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Murtha's Fuzzy Math

Congressman John Murtha continues to make a fool of himself by suggesting we can effectively fight the terrorist insurgency in Iraq by "redeploying" our troops to a military base in Japan. Here's what he told Tim Russert yesterday in the course of arguing that we don't need a presence in Iraq to conduct the sort of quick-strike missions like the one that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

REP. MURTHA: So--and we don't have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We, we don't have--we can redeploy there almost instantly. So that's not--that's, that's a fallacy. That, that's just a statement to rial [sic] up people to support a failed policy wrapped in illusion.

MR. RUSSERT: But it'd be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.

REP. MURTHA: Well, it--you know, they--when I say Okinawa, I, I'm saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly.

They can? The two 500-lb bombs that killed Zarqawi were dropped by F-16 fighter aircraft. According to the U.S. military:

In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point.

Okinawa is 4,899 miles from Baghdad. Do the math.

Murtha also continued to play fast and loose with certain poll data points. He once again said "80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there" a claim which many people questioned and which was eventually sourced by the liberal Think Progress to a single poll question from March 2006 contained in this report put out by the Brookings Institution. The question is worded "do you approve the government endorsing a timeline for U.S. withdrawal." Not to be a stickler, but Iraqis endorsing a "timeline for withdrawal" is not quite the same as saying they "want us out of there."

Another example: Murtha stated flatly to Russert yesterday, "The public is two-to-one against what we're doing, and they want a change in direction." That was news to me, because I distinctly remember the latest NBC/WSJ poll results on the question of whether Iraq was worth it or not: 40% said 'yes,' 52% said 'no.' Same thing with the most recent CNN poll (54% said the Iraq war was a mistake, 42% said it was not) and the latest USA Today/Gallup poll (51% say mistake, 46% not). You do not need an advanced degree in mathematics to know these numbers aren't even close to two-to-one.

So where did Murtha get his "2-1" ratio? It looks like he cherry picked it from the latest CBS News poll in which 33% responded the war in Iraq was "worth it" and 62% said it was "not worth it." As you can see, however, the CBS numbers are by far the worst of the entire batch of polls - which is no doubt why Murtha chose to cite them. Ironically, the next question on the CBS survey asks the following: "Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out?" Forty-four percent said we did the right thing, 51% said we should have stayed out.

Congressman Murtha is free to spin the absurd notion of pulling out of Iraq as a simple "change of direction" as he did yesterday, but at least he could do it without misstatements and mischaracterizations.