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Rep. Murtha: Pennsylvania's Embarrassment

By Jack Kelly

Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa), imagines himself to be the scourge of the hawks in the Bush administration. Many journalists do, too, because they keep inviting him to appear on talk shows.

So why were the targets of Mr. Murtha's wrath doubled over with laughter during his appearance last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press?" Rep. Murtha's newfound fame is a product of his call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, or in the dishonest way he likes to phrase it, "redeployment" from Iraq.

Host Tim Russert asked Mr. Murtha to respond to a question White House political guru Karl Rove had asked rhetorically in a recent speech.

"My question is, what country would take us?" Mr. Rove asked. "What country would say after the United States cut and run from Iraq, 'Yeah, paint a big target on our back and then you'll cut and run from us?'" "We can go to Okinawa," Rep. Murtha responded. "We can redeploy there almost instantly."

Mr. Russert, mindful of the fact that Okinawa, Japan, is 4,899 miles from Baghdad, offered Mr. Murtha an escape, in case he had misspoken. "But it would be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa," he said. But Rep. Murtha dug himself in deeper. "When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly," he said.

Mr. Murtha has been recommending redeployment to Okinawa ever since his rebirth as a dove last year, so what he said on "Meet the Press" was no slip of the tongue.

Let us be clear about the Murtha "strategy." It is insane. It would be easier to defend Germany from Chicago; Alaska from Miami, or Hawaii from Pittsburgh than to defend Iraq from Okinawa.

It would take 10-12 hours -- and six refuelings -- for F-16s to fly from Kadena AFB on Okinawa to Baghdad (assuming China and India would grant overflight rights, a dubious assumption). Mr. Murtha may regard this as "very quickly," but the Air Force does not.

As Bugs Bunny would say: "What a maroon!"

Another howler is Mr. Murtha's assertion that U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq would be "welcomed" in Okinawa. For decades Okinawans have been seeking a reduction in the U.S. military presence, both because they covet the land on which U.S. military bases sit, and because of a long history of pacifism. The U.S. recently agreed to withdraw 7,000 Marines from Okinawa.

"There is no way we can win (the war in Iraq) militarily," Mr. Murtha said. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaida chieftain in Iraq until the Air Force liquefied his internal organs, had a different view:

"Here in Iraq, time is beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance," Mr. Zarqawi wrote in a document captured after his death.

The Bush Administration has "no plan" for dealing with Iraq, Rep. Murtha asserted.

Mowaffak al Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, begs to differ. Writing in the Washington Post Tuesday, he said:

"There is an unofficial 'road map' to foreign troop reductions that eventually will lead to total withdrawal of U.S. troops. This road map is based not just on a series of dates but, more important, on achievement of set objectives for restoring security in Iraq."

If you want to know the truth about Iraq, you should listen carefully to what Jack Murtha has to say -- and believe exactly the opposite.

Mr. Murtha's howlers about Okinawa obscured a more revealing comment he made earlier on CNN. He cited President Clinton's abrupt withdrawal from Somalia after 19 Rangers were killed there in 1993 as an example of the policy the U.S. should follow in Iraq.

Osama bin Laden gave the "change in direction" in Somalia Mr. Murtha applauds as the chief reason why he thought al Qaida could strike the United States with impunity.

"After a few blows... (the U.S.) rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers," Mr. bin Laden told ABC's John Miller in a 1998 interview.

Because he is a retired Marine Reserve colonel who served in Vietnam, Rep. Murtha is regarded as one of the Democrats' leading strategic thinkers. This, sadly, may be the case.

Mr. Murtha sounds less like a Marine colonel these days, and more like a male Cindy Sheehan. Has he become senile? Or was he always this stupid?

In either case, voters in his district should take a close look at Diane Irey, the Republican who hopes to put an end to the embarrassment to Pennsylvania Jack Murtha has become.

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