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Rep John Murtha Slams Iraq War, Rove on "Meet the Press"

Rove on "his big, fat backside, saying, 'Stay the course' "

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Rep John Murtha Slams Iraq War, Rove on "Meet the Press"

Rep. John Murtha

REP. MURTHA: This guy’s sitting back there criticizing—political criticism, getting paid by the public taxpayer, and he’s saying to us, "We’re, we’re winning this war, and they’re running." We got to change direction, that’s what we have to do. You can’t, you can’t sit there in the air conditioned office and tell these troops they’re carrying 70 pounds on their back inside these armored vessels and hit with IEDs every day, seeing their friends blown up, their buddies blown up, and he says "stay the course." Yeah, it’s easy to say that from Washington, D.C.

MR. RUSSERT: Is it appropriate for the president’s principal political adviser to accuse the Democrats of cutting and running?

REP. MURTHA: I think it’s, it’s, it’s a, a name—they just use that. I say "stay and pay." And what I mean by stay and pay, and I’m talking about the hardship on the families, the hardship on the troops. And there’s no plan, that’s the thing. It’s easy to say that. That’s, that’s an easy—the public is way ahead of this. The public is two-to-one against what we’re doing, and they want a change in direction. That’s the thing I see the most.

MR. RUSSERT: But in 2004, you had a view that was much different than you had now, and this is what you wrote in your book: "A war initiated on faulty intelligence must not be followed by a premature withdrawal of our troops based on a political timetable. An untimely exit could rapidly devolve into a civil war, which would leave America’s foreign policy in disarray as countries question not only America’s judgment but also its perseverance." Aren’t you now advocating that?

REP. MURTHA: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s what I said then. And I think in the early stages, you have to judge that. But there comes a time when you got to change direction. There comes a time when you have to say to yourself, “OK, we’ve done everything we could do, we can’t win this militarily.” That’s why—and I talk to the military leaders, I talk to the troops, I go to the hospitals all the time.

So there’s two reasons that I felt it was absolutely essential we change direction. One is the troops themselves and what they’re going through and the fact that 42 percent of them don’t even know what the mission is.

And, and the second thing is the long-term stability of this country, our inability to prevent another war because we don’t have the resources. A $50 billion dollar backlog of equipment shortages and so forth. You just have—at some point you just have to change direction.

And if you’re not winning, if you’re losing, and that’s what’s happening. We’re, we’re—when I say losing, we’re, we’re losing ground over there and, and we have inadequate forces. We went in, the first place, we didn’t have any reason to go in. We didn’t have a threat to our national security. That’s been proven. Second, we went—inadequate forces to get it under control in a transition to peace. Third, the third thing was, no exit strategy.

I, I’m convinced, though, Tim, I believe this, I believe the president’s sounding tough, but the president’s also saying it’s now up to the Iraqis. You watch what I’m saying. He’s saying—and the vice-president and the president of Iraq, 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there. And the vice-president, president of Iraq said, “We want a time table to get out.” That’s what we need and the president knows that and that’s what he’s going to come up with.

MR. RUSSERT: You expect a significant American troop withdrawal by the midterm elections?

REP. MURTHA: I expect a significant troop withdrawal. They’re trying to find a way to do this. The trouble is it keeps getting worse and they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. You just have—at some point you got to reassess it like Reagan did in, in Beirut, like, like Clinton did in Somalia, you just have to say, "OK, it’s time to change direction."

MR. RUSSERT: Karl Rove invoked your name in New Hampshire. Let me show you that comment.

(Videotape, June 12, 2006):

MR. ROVE: I want you to think about the consequences of their proposed course of action. If Murtha had his way, American troops would’ve been gone by the end of April and we wouldn’t have gotten Zarqawi.

(End videotape)

REP. MURTHA: They—Let me tell you, they built Zarqawi up. They have 1,000 foreign fighters. This is a civil war, and we did it from the outside, anyway. The good thing about what—when we got Zarqawi, it was Iraqi intelligence that came to the Iraqis that came to the United States. And then from outside the country, from the periphery of the country they went and bombed where Zarqawi was. So there, there was progress from that standpoint. But to say that it wouldn’t have happened is absolutely a political statement.

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