Referring to Rep. John Murtha's recent statements on President Bush's troop increase strategy in Iraq, Sean Hannity asserted that "Democrats are going to have an even harder time trying to win the White House on a blame-Bush and the Republicans platform now that their loudest critic has gone to the other side." However, Murtha's comments did not indicate that he "has gone to the other side." Rather, Murtha said: "I think the surge is working, I think -- but that's only one element. ... But the thing that has to happen, the Iraqis have to do this themselves." In a November 30 statement, Murtha also reiterated his support for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
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On the December 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity claimed that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) is "starting to see the light," referring to Murtha's recent statements on President Bush's troop increase strategy in Iraq. Hannity further asserted that "Democrats are going to have an even harder time trying to win the White House on a blame-Bush and the Republicans platform now that their loudest critic has gone to the other side." However, Murtha's comments did not indicate that he "has gone to the other side." As Media Matters for America has noted, during his November 29 press conference, Murtha said: "I think the surge is working, I think -- but that's only one element. ...There's no question in my mind that if you put more forces in ... it's going to work out. But the thing that has to happen, the Iraqis have to do this themselves." Murtha went on to state that according to Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, "the impression was, that I got from all of them, [was] that the central government is pretty close to dysfunctional."
Further, describing Murtha's recent comments as an "about-face," Hannity aired several earlier video clips of Murtha calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But Hannity did not mention that, in a November 30 statement, Murtha made clear that he continues to support redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq:
The military surge has created a window of opportunity for the Iraqi Government. Unfortunately, the sacrifice of our troops has not been met by the Iraqi Government and they have failed to capitalize on the political and diplomatic steps that the surge was designed to provide.
The fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily, and that we must begin an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as practicable.
The House of Representatives has passed a $50 billion funding bill that provides the President, our troops, and our nation with a responsible plan for bringing our troops home. The President should heed the advice of the American people and allow this funding bill to become law.
While Murtha did acknowledge that the surge resulted in military successes, he also highlighted the lack of political progress and stressed that the Iraqis need to take over themselves; his reference to the need for political progress echoed a condition that President Bush himself laid out when announcing his strategy in January. Indeed, Huffington Post political writer Sam Stein reported on November 30 that "the congressman's statement was far more nuanced than what is being reported and echoed his previous statements praising the U.S. military's efforts":
War proponents have seized on the words of Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, who said Thursday, following a visit to Iraq, that the troop surge is working -- a seeming contradiction from earlier criticism.
But the congressman's statement was far more nuanced than what is being reported and echoes his previous statements praising the U.S. military's efforts.
Speaking via teleconference to reporters in four different cities, Murtha did acknowledge that the surge, which he had firmly criticized, has led to military successes. But he also warned repeatedly that the Iraqis were not doing enough to capitalize on those gains.
"I think the surge is working but that's only one element. It's working because of the increase in troops," he said, "but the thing that has to happen is that the Iraqis have to do this themselves ..."
(The caveat was all but ignored by some conservative critics, one of whom described Murtha's claim as the equivalent of "hell freezing over.")
Since expressing skepticism over the war in November 2005, Murtha has consistently applauded the capabilities of the troops but also emphasized that, in the absence of political progress among the Iraqi government; their work would be for naught. When President Bush rolled out his surge proposal in the winter of 2007, he opposed the idea, according to the Wall Street Journal, because "it meant depleting readiness at home or extending the tours of troops [currently] in the war zone."
On Thursday, the congressman took a softer but similar stance. Murtha harped on the lack of political and diplomatic progress in Iraq. "The impression I got was that the central government was pretty close to dysfunctional," he said. "They hope the 2008 budget will be passed by 2007 but there are still 17 ministerial seats unfilled."
And he spoke worrisomely about the status of America's armed forces: "I keep stressing we can no longer afford to spend 14 billion a month on the war and let our readiness slip in other parts of the country."
From Murtha's November 29 press conference:
MURTHA: I think the surge is working, I think -- but that's only one element. And the surge is working for a couple different reasons: one is because of the increase in troops. I sent a letter to the president three or four years ago saying, "We need 100,000 more troops" at one point. They went in with inadequate forces. There's no question in my mind that if you put more forces in, you're going to have -- it's going to work out.
But the thing that has to happen, the Iraqis have to do this themselves. We can't win it for them. In Afghanistan or Iraq, they've got to take over themselves. And in the provinces where they've taken over, we've made progress. Anbar Province is a perfect example of that. Now, we've had to pay some of the folks, but the point is, when they get into the whole thing, we start making progress.
MURTHA: In Iraq and meeting with General Crocker, or Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus, they stated -- or the impression was, that I got from all of them, that the central government is pretty close to dysfunctional -- that's the central government.
From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:
HANNITY: Last week, one of Capitol Hill's biggest critics of the war made a surprising statement after returning from a trip from Iraq.
[begin video clip]
HANNITY: Last week, hell froze over, pigs were flying, and the cows finally came home. The pessimistic Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha publicly acknowledged that the Iraq troop surge he so vehemently opposed is indeed making progress. Murtha's about-face occurred last week when he returned from a trip to assess the situation in Iraq.
MURTHA: The surge is working for a couple different reasons. One is because of the increase in troops. They went in with inadequate forces. There's no question in my mind that if you put more forces in, you're going to have -- it's gonna work out.
HANNITY: That the surge is working is no surprise to those who voted to give it a chance. But from Murtha, well, that's a rave.
Let's go back a bit. In 2002, Murtha, along with many other Democrats, voted in favor of authorizing the war in Iraq. But in November of 2005, the previously hawkish congressman suddenly reversed his stance and called for an immediate withdrawal of troops. Since then, Murtha, along with his anti-war cronies like [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], took every opportunity to denounce the president's policy in Iraq.
[begin video clip]
MURTHA: I'm concerned the Army is broken.
The president insists our military needs to stay the course, but there's no plan for progress.
All the top military people have agreed with me we can't win it militarily.
These troops are going back after less than a year at home. These troops are going back to 120-degree temperatures. They're sitting on their fat backsides there in the White House and they say, "Well, let's stay the course."
There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.
Given the sorry state of our Army, you've got to believe President Reagan is turning over in his grave.
The Iraqis want us out of there. The American people want us out of there. There's no solution to Iraq. There's only an alternative. And that's to redeploy and let the Iraqis handle it themselves.
[end video clip]
HANNITY: Murtha's military stance seemed to change as soon as Americans started to feel the pain of the war, and its slower-than-expected progress. As a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, Murtha's condemnation of the war enabled liberals on Capitol Hill to turn the tables and denounce President Bush's Iraq policy, especially those Democrats, like [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY], who in the wake of 9-11, voted to authorize the war.
Last year, when President Bush proposed the troop surge in Iraq. Murtha slammed the commander in chief at every turn. This past April, Murtha said, quote, "So this surge, this escalation, is not working and it's time to redeploy the troops," unquote.
In June of this year, Murtha said, quote, "I'm absolutely convinced that right now the surge isn't working and I'm convinced that if they don't pay attention to what I'm saying and a lot of other members of Congress are saying, they're going to have a disaster on their hands," unquote.
Congressman Murtha made many such public statements throughout the year. So his last comment that the surge is working is surprising, to put it mildly. OK, so Murtha's starting to see the light. But what does that mean for the San Francisco Speaker [Pelosi] and her anti-war agenda? Looks like the Democrats are going to have an even harder time trying to win the White House on a blame-Bush and the Republicans platform now that their loudest critic has gone to the other side.
[end video clip]
HANNITY: So maybe Congressman Murtha is finally coming to his senses.