Almost since the moment Congressman John Murtha (D—Pennsylvania) took the stage last Thursday to call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the left and the media that supports them have gone out of their way to construct a picture of this Vietnam veteran that is somewhat inconsistent with the truth.
In the past four days, we've heard Rep. Murtha referred to as a hawk, a conservative Democrat, and, maybe most important, a strong supporter of the current Iraq war. However, this is not a completely accurate reflection of the facts, as Murtha was largely opposed to the original Iraq war resolution until some major revisions were made to it, and the Congressman has publicly criticized the war two times before this most recent revelation on Thursday, including just six months after American troops first set foot in Iraq.
The Iraq war resolution passed in Congress on October 11, 2002. Yet, as demonstrated by the following press accounts, Murtha was quite a staunch opponent of the war until October 3, or a little more than a week before that historic vote:
'Some Democrats questioned the White House's urgency to oust Saddam.
''I don't like to say this is a political issue, that he's trying to distract the public from what's going on (domestically), because it's so serious that I hope it isn't,' said Rep. John P. Murtha, D—Pa., the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.' 9/12/02, AP
'Gephardt must balance his presidential aspirations with his desire to have Democrats win control of the House in November. Some Democrats, among them Rep. John P. Murtha (D—Pa.), a former Marine who recently flew to the Middle East to talk to military personnel, are telling him there is opposition to Bush's approach within the military and within the party.' 9/14/02, Washington Post
'Rep. John Murtha, D—Pa., said he doesn't understand why Bush is moving so quickly. 'I read every intelligence report once a week. I have seen no information that's different from a year ago,' he said.' 9/20/02, USA Today
'In 1991, John Murtha helped lead the charge on Capitol Hill for war with Iraq. This year, the Pennsylvania congressman is among the doubters.'
'Eleven years ago, Murtha was one of the first President Bush's chief Democratic supporters in the effort to win congressional approval for plans to take on Saddam Hussein. He was a member of the president's inner council, advising Bush and his aides on congressional strategy. It was a role that put Murtha at odds with the leaders of his own party.
'Today, the powerful backroom dealmaker finds himself in an even more politically lonely position: questioning a war—powers resolution that even most Democratic leaders seem reluctant to oppose.' 9/24/02, USA Today
CHRIS MATTHEWS: How about some of the conservative Democrats like Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania? They don't like this war, either.
JULIET EILPERIN (Washington Post): They don't. They're skeptical. A lot of them, interestingly enough, people like Jack Murtha, someone like Carl Levin——a Democrat in the Senate——they say they're hearing from generals, they're hearing from military people who think it's not a good idea, and this also gives them an opportunity to raise their questions. 9/28/02, NBC's 'The Chris Matthews Show'
MARK SHIELDS: Just one, just one quick question. You disagree, then, with Jack Murtha, the Democrat from Pennsylvania, says there is absolutely no evidence of an imminent threat to the United States. 9/28/02, CNN's 'The Capital Gang'
'Opposition to an Iraqi invasion includes Democratic Reps. John. P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Silvestre Reyes of Texas and Mike Thompson of California. Mr. Thompson was in Iraq last weekend along with Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington and David E. Bonior of Michigan.' 10/2/02, Washington Times
As these press accounts demonstrate, today's Democrats and most media representatives are conveniently ignoring the fact that Murtha's support for the Iraq war resolution came only about a week before the final vote when House Democrats got the president to agree to some important revisions not in the original draft. As reported by the Los Angeles Times on October 3, 2002:
'These Democrats pointed to language in the revised resolution that supports efforts to end the crisis diplomatically, defines the scope of the authorization of use of military force and requires the president to report to Congress on diplomatic efforts, the war on terrorism, any military operations in Iraq and plans for reconstruction and peacekeeping.
'Much of the revised language attempted to address criticism of the original resolution by senior Democrats, including Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania——leaders on defense matters whose support would be crucial.'
Yet, that's not the entire story, for within months of the invasion, Murtha began questioning what was occuring in Iraq. In fact, Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with events there on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of Bush administration members. The New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):
'One of the strongest Democratic supporters of the invasion of Iraq joined the growing offensive against the administration's postwar planning today, demanding that President Bush fire his defense leadership team.
'The Democrat, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, a decorated Vietnam veteran, said that he had been misled into voting for the war by incorrect information from top administration officials and that the president had also been misled.
"'You can't fire the president unless you're in California,' Mr. Murtha said. 'But somebody recommended this policy to him, and he took the recommendation. Somebody has to be held responsible, and he's got to make the decision who it was.'"
The following day, Rep. Murtha went on MSNBC's 'Hardball' to discuss his views on this subject with Chris Matthews. In this interview, not only did Rep. Murtha state that he would not have voted for the war resolution knowing what he knew now, but also, contrary to assertions made by many members of Congress of late —— as well as much of the mainstream media —— he admitted that he saw "all" of the intelligence reports.
"I mean, I'm not blaming anybody else because I saw all the intelligence reports. All of them indicated we had imminent danger."
Then, in May 2004, Murtha had a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D—California) to once again voice his displeasure for how things were going in Iraq. At this well—choreographed event, Murtha declared the war was 'unwinnable,' and stated:
'We cannot prevail in this war with the policy we have today. We need to mobilize or get out.'
Add it all up, and Congressman Murtha's statements last Thursday — contrary to the way they've been depicted by his party members and a disturbingly fawning press — are not only nothing new, but, instead, largely representative of the views Murtha has been expressing on this subject for more than three years.
This raises an important question: Why are the media almost universally ignoring all of this history?
Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and contributing writer to the Free Market Project. He is also contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. Noel welcomes feedback at email@example.com.