A hawk rattles GOP's cage
Reaction swift to Democrat Murtha's call for withdrawal from Iraq
By Bill Schneider
Veteran Democrat Rep. John Murtha said "Iraq cannot be won militarily" and urged U.S. troops be withdrawn.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In 1968 Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the Vietnam war had become a stalemate. That was a turning point.
It's too early to tell whether what happened this week was a turning point in the Iraq war. But it was certainly the political Play of the Week.
Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, was the first Vietnam veteran to serve in Congress. He's a staunch defender of the military. He rarely speaks to the media. When he does, Washington listens.
This week, Murtha spoke.
"The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily," he said Thursday at a news conference. "It's time to bring the troops home."
In his remarks, the former Marine colonel reflected on his recent visit to Iraq.
"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency," he said.
"This is a flawed policy," Murtha added, banging the podium, "wrapped in illusion."
The White House shot back, accusing Murtha of wanting to "surrender to the terrorists." Republican members of Congress joined in the attack.
"[U.S. troops] do not deserve to have people bail out on them and take the cowardly way out," said Rep. John Carter of Texas.
Murtha, who earned two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry from the South Vietnamese, has his own vision of cowardly.
"I like guys who got five deferments and [have] never been there and sent people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions that what may need to be done," he said, alluding to Vice President Dick Cheney -- who didn't serve in Vietnam and is now one of the biggest champions of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
Murtha described a father, stroking the hand of his comatose son who couldn't get a Purple Heart because he was wounded by friendly fire.
"I said, 'If you don't give him a Purple Heart, I'll give him one of mine,' " Murtha recalled.
We'll give Rep. Murtha our political Play of the Week.
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