It is disappointing that Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, is portraying his efforts to cut funding for troops deploying to Iraq as an attempt to fix problems with our military when he previously told the liberal organization MoveOn.org that his real motivation was to ensure that the military "won't be able to continue" with its new Iraq strategy to secure Baghdad.
Rep. Murtha's policy and the reasoning behind it are seriously flawed for three reasons: It would make America less secure, it ignores the realities faced by our troops on the ground and it is at odds with the reality that America possesses the greatest fighting force on Earth.
Instead of pursuing victory in Iraq, Rep. Murtha supports a premature U.S. withdrawal that would endanger America. Rep. Murtha's reasoning that Iraq's government will hold after U.S. forces leave, that Iraq's security forces will not disintegrate and that the Islamic fascists will not be able to establish a safe haven in Iraq is seriously flawed.
In an attempt to stop the president's new strategy before it is given a chance to succeed, Rep. Murtha would mortgage our nation's safety and set up our military for a tougher fight.
Today, new units deploying to Iraq spend several weeks training with the units they are replacing to learn from their predecessors' experiences -- an important edge our troops would lose if Congress adopted Rep. Murtha's proposal to end tour extensions. According to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, Rep. Murtha's policy would allow us to field only 14 to 19 brigades, instead of the 20 necessary for victory in Iraq. There would be gaps between deployments, and new units might have to enter areas long vacated by their predecessors.
Rep. Murtha's rationale is even more disappointing considering he knows that our forces are properly trained and equipped for this fight. Gen. Pace has certified that our deploying forces will have all of the training and equipment they need, but Rep. Murtha disputes this, using Cold War-era equipment and readiness standards that Congress long-ago directed the Defense Department to reform. In fact, the Defense Department has requested funds for additional cutting-edge protective equipment for our forces -- a request awaiting review by the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that Rep. Murtha chairs.
Contrary to what Rep. Murtha believes, for five years we have been at war with a highly motivated, innovative, persistent and lethal enemy. And we will be for a long time. Yet our preparedness to respond to another crisis now is far better than it has been in previous major conflicts. As Gen. Pace pointed out, we still have 2 million troops prepared to engage and defeat our enemies anywhere in the world. The president's planned deployment of 21,000 additional troops to Iraq -- out of a total military force of 2.5 million -- does not change Gen. Pace's assessment.
Unlike antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan and her ilk, Rep. Murtha has the burden of knowing the nature and gravity of the threat of Islamic fascism. That this war may last as long as or longer than the Cold War, and may be much deadlier, is another factor. Yet Rep. Murtha has looked past this to score short-term, domestic political advantage. I can only assume that he and his comrades hope they do not succeed, for if they did, they not only would ensure our defeat and withdrawal from Iraq, but they also would dramatically increase the threat we face at home. This, of course, would spell political disaster for the left.
It is sad indeed to see this once-great defender of our national security offering proposals that are consistent with the urgings of our enemy, the Islamic fascists. I know Jack Murtha has fought in the trenches for decades for our men and women in uniform and that he has a special bond with them. But today he reminds me of another Democratic leader during a time of war, Gen. George McClellan. He was twice the Union commander in the early years of the Civil War. He was a great leader, but he loved his troops so much that he was unable to commit them to battle, thus passing up opportunities for a swift and less bloody conflict.
Jack, if you really love our men and women in uniform as much as you say, let them fight and give them what they need to win.
Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. He is writing a second book on the “Gathering Storm of the 21st Century” – the war against a radical, Islamic fascist enemy and its growing alliances around the world.
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