Following up today’s speech — I’m watching Congressman Jack Murtha on Hardball to get his response. I thought you might be interested, so I took notes. Quotations are approximate.
Murtha said that what the President presented today is not a plan. We went in with inadequate forces, then we didn’t have the appropriate people in the right places and we lost the support of the Iraqi people. 80 percent want us out.
The public wants direction. They want leadership, and they want honesty. We’re not getting honesty from this president .
Matthews says, the President says we should stay until the Iraqi military is trained enough to take over the fight.
He’s allowing Iraqis to set the timetable, says Murtha. They’re going to let us do the fighting, even though they said they want us out. If we don’t redeploy as I suggested we’re going to be there for 100 years. It’s not progressing. It’s not getting better. Let the Iraqi peple handle it themselves.
Bush is trying to tie what’s going on in Iraq to the worldwide network of terrorism, Murtha continued. But only 7 percent of the people fighting us in Iraq are al Qaeda.
Can you imagine if the French had stayed after the Revolution? We’d have run them out.
The number of casualties per day is increasing. We can’t win this militarily, because our military actions make enemies for us. All we get from this administration is rhetoric.
How long it will take to get an Iraqi army that can defend itself without our help? asks Matthews.
25 years, says Murtha. From every measurment I can see we are not making progress.
Matthews thinks Bush’s new request of a $4.6 billion supplemental appropriation for Iraqi reconstruction is a trap for the Democrats, because if they vote for it they’ll be endorsing his Iraq policy but if they vote against it they’ll be accused of undermining the effort.
Murtha responds, They haven’t even spent the $18 billion we already appropriated for reconstruction, and some of that was used for the military. I can’t imagine what he wants the $4.6 billion for. They’ve only spent $9 billion.
Murtha dismissed the idea of any kind of trap. He believes the reconstruction spending is important, because it provides jobs for Iraqis.
Murtha points out that if troops numbers are reduced the troops remaining will still be a target. Supply convoys will still be vulnerable. It makes more sense, he says, to redeploy out of Iraq but retain troops nearby so that we can go back in if needed to go after al Qaeda or other terrorists who are a threat to us and our allies. But we need to get out of the fight between the Shia and the Sunnis in Iraq.
We still don’t have the kind of people we need, Murtha says. We don’t have translators, demolition experts, special forces, intelligence experts. We’re paying big money to recruit these people, and we still don’t have them. This effort has been so mishandled from the start. There are not enough troops to protect the Syrian border. This thing cannot be won militarily.
Matthews: Bush wants to stay with no time limits. But you’re saying we should gradually redeploy out of the country but maintain troops in the region to fight terrorism if we have to.
Murtha says that’s right. We need credibility, he says. This is a real war. People are getting killed. It’s time to admit we made a mistake. We need to repair our relations with the world. That’s what people are thirsting for.
Matthews: Do you trust the Cheney Rumsfeld crowd? On every pont they’ve been wrong about how this war would turn oujt. Do you trust them on the facts?
Murtha says, Just because they say it doesn’t make it so. Be truthful. I told them, it’ll backfire if you keep telling these stories. They aren’t being honest.
Is George Casey telling the truth? asks Matthews.
You know I deal with these guys all the time. I know how they feel. He said one of the problems in this insurgency is the occupation. We’ve become the enemy. He said one of our policies will be to start to withdraw.
Matthews: Bush said if any general needs more troops they only need to ask, and they’d get more troops.
Murtha: That’s not an honest statement. One general I talked to doesn’t have enough troops to protect the Syrian border. That’s one of our missions, and we don’t have enough troops.
These guys are sitting in theiir conditioned office saying stay the course. They aren’t out in the heat and the dirt. A very small portion of our citizens are making that sacrifice. In some ways it’s worse than Vietnam– we’re going to have a lot of people with post-traumatic stress.
Matthews brought up the news stories being written by Americans and planted in the Iraqi press.
This has been a problem from the start, Murtha said. The dishonesty of the people speaking for the administration.
What about support in Congress, Matthews asks.
Democrats sat behind me during the debate. Many Republicans come up to me privately and quietly. All of us want to find a solution.