by Tom Pauken    Fri, Nov 18, 2005, 02:41 pm

Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, who voted for the Iraq war, Thursday called for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq within six months.

Murtha, a much decorated Vietnam Veteran, made this statement to his fellow Democrats in the House as reported by the New York Times: "‘Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home.’ Mr. Murtha said, at times choking back tears." Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert responded "in a statement that Mr. Murtha and Democratic supporters had ‘adopted a policy of cut and run’".

John Murtha

The problem for the Republicans in Congress (and for the Bush Administration) is that John Murtha is no left-wing Democrat. This is not like Nancy Pelosi issuing a similar public statement. John Murtha is one of the most respected Congressmen in the House by members on both sides of the aisle. He is an old-fashioned patriot who served his country honorably in the military in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He is one of a shrinking percentage of Congressmen who also are military veterans of foreign wars.

I got to know John Murtha when I started the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program (VVLP) as Director of Action in the Reagan Administration. The VVLP was designed to help Vietnam Veterans who were having trouble getting employment after they came home; and it also sought to change the negative (and false) stereotypes of Vietnam Veterans that were in fashion in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. John Murtha was a great supporter of the VVLP initiative to help veterans even while some of his left-wing Democratic colleagues were doing everything they could to kill the program.

VVLP turned out to be a very successful initiative – thanks in no small part to the support and encouragement of Vietnam Veterans in Congress like John Murtha, Tom Ridge, and John McCain. John Murtha is a great friend of the troops and our veterans. For him to change his position on the war and make the difficult decision to call for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq is not a decision John Murtha would make lightly or do for partisan political gain. He is not that kind of man.

A growing number of Republicans are "off the reservation" as well over our policy in Iraq. Senator Chuck Hagel, another Vietnam Veteran, said this week that "it was patriotic to question the president’s use of the intelligence". He joins conservative Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Walter Jones of North Carolina in questioning the wisdom of our policy in Iraq and the "intelligence" that was used to justify the war.

Click here to link to the New York Times story.

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