Murtha and the L Word


Rep. John Murtha, the decorated Vietnam and Korean War Marine vet and conservative Pennsylvania Democrat who stunned Bush administration and Republican congressional warhawks and Democratic go-alongs like Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden alike with his call for an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq, left unsaid one important word in his dramatic turnaround announcement: defeat.

But that’s the real message of his change of heart from Iraq War backer and booster to peacenik.

The war begun by President Bush with such bravado and so little braino, which was designed to convert him from a dismal president to a crisp and awe-inspiring commander-in-chief, has been lost.

The nearly 2100 Americans who have died so far to help the president get re-elected, to make him look like a leader, and to provide cover for his criminal executive power grab, have died for nothing.

An unorganized bunch of insurgents armed with nothing but raw guts, aging Soviet-era rifles, and home-made explosives, have routed the most powerful military machine the world has ever known.

There will be efforts to cover up this astonishing defeat, just as there were efforts made by the Nixon and Ford administrations to hide the fact that the U.S. was defeated in Indochina, too, but the truth is clear.

American military might can destroy a country. It can kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. It can sow terror through the use of indiscriminate use of such WMDs as DU explosives, phosphorus bombs, helicopter and fixed-wing gunships and computerized drones and missiles. But it cannot defeat a concerted popular resistance.

The American military, according to some generals, is once again, as it was during the Vietnam War, falling apart. Recruitment is collapsing, both for the regular Army and Marines, and for the reserves and the National Guard. Parts and even ammunition are in short supply. Morale is at an all time low and sinking.

Who in Iraq would want to die for Bush and Cheney at this point? And yet they keep on dying.

Murtha has it right. It’s long past time to call the whole disastrous thing off. The Bush-Cheney mantra of “stay the course” is the desperate cry of two mad men caught in a trap of their own making–two men who are perfectly willing to send thousands more American soldiers to their deaths, and to slaughter tens of thousands more innocent Iraqis, in order to cling to power and to defer a final reckoning for their crimes.

They cannot be permitted to do this.

The war is lost. Iraq has been destroyed and will have to be helped for a long time to allow its people to recover somehow from the devastation caused by decades of brutal dictatorship, American-led sanctions and America’s war of aggression and criminal occupation. The broken military will have to be returned home and made into something appropriate for a world that settles disputes diplomatically, not by unilateral acts of violence and terror. Finally, the veterans of this war will need help recovering from the horrors they were forced to participate in and from the physical and psychic wounds they have endured.

Meanwhile, the political leaders who brought all this about must be called to account. Either they apologize, as growing numbers of Democrats (and some Republicans) have begun to do, like Murtha and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards have done, or they must be ousted. Half steps like Kerry’s admission that his pro-war vote and his pro-war campaign were mistakes, after which he then trashed Murtha on Hardball, won’t do. As for the criminal authors of this war-Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and others–they should be impeached or indicted as appropriate.)

The first step will be admitting that the US has been defeated in Iraq. Murtha is right that the troops did what was asked of them, but their sacrifices were for naught. The war is lost.

Then we can begin the blame game in earnest.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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