Dept. of Name-Calling

Confessions of a 'Defeatocrat'

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By John P. Murtha
Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Republicans are running scared. In the White House, on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, they're worried about losing control of Congress. And so the administration and the GOP have launched a desperate assault on Democrats and our position on the war in Iraq. Defeatists, they call us, and appeasers and -- oh so cleverly -- "Defeatocrats."

Vice President Cheney has accused Democrats of "self-defeating pessimism." Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has faulted us for believing that "vicious extremists can be appeased." The White House calls Democrats the party of "cut and run."

It's all baseless name-calling, and it's all wrong. Unless, of course, being a Defeatocrat means taking a good hard look at the administration's Iraq policy and determining that it's a failure.

In that case, count me in. Because Democrats recognize that we're headed for a far greater disaster in Iraq if we don't change course -- and soon. This is not defeatism. This is realism.

Our troops who are putting their lives on the line deserve a plan that matches our military prowess with diplomatic and political skill. They deserve a clear and achievable mission and they deserve to know precisely what it will take to accomplish it. They deserve answers, not spin.

Our military has done all it can do in Iraq, and the Iraqis want their occupation to end. I support bringing our troops home at the earliest practicable date, at a rate that will keep those remaining there safe on the ground. It's time that the White House and the GOP start working with Democrats in Congress to come up with a reasonable timetable for withdrawal and for handing the Iraqi government over to the Iraqis.

The administration's use of Rovian catchphrases is nothing but propaganda designed to stifle the loyal opposition. We Democrats are determined to restore our nation's military strength, refocus on the real terrorist threat, bolster security safeguards at home and reestablish the credible standing we once had in the world. That is not defeatist. It is a call to formulate and execute a winning game plan for the War on Terror.

Most Democrats voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq. Regrettably, I was not one of them. Since entering Congress in 1974, I have always supported the president on issues of war. But in this case, I made a mistake -- and unlike certain members of the administration, I'm willing to say so. If I had known in October 2002 what I know now, I would never have voted for the resolution.

Some of my Democratic colleagues questioned whether Iraq posed an immediate threat to our national security; some were not convinced that Iraq was accelerating the development of nuclear weapons and had an active chemical and biological weapons program; and almost all believed that Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They turned out to be right on all three counts. Nevertheless, since our forces deployed to Iraq, Democratic support for the troops has never wavered.

In the past nine months alone, $962 billion has been appropriated for the Defense Department, $190 billion for the war effort. A vast majority of Democrats voted for the funding. Democrats also identified shortfalls in body armor, armored vehicles and electronic jammers to defeat roadside bombs. Democrats uncovered problems with the military readiness of our ground forces in the United States and fought for measures to restore it. That's hardly defeatist.

When U.S. forces first entered Baghdad, the Iraqi people cheered as the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn from its pedestal. Forty-two months and $400 billion later, we are caught in a civil war in which 61 percent of Iraqis think killing Americans is justified and the Iraqi people butcher one another at an alarming rate. We are considered occupiers. The longer we stay, the harder it becomes for the Iraqis to find their own destiny.

The administration's "stay-the-course" strategy is not a plan for victory. It's not even a plan. All we have is a new military blueprint to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq through 2010.


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