[Marxism] What's POSITIVE and also what's NEGATIVE in Murtha's stand on troops in Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 26 20:13:29 MST 2005

 ZNet | Iraq
On John Murtha's Position
by Gilbert Achcar and Stephen R. Shalom; November 21, 2005  

There is much of which to approve in the recent speech of Rep. John P.
Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, on Iraq. The hawkish Murtha had been
critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war for some time,
but until now his solution had been to call for more troops. On November
17, however, he recognized courageously that U.S. troops "can not
accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM


Murtha pointed out, as the anti-war movement has been pointing out all
along, that the U.S. troops in Iraq, rather than adding to stability,
"have become a catalyst for violence." He referred to the
acknowledgement made by General George W. Casey, commander of the
"multinational force" in Iraq, during a hearing before the Armed
Services Committee of the U.S. Senate in September 2005, that the
presence of "the coalition forces as an occupying force" is "one of the
elements that fuels the insurgency."


Murtha pointed out that a recent poll indicated that 80% of Iraqis want
the U.S. out. This poll, a secret British defense ministry survey
conducted in August 2005, is consistent with earlier polls and several
facts: the fact that most slates in the January 2005 election --
including the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which won the election -- had
in their platform the demand for a timetable for the withdrawal of
occupation forces from Iraq; a U.S. military poll in February that found
only 23% of urban residents supported the presence of coalition troops,
compared to 71% opposed; the statement of 126 members of the Iraqi
National Assembly, including a majority of the 140 MPs of the majority
UIA, demanding "the departure of the occupation force"; and the request
made repeatedly by the National Sovereignty Committee of the Iraq
National Assembly for a withdrawal timetable for "occupation troops."


There is no guarantee of what would happen in the event of a U.S.
withdrawal, but Murtha noted -- as the anti-war movement has argued
since the beginning of the occupation -- that the U.S. presence makes an
agreement between contending Iraqi forces and the peaceful unfolding of
the political process more difficult. For example, the Association of
Muslim Scholars, the most prominent Sunni organization with ties to the
armed resistance, has repeatedly declared that it would call for a
cessation of all armed action if the U.S. and its allies set a timetable
for their withdrawal.


Murtha has submitted a resolution to the House calling for the
redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. That Murtha, a decorated Vietnam
combat veteran and one of the most prominent boosters of the military in
the Congress, has had it with the war is a telling sign of how badly
things are going for the warmongers, and the more representatives who
join the 13 co-sponsors of his resolution, the better. Furthermore, one
has to sympathize with Murtha, of course, for the abuse that has been
heaped upon him by the Bush administration and rightwing ideologues in
Congress and the media.


Nevertheless, the anti-war movement needs to be careful not to confuse
Murtha's position with its own.


When Murtha says "redeploy" -- instead of withdraw -- the troops from
Iraq, he makes clear that -- despite his rhetoric -- he doesn't want to
really bring them home, but to station them in the Middle East. As he
told Anderson Cooper of CNN:

"We ... have united the Iraqis against us. And so I'm convinced, once we
redeploy to Kuwait or to the surrounding area, that it will be much
safer. They won't be able to unify against the United States. And then,
if we have to go back in, we can go back in."

Moreover, Murtha's resolution calls for the U.S. to create "a
quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S.
Marines" to be "deployed to the region."


We strongly disagree. The anti-war movement cannot endorse U.S. military
intervention in the Middle East, whether over or under the horizon. We
don't want U.S. troops remaining in the region and poised to go back
into Iraq. They don't belong there, period. Some -- though not Murtha --
suggest keeping U.S. bases within Iraq, close to the oil fields or in
Kurdistan, in order to intervene more or less on the pattern of what
U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan. But this is a recipe for disaster,
since the Iraqi view that the United States intends a permanent
occupation is one of the main causes inciting the insurgency. Moreover,
stationing U.S. forces in Kurdistan could only deepen the already
dangerous ethnic animosities among Iraqis. In any event, if U.S. troops
continue to be used in Iraq -- whether deployed from bases inside the
country or from outside -- they will inevitably continue to cause
civilian casualties, further provoking violence. Having a U.S.
interventionary force stationed in Kuwait or in a similar location will
continue to inflame the opposition of Iraqis who will know their
sovereignty is still subject to U.S. control. As for the impact of
keeping U.S. forces anywhere else in the larger region, it should be
recalled that their presence was the decisive factor leading to 9-11 and
fuels "global terrorism" in the same way that the U.S. military presence
in Iraq "fuels the insurgency" there. 


Murtha, we need to keep in mind, is not opposed to U.S. imperial designs
or U.S. militarism. He criticizes the Bush administration because its
Iraq policies have led to cuts in the (non-Iraq) defense budget,
threatening the U.S. ability to maintain "military dominance."


Murtha's resolution calls for redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq "at the
earliest practicable date" -- which is reasonable only if it means that
the withdrawal should be started immediately and completed shortly after
the December elections, with the exact details to be worked out with the
elected Iraqi government. In his press conference, however, Murtha
estimated it would take six months to carry out the "redeployment,"
which seems far longer than the "earliest practicable date." (Recall
that U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 90 days from the signing
of the Paris Peace Treaty.) To set such a long time period for the
evacuation of Iraq is all the more worrying given that the decision to
withdraw the troops is not even being considered yet by the Bush
administration or the bipartisan majority of the U.S. Congress.


Congressional Republicans, in a transparent ploy, offered a one-sentence
resolution stating that the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq be
terminated immediately. Murtha called this "a ridiculous resolution"
that no Democrat would support (Hardball with Chris Matthews, Nov. 18).
In point of fact, the resolution was opposed by all of the pro-war
Democrats and most of the anti-war Democrats, who (as the Republicans
hoped) didn't want to be accused of "cutting and running." But actually
the resolution wasn't ridiculous at all understood in the sense we have
just explained.


The anti-war movement should and no doubt will relentlessly continue its
fight for the immediate, total, and unconditional withdrawal of U.S.
troops and their allies from Iraq and the whole region. Its central
slogan "Troops Out Now" is more warranted each day and will keep gaining
in urgency until victory over the warmongers is achieved.

Gilbert Achcar is the author of The Clash of Barbarisms and Eastern
Cauldron, both published by Monthly Review Press. Stephen R. Shalom is
the author of Imperial Alibis (South End Press) and Which Side Are You
On? An Introduction to Politics (Longman).



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