WASHINGTON - An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.While I don't agree that an immediate withdrawal is the solution, I admire the hell out of this guy for being able to admit he was wrong, demanding accountability from the no-responsibility administration, and, most of all, for not taking one bit of Cheney's bully routine. Good for him.
"It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."
House Republicans assailed Murtha's position as one of abandonment and surrender, and accused Democrats of playing politics with the war. "They want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement.
Murtha estimated that all U.S. troops could be pulled out within six months. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he choked back tears during his remarks to reporters.
Murtha's comments came just two days after the Senate voted to approve a statement that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" to create the conditions for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.
In recent days, President Bush and other top administration officials have lashed out at critics of the war and have accused Democrats of advocating a "cut and run" strategy that will only embolden the insurgency.
Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the fray Wednesday by assailing Democrats who contend the Bush administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq, calling their criticism "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
Referring to Bush, Murtha added: "I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for criticizing them."
I'm sure the Republicans have their usual reasoned response at the ready. We'll soon hear rumors that Congressman Murtha shat on an American flag during his time in Vietnam or that he once spoke kindly to a black child, and the Swift-Boating will be on. But in the meantime, well done.
UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the video here.