy. We need to change direction in Iraq," said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Democratic hawk whose call a day earlier for pulling out troops sparked a nasty, personal debate over the war.
The House voted 403-3 to reject a nonbinding resolution calling for an immediate troop withdrawal.
"We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will not retreat," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said as the GOP leadership pushed the issue to a vote over the protest of Democrats.
It was the second time in less than a week that President Bush's Iraq policy stirred heated debate in Congress. On Tuesday, the Senate defeated a Democratic push for Bush to lay out a timetable for withdrawal.
Murtha, a 73-year-old Marine veteran decorated for combat service in Vietnam, issued his call for a troop withdrawal at a news conference on Thursday. In little more than 24 hours, Hastert and Republicans decided to put the question to the House.
Democrats said it was a political stunt and quickly decided to vote against it in an attempt to drain it of significance.
"A disgrace," declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame," added Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.
WAR IN IRAQ
By Rep. John Murtha
November 17, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. 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 can not 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.
General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency. General Abizaid said on the same date, Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.
For 2 ½ years I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait -- the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction -- but the U.S. forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.
We spend more money on Intelligence than all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.
I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.
The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We can not allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.
Much of our ground equipment is worn out and in need of either serious overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace. We must rebuild our Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being terrified about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry, and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.
Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.
I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the conditions on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included the Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have now received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. 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.
I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won militarily. I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize, and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.
Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists, and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. 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.
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a free Iraq.
My plan calls:
To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.
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. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.
The Conflict in Iraq
HOUSE ERUPTS IN WAR DEBATE
By Maura Reynolds
** Lawmakers launch personal attacks as Republicans force a vote on whether to pull out of Iraq immediately. The measure is rejected. **
Los Angeles Times
November 19, 2005
WASHINGTON -- House Republicans forced a vote Friday over a proposal to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, sparking a raw and raucous debate during which lawmakers hurled insults and jeered each other.
The GOP-sponsored proposal, intended to fail and aimed at embarrassing war critics, was overwhelmingly defeated shortly before midnight, 403 to 3.
But the debate vividly exposed the widening rifts between Democrats and Republicans over the course of the war -- a disagreement that increasingly has dominated congressional proceedings.
The resolution grew out of a proposal made Thursday by Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania -- a Democrat, a decorated Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and one of the House's most respected military hawks -- that the United States start pulling out of Iraq.
Republicans responded Friday by introducing a simplified version of his plan -- a move Democrats denounced as a political stunt designed to force the hand of Murtha and his fellow Democrats.
But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), who sponsored the resolution, responded: "This is a legitimate question."
Explaining his demand for a vote, Hunter said the escalating debate over the war had left the impression around the world "that Congress is withdrawing support of the mission in Iraq."
During the debate, House members frequently spoke out of turn. The presiding officer repeatedly called for order.
At one point, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee and other Democrats surged toward the Republican side of the chamber, after Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, suggested that Murtha -- the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee and the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star -- was a coward.
Schmidt, a former state legislator who took office after a special election in August in which the war became the prominent issue, said a Marine colonel in Ohio had asked her to "send Congress a message: Stay the course."
"He also asked me," she said, "to send Congressman Murtha a message: Cowards cut and run. Marines never do."
Democrats erupted in boos and shouts. "You guys are pathetic! Pathetic!" yelled Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.).
"Take her words down," other Democrats cried, using the parliamentary language to demand that she retract what they considered a deep insult. "Take them down."
Schmidt stood up after several minutes of frantic negotiation and retracted her remarks.
Murtha's resolution Thursday called for a rapid "reaction force" to remain in the region and for diplomacy to be accelerated to achieve stability in Iraq. He also said the withdrawal should begin only when it could be accomplished safely.
The measure Hunter introduced said simply that "the sense of the House" was that troop deployment in Iraq should be "terminated immediately."
Murtha was among the vast majority of Democrats joining Republicans in voting against the resolution.
"This resolution is not what I envisioned, not what I introduced," he said.
But, defending his goal, he added: "This war cannot be won militarily. It has to be won politically. We ought to give Iraq back to the Iraqis."
The members who voted for the resolution were Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), Cynthia A. McKinney (D-Ga.), and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.).
Six members voted "present": Major R. Owens (D-N.Y.), William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, in South Korea where President Bush was attending a Pacific Rim trade meeting, said in a statement that Congress had "in strong, bipartisan fashion rejected the call to cut and run."
Linking the war in Iraq with the fight against terrorism, he continued: "The best strategy to keep America safe is to continue taking the fight to the terrorists, not to retreat in the face of the despicable attacks of a determined enemy."
Earlier in the day, Bush quoted a top U.S. commander in Iraq, saying that setting a deadline for troop withdrawal would be "a recipe for disaster."
Throughout the House debate, Democrats lavished praise on Murtha and his attack on the administration's Iraq policies.
"The American people have rallied to Jack Murtha's message of truth," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). Turning to the Republican side of the chamber, she continued: "But you can't handle the truth. Why are the Republicans so afraid of the facts?"
In recognition of Murtha's credentials as a friend of the military, some Republicans made a point of praising him Friday.
"This debate has been a report card on Jack Murtha, and I give him an A-plus as a truly great American," said Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.).
Members from both parties stood to applaud Murtha.
Then, referring to Murtha's call for troop withdrawal, Hyde continued: "But among his great qualities, infallibility is not one."
Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) called the resolution "a cheap stunt that mocks the sacrifice of every man and woman serving in Iraq."
"How dare you? How dare you?" he shouted. "[This] is nothing except an effort to drive a stake through the heart of the Murtha resolution without any effort to get to the heart of the truth of the facts about Iraq."
Several Republicans referred to Vietnam in arguing against setting deadlines for withdrawing from Iraq.
"In case people have forgotten, this is the same thing that happened in Vietnam," warned Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), a Vietnam veteran.
"Peaceniks and people in Congress and America started saying bad things about what was going on in Vietnam and it did a terrible thing to troop morale. I just pray that our troops and their families can block this noise out."
Also Friday, the Bush administration continued its efforts to respond more forcefully to critics, with the Pentagon arranging a teleconference with senior military commanders who challenged Murtha's assessment that U.S. troops had achieved all they could in Iraq.
"I think we have to finish the job that we began here," said Army Col. James Brown of the Texas National Guard, who commands a brigade in southwestern Iraq. "It's important for the security of this nation, it's important for the security of this region, and certainly it's important in the vital interest of the United States of America."
--Times staff writers Mark Mazzetti in Washington and Peter Wallsten in Pusan, South Korea, contributed to this report.