Democracy Now! interviews Congressmember John Murtha (D–PA) about his position on the Iraq war, the Haditha massacre and Sen. Hillary Clinton’s refusal to endorse his troop withdrawal plan. On Clinton, Murtha says, "I’m disappointed. I’m not sure why that’s happened...I don’t know what the reason is she’s decided not to endorse my position. [includes rush transcript]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday likened critics of the war in Iraq to those who tried to appease Nazi Germany during the 1930"s. In a speech to the American Legion veterans group in Salt Lake City, Rumsfeld referred to the period before World War II and said that "some seem not to have learned history’s lessons...I recount that history because, once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism."
Rumsfeld also criticized the number of newspaper stories on abuses by U.S troops and defended Guantanamo Bay, saying it is "arguably the best run and most scrutinized detention facility" ever.
On Tuesday, one of the leading critics of the war, conservative Democratic Congressman John Murtha came to New York to take part in a town hall meeting on Iraq. Murtha is a decorated army veteran with close ties to military commanders. He’s also the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. He voted for the Iraq invasion and has visited Iraq several times since the war began.
Last November, Murtha ignited a firestorm in Washington when he called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. I had a chance to question him yesterday in New York.
- Rep. John Murtha (D–PA), questioned by Amy Goodman, August 29, 2006.
AMY GOODMAN: I had a chance to question Congress member Murtha yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your position on Iraq? What are you calling for right now, Congressman Murtha?
REP. JOHN MURTHA: I believe we should redeploy responsibly as quickly as possible. I feel very strongly we can’t desert Iraq, but we have to find a way to reduce our presence. We’ve actually become the enemy in some cases. When you look at what’s happened with our troops occupying the country when they said we’d be liberators, some of the military things that we have to do as military and some of the enemies we’ve made, we really lost ground. The incidents are increasing, rather than decreasing. We’ve got 130,000 troops, and we’re spending $8 billion a month, and we need to reduce our presence and let the Iraqis take over.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Haditha and what happened there? You were the first congressman to talk about it.
REP. JOHN MURTHA: Yeah, I support the military 100 percent, unless they make a tragic mistake like that, which hurts the rest of the troops and hurts our nation.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you know at this point of what happened there?
REP. JOHN MURTHA: Well, I know that the NCIS, which is the Naval justice system, endorsed what I said. They said that these were — people were killed unnecessarily, and so I’m looking forward to that thing being resolved. It should have been resolved much faster. If I hadn’t spoken out, it wouldn’t even have been investigated.
AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that they’re bringing a libel suit against you, one of the soldiers, Wuterich, saying that you have slandered the soldiers for talking about Haditha?
REP. JOHN MURTHA: Well, you can’t let something like this be overcome. You can’t let something not be investigated.
AMY GOODMAN: Your early call for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which shocked a lot of people — a conservative Democrat that you are, the Vietnam veteran that you are — one of the leading Democrats is from here, New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She did not endorse that call.
REP. JOHN MURTHA: Yeah, I’m disappointed. I’m not sure why that’s happened. She talked to me after I made my statement, and I see she’s finally calling for Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation. And I think — I don’t know what the reason she’s decided not to endorse my position, but we’re spending $8 billion a month, $11 million an hour, and there’s so many things we could do. We cannot solve these other domestic problems without redeploying. And with 130,000 troops there for three-and-a-half years, the incidents are getting worse.
AMY GOODMAN: What message would you have for the senator from New York right now?
REP. JOHN MURTHA: Well, I think she has to look at this very carefully and decide. I think she ought to be out more in front. She’s a leader in this country. She’s a leading Democratic nominee, and I think she has to look at what I’ve been saying.
AMY GOODMAN: Pennsylvania Democratic Congress member John Murtha.