While the Minnesota Twins were unable to make the playoffs this year, the team’s fans nonetheless can look forward to many years of watching two of baseball’s best — Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Powerful at the plate, and “good guys” — that rarity in the world of pro sports — the “M&M brothers” are an indispensable part of the Minnesota sports landscape. They play the game with grace and good-natured grit — which helps explain why each year fans across the country punch their names so often on All-Star ballots.
With the World Series winding down, the ninth inning of another contest is just heating up. And with it, another pair of “M&M brothers” are facing judgment by ballot — this one based on their record in Congress, rather than stats on the diamond.
Congressmen John Murtha (Pa.-12) and Patrick Murphy (Pa.-8) — Pennsylvania’s antiwar “M&M brothers” — both face tough races against fellow military veterans, and both are taking their stubborn statements and outdated war-policy positions to voters. The question is: Will voters see the real Murtha and Murphy before they cast their ballots?
John Murtha was fighting valiantly in Vietnam before my father was a teenager, and has served in Congress longer than I’ve been alive. He is a one-man institution on Capitol Hill, delivering more pork to his district than any other in America, and taking license to opine on all military matters.
I genuinely honor Murtha’s service, but I — along with veterans across this country –despise the manner in which he has disparaged the Iraq war. Murtha is not only one of — if not the — chief proponent of immediate and complete withdrawal in Iraq, but he latched on to one violent incident in Iraq and tried to make it emblematic of widespread military misconduct that was being encouraged and enabled by the Bush administration’s failed war policies.
In November 2005, Murtha infamously accused a group of Marines, who were involved in a chaotic and violent attack in Haditha, Iraq, of “cold-blooded murder and war crimes,” publicly making these allegations during an ongoing investigation. In fact, a Marine Corps spokesman said Murtha made his statements a week before he had even been briefed. (Apparently, Murtha gets his briefings from the left-wing blogosphere.)
Worse still, Murtha would continue to accuse the eight Marines of “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” well into the next year, even after the Marine Corps itself said his comments on the matter “could undermine the investigatory and possible legal process.” As a result of the continuing investigation, charges have been dropped against seven of the eight Marines, and the eighth is awaiting his day in court.
Yet John Murtha remains unwilling to withdraw his statements or apologize for his inflammatory remarks. He still says our troops are “too stressed” to make good decisions and has insinuated that Haditha-like incidents have regularly happened elsewhere in Iraq. He has abused his position in Congress and status as a veteran in order to undermine troop morale and public support for success in Iraq.
As my friend David Bellavia, co-founder and vice-chairman of Vets for Freedom always says, “don’t use your valor awards from previous wars to tell me about my war.” This holds true for Murtha, and brings me to Patrick Murphy, a representative of “our war” and the only Iraq war veteran currently serving in Congress.
Murphy has used his status as a former soldier to lead the charge against success on the battlefield, standing at every turn with Nancy Pelosi and other anti-war members of Congress. Clamoring to be our generation’s John Kerry (minus the gravitas), Murphy even co-sponsored the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007,” which aimed to set a timeline for withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.
Even after the remarkable success of the surge became apparent, Murphy continued to oppose it, with no desire to understand Iraq as it stands today. Using 2007 talking points, his campaign and congressional websites still claim that we are “bogged down refereeing a religious civil war in Iraq.” With the civil war completely over, and Iraqis stepping forward to lead their own country, Murphy still won’t acknowledge success.
These M&M brothers — both opposed to a war that neither has bothered to understand — represent the triumph of ideological opposition over pragmatic opposition. It’s one thing to oppose a war, it’s quite another to highlight tragedies (Haditha) and propagate fallacies (still a “civil war”) to promote what, for them, has become a cause — rather than a good-faith effort to advance the best policy.
As veterans, they should understand that isolated incidents happen, and that the situation on the ground — especially in wartime — is always changing. Policies that were “failures” in 2004, 2005, and 2006 may no longer be failures in 2007 and 2008. The war that Patrick Murphy witnessed from the Green Zone in 2003 and 2004 looks nothing like the war today, and certainly nothing like the war John Murtha fought in Vietnam.