Two political conservatives recently had a lot to say about Iraq. The first was Rep. John Murtha, a conservative Democrat and decorated Vietnam War Marine veteran who has served on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee for three decades. He has supported every U.S. war, and he has been one of most hawkish advocates of the war in Iraq, until now. Murtha created a political earthquake when he called for the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq. His words were prophetic in a town usually devoid of prophetic utterances. “It’s a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he said. “The future of our country is at risk.”
The speech was a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike, and from one of the last people the anti-war movement would have expected to speak out. But that’s just the point. Murtha’s impassioned plea wasn’t a political statement at all. It was more a cry of agony, born of grief for the sufferings of American soldiers and their families in a brutal war that seems to have no end.
Rep. Murtha frequently visits wounded soldiers, often at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the families of dead American servicemen and women in his home district. He has seen too many broken bodies and lives, too many severed limbs and maimed futures, and too many spouses and children who have lost their beloved partners and needed parents. Thirteen soldiers from his congressional district in southwestern Pennsylvania have died.