Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Does Somalia Haunt Murtha?

Does Somalia haunt Murtha? I won't pretend to know conclusively but I'm considering the notion for a number of reasons. Let's start with Murtha advising Bill Clinton to leave Somalia. Here's what Murtha said then:
Murtha said the U.S. had no choice but to pull out now, explaining, "There's no military solution. Some of them will tell you [that] to get [warlord Mohamed Farrah] Aidid is the solution. I don't agree with that."
The public record shows that bin Laden took our pulling out of Somalia as proof that America was a paper tiger. Here's what bin Laden told ABC's John Miller:
"Our people realize[d] more than before that the American soldier is a paper tiger that run[s] in defeat after a few blows," the terror chief recalled. "America forgot all about the hoopla and media propaganda and left dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."
Eight years later, the pullout that emboldened bin Laden's terrorists led to 9/11. Three planes hit their targets that bright September morning. The one that didn't hit its target crashed 15 miles from Johnstown, PA, Murtha's home, because a group of passengers paid the ultimate price in an act of incredible heroism. That band of heroes refused to let those terrorists win. They refused to let those terrorists accomplish their bloody mission.

That can't be lost on Murtha, though he'll never admit it. In fact, it isn't unreasonable to think that he's in denial about Somalia, 1993. Check out this transcript and determine whether Murtha is in denial over Somalia:
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think it's a vote confirming that the people that voted for it are for this so-called strategy. But I think more and more, you will see that the strategy, not the strategy has changed, but the votes change. A number of people came to me afterwards, listening to what I had to say, and a number of Republicans voted with us. So we are making progress.

But the thing that disturbs me and worries me about this whole thing, we can't get them to change direction. And I said over and over in debate, if you listen to any of it. In Beirut President Reagan changed direction, in Somalia, President Clinton changed direction, and yet here with the troops out there every day, suffering from these explosive devices, and looked at as occupiers. Eighty percent of the people want us out of there, and yet they continue to say we're fighting this thing.
Based on that comment to Wolf Blitzer, he's acting like 'changing course' in Somalia was a victory. Unfortunately, bin Laden would agree with that. The difference is that is was a victory for bin Laden's terrorists, not a victory for the United States.

Murtha will never admit that the events half a world away and a decade apart changed his thinking but I can't help but wonder how much they did. Though I never bought into the "Democratic hawk" characterization that came front and center when Murtha announced his immediate redeployment 'plan', it's obvious that the 1993 Murtha was decidedly more hawkish that the 2006 Murtha. The 2006 Murtha is a pacifist through and through. The 2006 Murtha is a defeatist. Unfortunately, it appears that Murtha has stayed consistent in that respect.

Murtha has persistently questioned President Bush's Iraq policy. It isn't unreasonable to think that President Bush is holding to his policy because he doesn't want to repeat the Clinton-Murtha mistake of Somalia or the Murtha-Reagan mistake of abandoning Beirut in 1983.

Another sign that Murtha might be feeling conflicted are his contradictory statements. First there’s this statement:
Iraqis are fighting Iraqis in sectarian violence, and U.S. troops have become the target.
Please explain to me how foreign U.S. troops become the main targets in a civil war in Baghdad.

Who can forget Murtha repeatedly saying that “eighty percent of the Iraqi people want us out of Iraq”? By the same token, Murtha is quoted as saying “Iraq is not the center of terrorism; it’s the center of an insurgency, and there’s a big difference,’ Murtha said at a Philadelphia news conference. ‘It’s not going to get better with us over there. They’ll let us fight forever.” That isn’t even including this NY Times article, titled “In an About-Face, Sunnis Want U.S. to Remain in Iraq”.

The ‘good news’ for Murtha is that he was fairly close to right when he said that Iraqis “would let us fight forever” because they'll gladly accept our help in fighting until they're ready. The bad news is that he was wrong when he said that “eighty percent of the Iraqi people want us out of Iraq.”

These are just the most glaring examples where Murtha was wrong, contradictory and possibly in denial. At what point do the people of Pennsylvania’s Twelfth District say “Enough is enough”? At what point do they say “I want a fresh voice in Washington, a voice that is closer to Western Pennsylvania thinking“?

Unless I miss my guess, I think they’re thinking long and hard about that right now. Unless I miss my guess, I think Mr. Murtha is in for the fight of his political life against a spirited campaigner named Diana Irey.

Think about it. Murtha has garnered significant support from active duty and retired military people in his district. Current and former military people make up a significant portion of the Twelfth District’s population. When Murtha played judge, jury and executioner in the Haditha Marine case, I suspect that he lost most of his support from the military community in his district.

At the same time, Ms. Irey has been standing up for the American military community, demanding an apology from Murtha, saying:
"Jack Murtha was wrong to prejudge a case that may or may not be brought against U.S. armed forces. He was wrong to act as prosecutor, judge, and jury before any charges have been filed, before any court martial has been convened, before any Marine has been convicted. Jack Murtha, of all people, should understand and appreciate the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. His reckless disregard for due process is just one more reason he needs to be retired from active duty in the Congress. It’s time for a change."
The type of arrogance that Murtha displayed in all but convicting the Haditha Marines only happens when you separate yourself from the real world. It only happens when you submerge yourself in the Beltway limelight.

Why shouldn't the people of Pennsylvania's Twelfth District ask who gave John Murtha permission to ignore the fundamental Constitutional principles of due process and the right to a fair trial? Why shouldn't they ask why John Murtha was in a hurry to convict these Marines even before the investigation was completed?

Don’t be surprised if the people of western Pennsylvania are asking themselves those questions right now. Don't be surprised if they make that change this November.

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