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Is Murtha losing it?

Posted by Richard on June 21, 2006

While waiting (in vain) for Blog-City to come back on line last night, I read some transcripts from the Sunday news shows. Tim Russert’s interview of Rep. John Murtha is just unbelievable. I used to think his anti-war rhetoric was political posturing, but now I wonder if it’s something more — something sad. I wonder if Murtha’s mind is beginning to go. He is, after all, 74 years old.

What else would explain how a Marine Corps veteran with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts could hold up the ignominious U.S. withdrawal from Somalia (see Black Hawk Down) as a good example? What else would explain the semicoherent, disjointed rambling that characterized the entire interview?

Regarding the current state of affairs in Iraq, Murtha said:

It’s worse today than it was six months ago when I spoke out initially. When I spoke out, the garbage wasn’t being collected, oil production below pre-war level—all those things indicated to me we weren’t winning this, and it’s the same today, if not worse. Anbar Province. There’s not one project been done in Anbar Province. Two million people live there. They have no water at all, no oil production, they have no electricity at all in that province where is the heartland of the defense. The first six months we went in there, no—there—not a shot was fired, so it shows you how it’s changed.

It’s getting worse. That’s why I feel so strongly. All of us know how important it is internationally to win this war. We know how important. We import 20 million barrels of oil a day—we use 20 million barrels of oil. We know how important, international community. But we’re doing it all ourself, and there’s no plan that makes sense. We need to have more international cooperation. We need to redeploy our troops, the periphery. What happened with Zarqawi could have been done from the out—it was done from the outside. Our planes went in from the outside. So there’s no reason in the world that they can’t redeploy the troops. They’ve become the targets, they’re caught in the civil war, and I feel very strongly about it.

Asked about Rove’s "cut and run" charge, Murtha said he wanted to "change direction" and cited Beirut and Mogadishu as examples to follow:

Now, let’s, let’s—give me, give you an example. When we went to Beirut, I, I said to President Reagan, “Get out.” Now, the other day we were doing a debate, and they said, “Well, Beirut was a different situation. We cut and run.” We didn’t cut and run. President Reagan made the decision to change direction because he knew he couldn’t win it. Even in Somalia, President Clinton made the decision, “We have to, we have to change direction. Even with tax cuts. When we had a tax cut under Reagan, we then had a tax increase because he had to change direction. We need to change direction. We can’t win a war like this.

Later, he reiterated those examples:

The trouble is it keeps getting worse and they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. You just have—at some point you got to reassess it like Reagan did in, in Beirut, like, like Clinton did in Somalia, you just have to say, “OK, it’s time to change direction.”

Beirut and Mogadishu — bin Laden said it was those two events that convinced him the U.S. was weak and vulnerable. And Murtha wants us to emulate them. Incredible.

Russert asked about the killing of al-Zarqawi, and Murtha said in part:

Well, it was a military accomplishment from outside the country. We, we bombed, we bombed it. The, the information came from the Iraqis to the Iraqis to the U.S., and then we bombed where he was. And it—so it came from the outside.

I’ll tell you, here, here’s the problem we have in, in this kind of a war. First, first of all you’ve got our troops in the green zone. President says, “OK, I’m going in. And it was nice to see a democratic country—a democratic organization in operation.” It’s in the green zone. It’s a fortress. They’re not out in, in the public. They’re—they cannot go outside the—when I first went to Iraq, you could drive any place. As a matter of fact, when I found the 44,000 body armor shortages I was out in the division in the field. When I went to Anbar—but now you can’t go outside the green zone. So, so—the, the government’s inside the green zone. So they’re, they’re where Saddam Hussein was.

Then, then let’s take the prison situation. We, we pass in the House and the Senate a veto-proof legislation that they shouldn’t veto and then the president says, “Well, we’re going to continue the same policy.” Now what does that say? We’re fighting a war of ideals and ideas. It’s no longer a military war. We have won the military war against their, their enemy. We toppled Saddam Hussein. The military’s done everything that they can do. And so it’s time for us to redeploy. And Iraqi—only Iraqis can settle this.

When pressed by Russert about where to "redeploy" our troops, Murtha suggested:

REP. MURTHA: Kuwait’s one that will take us. Qatar, we already have bases in Qatar. So Bahrain. All those countries are willing to take the United States. Now, Saudi Arabia won’t because they wanted us out of there in the first place. So—and we don’t have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We, we don’t have—we can redeploy there almost instantly. So that’s not—that’s, that’s a fallacy. That, that’s just a statement to rial up people to support a failed policy wrapped in illusion.

MR. RUSSERT: But it’d be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.

REP. MURTHA: Well, it—you know, they—when I say Okinawa, I, I’m saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly. And—and—when they don’t know we’re coming. There’s no question about it. And, and where those airplanes won’t—came from I can’t tell you, but, but I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t take very long for them to get in with cruise missiles or with, with fighter aircraft or, or attack aircraft, it doesn’t take any time at all. So we, we have done—this one particular operation, to say that that couldn’t have done, done—it was done from the outside, for heaven’s sakes.

Okinawa. 5000 miles from Iraq, through Chinese and Iranian air space. Well over 20 hours round-trip flying time, with multiple refuelings — "it doesn’t take any time at all." That’s just bizarre.

Russert asked what the effect would be on the fall elections if the Dems were successfully portrayed as the "party of cut and run":

Well, I think the public would have to be portrayed as cut-and-run if you talk about the Democrats being portrayed—every place I go, people understand what I’m saying. The public has been away ahead. For instance, when I came to Congress in ‘74, I remember distinctly the public—they said we, we’d only win a few seats, we had a two-to-one majority at that time. We won all five of the special elections that year, we lost—we—when Vice President Ford’s seat—only had it for two years, but we won that seat. Then in, in ‘94, when the public turned against the Congress, we thought we’d lose 18, we lost 52 seats.

So, you know, it, it’s easy to them to try to spin the fact that it’s not going to happen. And I think we do have to have legitimate proposals. I think we have to talk about a lot of things besides the war itself, but the war has such a ramification, such—the debt itself is $8.4 trillion dollars. How we going to pay for this? Obviously, we’re going to have to adjust taxes from the higher level, there’s no question about it if you’re going to—unless you want your children and grandchildren paying for this. So we—a lot of problems we have to face. It’s an individual thing. Some areas it’s not as popular as others, but in the long run, a lot of people have changed their mind. It’s changed dramatically from the way it was today, and I think most—well, two thirds of the Democrats agree with my position now.

Surely, the man’s mind hasn’t always worked like this. I may express low opinions of Congress from time to time, but I don’t think you can serve 32 years there without the ability to express coherent and complete thoughts. I don’t think a rational person, fully in touch with reality, would insist that there’s no power or water in Anbar province, or suggest "redeploying" from Iraq to Okinawa and just dismiss concerns about response time.

I suspect that Murtha is descending into senile dementia, and I think a mental status exam and complete clinical evaluation are in order. My sympathies to the Murtha family. But I hope someone intervenes soon, before he embarrasses himself, the Congress, and this country any further.
 

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