Politics & Policy

Murtha Fears a Withdrawal That “Makes It Look Like There’s a Victory”

The antiwar congressman speaks out--again.

Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has come to national prominence since his call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, said Thursday night that he worries about “a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there’s a victory.”

Appearing at a town meeting in Arlington, Virginia, with fellow Democratic Rep. James Moran, Murtha said, “A year ago, I said we can’t win this militarily, and I got all kinds of criticism.” Now, Murtha told the strongly antiwar audience, “I worry about a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there’s a victory when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing.”

The meeting, which attracted an overflow crowd, was promoted by the Internet activist group MoveOn.org, which said that “Congressman Moran has extended a special invitation to MoveOn members in his district and nearby.” It was also promoted on some antiwar websites like afterdowningstreet.org. War supporters organized by the conservative freerepublic.com demonstrated outside.

Murtha said he has told some Democrats who are considering a run for president that they are missing an opportunity by declining to call for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. “A number of senators who are running for president have called me,” Murtha said. “And I told them there’s only two policies. That’s the policy of redeployment, which I’ve suggested, and the president’s policy–stay the course is not a policy. And you folks, you’re in between, you’re missing an opportunity to show leadership. If you want to run for president, you can show leadership.”

The loudest, longest applause of the evening came not after any statement by Murtha or Moran but after a member of the audience said that “Bush and his cronies” had been “criminally negligent” in the run-up to the war in Iraq. “My question is simple,” the man continued. “With this criminal negligence going on, why shouldn’t you impeach Bush/Cheney?”

“I tell you, I get a lot of letters just like that,” Murtha said. But he did not answer the question, turning instead to the enthusiastic reception he has received after taking his antiwar stance. Moran, however, took the issue straight on.

“I don’t think impeachment is the right course of action,” he said. “We have a democracy, and the right course of action is to express yourself at the polls.”

“I voted against President Clinton’s impeachment,” Moran continued. “I think impeachment is inconsistent with the democratic process. And the other fact is, it’s not going to happen. Congress is controlled by the Republican party. This is a moot issue.”

Later, as he was leaving the meeting, Murtha was asked about impeachment by National Review Online. “At this point, we just don’t have enough information,” he said. “I’m very hesitant, even with Nixon, to support impeachment until I see the facts. And I just don’t see enough facts to support impeachment at this point.”

Asked whether he would support an impeachment inquiry, Murtha continued: “Well, I’m not even sure that I have enough facts to support that at this point. There’s only one reason for impeachment as far as I’m concerned, and that’s treason and treasonous acts. That’s very complicated, not something I can answer. I hesitated to say anything about Nixon until the very end when I heard the tapes, so that’s not something I would say anything about at this stage.”

Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President–and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.

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