Saturday, November 19, 2005

Murtha, Murtha, Murtha

I don't know much about Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha. It's hard, even for somebody interested in politics, to know a lot about every congressional representative. The Village Voice, though, provides a quick and handy synopsis of his career and views.

Murtha, who voted for giving the president the option to use force against Iraq in 2002 has recently called for some plan to withdraw our troops. This is signifigant becayse Murtha, the first Viet Nam veteran ever elected to congress is no lefty dove and he's always been a staunch supporter of the military. Indeed, he frames his call for withdrawal as, quite reasonably, another example of his support for the military, whose members have suffered so much since we invaded Iraq.

For my part, I continue to be skeptical about calls for withdrawal. As much as I want our troops out, I don't think we can leave the Iraqis with the mess we created.

But that's an aside.

I'm depressed, though not surprised, to see that Murtha's opponents have accused him of demoralizing the military and hurting the war effort by calling for withdrawal.

I don't see how a congressional representative caring about the fates of our soldiers is demoralizing. Shouldn't our soldiers want and expect that the countries leaders will continue to debate in order to find the best solution? It'd be worse, I think, to feel like a potential acceptable loss in pursuit of anb unquestioned agenda.

But, even beyond that -- our congressional representatives aren't meant to be cheerleaders for the military. They're meant to make the best decisions about the use of our armed forces. If our leaders are truly trying to do that job, then it's inevitable that they'll have to question ongoing military actions. The best way for elected leaders from either side to support the troops is for them to do their jobs. If you're going to support the war, have reasons. Be reasonable about it. Make arguments. If you're going to oppose it, do the same. Murtha's been accused of being unhelpful to the cause. But how is blindly supporting the current course any more helpful? Also, is it the job of elected leaders to help military campaigns or to make decisions about them? This criticism of Murtha isn't just unfair to the representative, and treating a representative unfairly isn't an unpardonable sin by any means. The real problem here is that the criticism in this case stems from members of our government not understanding the government's responsibilities.

No thoughtful idea about the war, even if it's an idea that's never implemented or is found to be flawed, should be silenced. I think we've forgotten that, sometimes, people elected or appointed to government posts need to say things that people don't want to hear. It's part of the job. A big part.


Update: The House voted 403-3 against pulling troops out of Iraq. But, it was a meaningless vote. Republicans brought the matter to a vote as a rebuke of Murtha. It was basically a personal attack. The measure was voted down not only because it was intended to be voted down but because a lot of folks dismissed it as showmanship, not as a serious proposal. Which is pretty pathetic. It means that congressional Republicans, who should be debating about what to do, have decided to spend their time and energy on meaningless spectacle.


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