December 3, 2005
The immense significance of Rep John
Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal
from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the US senior officer
corps, seeing the institution they lead as "broken, worn
out" and "living hand to mouth", to use the biting
words of their spokesman, John Murtha, as he reiterated on December
his denunciation of Bush's destruction of the Army.
A CounterPuncher with nearly
40 years experience working in and around the Pentagon told me
this week that "The Four Star Generals picked Murtha to
make this speech because he has maximum credibility." It's
true. Even in the US Senate there's no one with quite Murtha's
standing to deliver the message, except maybe for Byrd, but the
venerable senator from West Virginia was a vehement opponent
of the war from the outset , whereas Murtha voted for it and
only recently has turned around.
So the Four-Star Generals briefed
Murtha and gave him the state-of-the-art data which made his
speech so deadly, stinging the White House into panic-stricken
and foolish denunciations of Murtha as a clone of Michael Moore.
It cannot have taken vice president
Cheney, a former US Defense Secretary, more than a moment to
scan Murtha's speech and realize the import of Murtha's speech
as an announcement that the generals have had enough.
Listen once more to what the
generals want the country to know:
"The future of our military
is at risk. Our military and our families are stretched thin.
Many say the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on a third
deployment. Recruitment is down even as the military has lowered
its standards. They expect to take 20 percent category 4, which
is the lowest category, which they said they'd never take. They
have been forced to do that to try to meet a reduced quota.
"Defense budgets are being
cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health
care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises
we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits,
in terms of their health care to be negotiated away. Procurement
programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated
away. We must be prepared.
"The war in Iraq has caused
huge shortfalls in our bases at home. I've been to three bases
in the United States, and each one of them were short of things
they need to train the people going to Iraq.
"Much of our ground equipment
is worn out.
"Most importantly -- this
is the most important point -- incidents have increased from
150 a week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going
down over a time when we had additional more troops, attacks
have grown dramatically. Since the revolution at Abu Ghraib,
American casualties have doubled."
What happened on the heels
of this speech is very instructive. The Democrats fell over themselves
distancing themselves from Murtha, emboldening the White House
to go one the attack.
From Bush's presidential plane,
touring Asia, came the derisive comment that Murtha was of "endorsing
the policies of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of
the Democratic Party."
It took the traveling White
House about 48 hours to realize that this was a dumb thing to
have said. Murtha's not the kind of guy you can slime, the way
Bush and Co did the glass-jawed Kerry in 2004. The much decorated
vet Murtha snapped back publicly that he hadn't much time for
smears from people like Cheney who'd got five deferments from
military service in Vietnam.
By the weekend Bush was speaking
of Murtha respectfully. On Monday, gritting his teeth, Cheney
told a Washington audience that though he disagreed with Murtha
ihe's a good man, a Marine, a patriot, and he's taking a clear
stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."
One day later Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News, ``I do not think that American
forces need to be there in the numbers that they are now because
-- for very much longer -- because Iraqis are stepping up.''
A week later Bush was preparing a speech laying heavy emphasis
on US withdrawals as the Iraqi armed forces take up the burden.
Are there US-trained Iraqi
detachments ready in the wings? Not if you believe reports from
Iraq, but they could be nonagenarians armed with bows and arrows
and the Bush high command would still be invoking their superb
training and readiness for the great mission.
Ten days after Murtha's speech
commentators on the tv Sunday talk shows were clambering aboard
the Bring eem home bandwagon. Voices calling for America to istay
the course" in Iraq were few and far between. On December
1 Murtha returned to the attack in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, telling
a civic group there that he was wrong to have voted for the war
and that most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because
the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand
The stench of panic in Washington
that hangs like a winter fog over Capitol Hill intensified. The
panic stems from the core concern of every politician in the
nation's capital: survival. The people sweating are Republicans
and the source of their terror is the deadly message spelled
out in every current poll: Bush's war on Iraq spells disaster
for the Republican Party in next year's midterm elections.
Take a mid-November poll by
SurveyUSA: in only seven states did Bush's current approval rating
exceed 50 per <cent.These> consisted of the thinly populated
states of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama and
Mississippi. In twelve states, including California, New York,
Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan, his rating was under 35.
You have to go back to the
early 1970s, when a scandal-stained Nixon was on the verge of
resignation, to find numbers lower than Bush's. Like Bush, Nixon
had swept to triumphant reelection in 1972. Less than two years
later he turned the White House over to vice president Ford and
flew off into exile.
No one expects Bush to resign,
or even to be impeached (though vice president Cheney's future
is less assured) and his second term has more than three years
But right now, to use a famous
phrase from the Nixon era, a cancer is gnawing at his presidency
and that cancer is the war in Iraq. The American people are now
60 per cent against it and 40 per cent think Bush lied to get
them to back it.
Hence the panic. Even though
the seats in the House of Representatives are now so gerrymandered
that less than 50 out of 435 districts are reckoned as ever being
likely to change hands, Republicans worry that few seats, however
gerrymandered, can withstand a Force 5 political hurricane.
What they get from current
polls is a simple message. If the US has not withdrawn substantial
numbers of its troops from Iraq by the fall of next year, a Force
5 storm surge might very well wash them away.
Amid this potential debacle,
the Republicans' only source of comfort is the truly incredible
conduct of the Democrats. First came the Democrats' terrified
reaction to Murtha, symbolized by Democratic minority leader
Nancy Pelosi's cancellation of a press conference supporting
Murtha. This prompted the Republicans to realize that the Democrats
were ready to have their bluff called by the Republican- sponsored
resolution calling for immediate withdrawal, for which only three
Democrats voted, while so-called progressives like Kucinich and
Sanders and Conyers ran for cover.
Listen to any prominent Democrat
senator , like Kerry or Clinton or Feingold or Obama and you
get the same adamant refusal to go beyond the savage characterization
by Glenn Ford and Peter Gamble of the Black
Commentator, of Obama's address to the Council on Foreign
U.S. Senator Barack Obama has
planted his feet deeply inside the Iraq war-prolongation camp
of the Democratic Party, the great swamp that, if not drained,
will swallow up any hope of victory over the GOP in next year's
congressional elections. In a masterpiece of double-speak before
the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, November 22, the
Black Illinois lawmaker managed to out-mush-mouth Sen. John Kerry
- a prodigious feat, indeed.
In essence, all Obama wants
from the Bush regime is that it fess up to having launched the
war based on false information, and to henceforth come clean
with the Senate on how it plans to proceed in the future. Those
Democrats who want to dwell on the past - the actual genesis
and rationale for the war, and the real reasons for its continuation
- should be quiet.
"timetables" are bad words, and Obama will have nothing
to do with them.
Of course, the "insurgents"
are not a "faction," and must therefore be defeated.
On this point, Obama and the Bush men agree: "In sum, we
have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those
steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war,
and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge
a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinguish
the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home."
Nobody in the White House would
argue with any of these points. Point number two in Obama's "pragmatic"
baseline is, the containment and elimination of the "insurgency."
Of course, one can only do that by continuing the war. Indeed,
it appears that Obama and many of his colleagues are more intent
on consulting the Bush men on the best ways to "win"
the war than in effecting an American withdrawal at any foreseeable
They want "victory"
just as much as the White House; they just don't want the word
shouted at every press conference.
The Black Commentator concludes
its excoriation of Obama and his fellow Democrats with these
By late summer of 2006, when
voters are deciding what they want their Senate and House to
look like, if the Democrats have not caught up to public opinion
to offer a tangible and quick exit from Iraq, the Republicans
will retain control of both chambers of congress.
All that will be left in November
is mush from Kerry, Hillary, Biden, Edwards - and Obama's - mouths.
Here at CounterPunch we heartily
endorse this sentiment.