In a video interview with Tom Andrews posted at http://www.movecongress.org Congressman Jack Murtha makes clear that the limitations on additional war money that he intends to include in the forthcoming "emergency" supplemental bill are aimed only at undoing the recent escalation (a.k.a. "surge"), not at ending the war.
Murtha begins by claiming that this week's nonbinding vote opposing the escalation reinforces the message of the Nov. 7, 2006, election. That would be quite a feat, given that Bush did not propose his escalation until after the election, an election that everyone understood as expressing opposition to Bush, Cheney, and their war. Americans wanted then what they still want: to end the war.
Murtha explains that the next step after this week's nonbinding vote will be a House vote on a Supplemental bill adding more money to the war. Murtha plans to include in that bill restrictions on how troops can be used in Iraq:
1. They can't be kept there over a year.
2. They can't be sent without proper training and equipment.
Andrews, revealing quite laughably how he's been suckered into supporting this idea, asks Murtha in the video whether troops are currently being sent to Iraq without proper training and equipment. Andrews clearly imagines that Murtha's proposed restrictions have something to do with ending the war, not just its recent escalation.
Murtha replies that, no, we are not now sending troops that lack training and equipment, but we're going to have to do so in order to maintain the escalated numbers. In other words, if Murtha's proposal succeeds, then months from now Congress will ask the President to please reduce the troop numbers in Iraq to what they were when America voted to end the war. But, of course, if the escalation is really a short "surge", then that's what Bush intends to do anyway. And if that's not what Bush intends to do, he won't do it. He'll simply use the money Congress gives him as he sees fit and again let Congress know when he's running out of money.
Andrews asks Murtha how we can start actually ending the war, and Murtha replies that first we have to "stop the surge." (Yes, Murtha calls it a "surge" but still thinks Congress must devote all its energies to "stopping" it.) Then, Murtha goes on: we must convince the President to pull out.
I kid you not. Murtha wants Congress to persuade Bush to end the war. If the voters couldn't do it, how in the hell will Congress? And if that's how Congress views its role, then why have a Congress?
"I may be giving them too much credit," Murtha says, referring to members of the Bush Administration and their ability to recognize the need to end the war.
Then Murtha gets serious. What we need, he says, are - you guessed it - "bench marks." We need to keep track of progress restoring electricity and other services to Iraqis, and if progress isn't made, then we need to think about ending the war.
Andrews, to his slight credit, sheepishly apologizes that he needs to ask a question that an "activist" made him promise to ask. Why, Andrews inquires, do we need to give any more money to the war at all? Doesn't the executive branch already have more than enough money to bring our troops home?
Murtha replies that he guesstimates (he claims he has no way of really knowing, and he probably doesn't) that the money already appropriated will run out in April or May. "We have to be very careful," he says, "that the troops have what they need." You mean other than their need to come home? Is what you're being careful of, Congressman Murtha, more the opinions you hear on Fox News or the desires of the American people?
When Andrews asks about Murtha's proposal to close Guantanamo, Murtha replies that doing so is important "from a public relations standpoint." By this, Murtha, who thinks only as a former member of the military, means that it would be good for "winning foreign hearts and minds." Of course it would, until people found out that the United States was detaining and torturing prisoners somewhere else, and refusing to hold accountable the President and Vice President responsible.
Murtha proposes banning permanent bases and torture. Those are excellent ideas. But they've already been banned. By Congress. Congress forbid the use of 2007 war money for building permanent bases, and Bush continues to build them anyway. Congress banned torture, which was already illegal, and Bush overturned the law with a signing statement. What world is Murtha living in?
Andrews asks him about the Bush administration's apparent preparations to attack Iran. Murtha says Bush has no troops to send into Iran, and that air strikes are not likely because they wouldn't be effective and would inflame "the Arab countries."
Are those supposed to be reasons why Bush would not do something? Bush? Is this the same Bush who earlier today told the American Enterprise Institute that he intends his military to remain "on the offense"?
Murtha can't seem to see three feet in front of himself. He's focused on the vote, a month away, on his bill to fund more war. He says that vote will "change the direction of the war, and it should stop the surge."
The American people have some benchmarks of our own, Congressman. You end the damn war, or we'll bench you.