When one is trying to make a political figure look like a conservative hawk, it is in one's best interest to hide from the public any moments when said figure acts like a dove. Such appears to be the case with the ongoing character reconstruction of Rep. John Murtha (D—Pennsylvania) since his call last Thursday to withdraw American troops from Iraq.
A story published by NewsMax on Monday stated that Congressman Murtha urged former President Clinton to remove U.S. troops from Somalia in 1993:
'Clinton took the advice and ordered the withdrawal — a decision that Osama bin Laden would later credit with emboldening his terrorist fighters and encouraging him to mount further attacks against the U.S.'
It is now approaching 48 hours since the story broke, and the results of a google news search suggest that not one mainstream media outlet has decided to pick this story up. In fact, apart from conservative radio hosts and bloggers, this issue is being largely ignored.
What makes this even more curious is that a LexisNexis search identified a number of articles confirming that Congressman Murtha was indeed instrumental in President Clinton's decision to remove American forces from Somalia. Rowan Scarborough, who was then working for the Washington Times, reported the following on September 6, 1993:
'Foes of America's lingering military involvement in Somalia will force the first congressional debate on the policy this month, just as some senior Democrats begin to question President Clinton's open—ended troop commitment.'
'House aides say other senior Democrats, like Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, are privately expressing concerns.'
On September 22, 1993, the Associated Press published the following:
'Exasperated by the long—running U.S. military involvement in Somalia, a congressional panel voted Wednesday to impose conditions on President Clinton's ability to deploy forces for future humanitarian operations.'
'Murtha, who has urged Clinton to withdraw U.S. forces from Somalia, recalled that President Bush told him last December, when troops first were sent to the war—torn region, that they would be out by Inauguration Day.
''I don't know whose inauguration,' Murtha quipped.'
On September 30, 1993, Rowan Scarborough reported for the Washington Times:
''Our welcome has been worn out,' Mr. Murtha said on NBC's 'Today' show, adding that Mr. Clinton has been 'listening to our suggestions. And I think you'll see him move those troops out very quickly.'
'With those comments, Mr. Murtha joined a small but influential list of Democratic lawmakers who have publicly urged the president to change the mission in Somalia.'
Finally, on October 6, 1993, Murtha's home paper, the Pittsburgh Post—Gazette, reported the following:
'Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House defense appropriations committee, yesterday called upon President Clinton to rapidly withdraw all U.S. armed forces from Somalia.
'Murtha, D—Johnstown, released his statement the same day a growing number of House and Senate members were voicing sharp objections to the Clinton administration's decision to send 650 more U.S. soldiers to the African nation.
'While conceding that Clinton ''inherited a very difficult situation in Somalia,'' Murtha said he did not 'see any achievable goal or national security interest in this operation.'''
This search also produced articles with supporting content from the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Yet, the mainstream media is uninterested in reporting these revelations. Could it be that, as NewsMax suggested, our withdrawal from Somalia is indeed seen as having emboldened Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and the press don't want to in any way link Congressman Murtha to it?
The following paragraphs from bin Laden's 1996 Fatwa offer some insight to this question:
'Few days ago the news agencies had reported that the Defence Secretary of the Crusading Americans had said that 'the explosion at Riyadh and Al—Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by coward terrorists.'
'We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk can induce a grieving mother to laughter! and shows the fears that had enshrined you all. Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed. And where was this courage of yours when two explosions made you to leave Aden in lees than twenty four hours!
"But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where— after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order— you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the 'heart' of every Muslim and a remedy to the 'chests' of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu."
In addition, a May 1998 installment of PBS' Frontline presented bin Laden in a question and answer session with his followers. This key exchange further indicates the importance of America's withdrawal from Somalia, and how it relates to the war on terror:
Question: Describe the situation when your men took down the American forces in Somalia.
Bin Laden: After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier. America had entered with 30,000 soldiers in addition to thousands of soldiers from different countries in the world. ... As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War in which it destroyed the infrastructure and the milk and dairy industry that was vital for the infants and the children and the civilians and blew up dams which were necessary for the crops people grew to feed their families. Proud of this destruction, America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order. After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them. I was in Sudan when this happened. I was very happy to learn of that great defeat that America suffered, so was every Muslim. ...
Putting it all together, a powerful and influential 'conservative hawk' pressured the president twelve years ago to withdraw American forces from an embattled nation with the net result being the emboldening of the most heinous terrorist organization that has ever threatened the United States. Now, that same 'conservative hawk' is pressuring a different president to make what could end up being the very same mistake, but with potentially more dire consequences.
Is it any wonder that the mainstream media don't want the public to know about this?
Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and contributing writer to the Free Market Project. He is also a contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. Noel welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.