Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Murtha's Mideast Missteps

Recent days have seen praised heaped upon Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) for being the first prominent member of the United States Congress to call upon the administration to set an immediate plan to withdraw all American soldiers from Iraq. Much has been made (here and elsewhere) of Murtha's perceived credibility, which is, in turn, based in no small part of Murtha's prior, extensive, and undeniably commendable military service. Opponents of the war have glommed on to Murtha and begun to portray him as a modern-day Senator Fulbright, in the hopes that he will be the catalyst that broadens the base of anti-war sentiment in much the same way the former senator broadened the anti-war base against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s.

Put aside opinion and conjecture for a moment, and consider the following facts.

- In September 1993, approximately two weeks before American soldiers were massacred at Mogadishu, Somalia, Murtha appeared on NBC's Today Show. Murtha claimed that the "welcome" of United States Armed Forces personnel had been "worn out," and that he anticipated troops would be moved out of the region "very quickly."

- After 18 (undermanned and underequipped) U.S. Rangers were slaughtered at the hands of Mohamed Farrah Aidid's supporters within Mogadishu city limits, Murtha visited the troops in Somalia. Shortly thereafter, Murtha commented to an unspecified news outlet that there was "no military solution" to the Somalia problem, going on to note that "[s]ome of [the Rangers] will tell you [that] to get [warlord Mohamed Farrah] Aidid is the solution. I don't agree with that."

- Then-President Bill Clinton ultimately initiated the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia.

- Osama bin Laden, in a 1998 interview with ABC News, made the following statement:
Our people realize[d] more than before that the American soldier is a paper
tiger that run[s] in defeat after a few blows. . . . America forgot all about
the hoopla and media propaganda and left dragging their corpses and their
shameful defeat.

The above are facts. Now here's the opinion:

Based on his Somalia precedent, Murtha has a lousy track record when it comes to predicting when it is best for U.S. troops to withdraw from a conflict. Whether or not he knows it (or whether or not he is willing to admit it), Murtha and those who share his (dare I even say it) cut-and-run approach to military engagements wind up doing significant damage to America's interests around the globe. I might even go so far as to say that Murtha shares some of the burden for the rise of Osama bin Laden and the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, because it was his "get down or crawl, you might get hurt" military "strategy" that (in bin Laden's own words) helped enable Al Qaeda to become the worldwide terror threat it is today.

A good man? Definitely. A veteran with a distinguished record? Certainly. A noble public servant? Probably. But a brilliant military tactician? Hardly. If his track record is any indication, one can only hope that the administration does exactly the opposite of what Murtha recommends, for the sake of us all.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Time to be grateful that Murtha is not in charge.


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