(CNSNews.com) - Pennsylvania anti-war Congressman John Murtha Thursday said the U.S. military's continued presence in Iraq is emboldening America's potential enemies by depleting American resources that could be used in other conflicts around the world.
"Who wants us in Iraq? North Korea, Iran, China, Russia and al Qaeda," Murtha told a luncheon gathering in Washington, D.C. Those entities, he added, believe that "as a nation, we are distracted, and as a world superpower, we're depleting our resources." See Video
Murtha, who since late last year has advocated a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, said the status quo has created "a dangerous situation, given the recent events in Lebanon, North Korea, Gaza and Iran" because "we have no strategic reserves."
"Our ability to project power to protect Americans wherever and whenever necessary is no longer at the level necessary to ensure success," he said.
"Because of the war in Iraq, our military is overcommitted, stretched thin," Murtha added, noting that U.S.-led coalition forces have spent "more than three and a half years in Iraq."
"This is longer than the involvement in the Korean War, and soon will be longer than our participation in World War II," he said.
Murtha also stressed the financial strains of keeping American military forces in Iraq.
"In 2003, the average monthly war expenditure in Iraq was about $4 billion," he said. "In 2004, we spent $5 billion a month; in 2005, $6 billion a month. Today, we're spending $8 billion per month. That's $11 million per hour."
To handle these costs, the U.S. has gone down "a reckless path of deficit spending," Murtha stated.
"I realize the significance of this deficit," he noted. "You can't run a war and not pay for it. As a matter of fact, in Vietnam, it took us 15 years" to pay off military debts.
The congressman also criticized results of the war in Iraq.
"Despite several milestone events that have been heralded as turning points to Iraq's security woes -- the latest being Iraq's general election in December of 2005 -- violence has continued to escalate," he said.
"Our military is now considered occupiers. Iraq is now in a civil war, and I've been saying this for several months," Murtha reminded his audience. "More and more people are agreeing with me that they're now in a civil war, and our troops are caught in the middle.
"We continue to lose American lives," Murtha said, noting that "almost 500 Americans have been killed since I spoke out against the war last November."
"All of us want stability in Iraq -- everybody internationally and all of us in the United States -- but the goal cannot be achieved, in my estimation, by just words, and that's what we heard for a long time," he stated.
"Some say staying in Iraq is the answer. I disagree," Murtha noted. "There are two policies: One is President Bush's policy, and that's stay the course. And my policy, which is redeploy as soon as practical."
The U.S. military's redeployment would not mean abandoning Iraq, he said. "Continued diplomatic efforts are tremendously important and must be vigorously pursued.
Murtha made the comments after receiving the 2006 Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award from the Center for National Policy, which used the ceremony to praise the congressman's 37 years as a Marine officer and 16 terms in the House of Representatives.
But while Murtha received a warm welcome at the lunchtime event, a small group of protestors collected outside.
"We came out here because Congressman Jack Murtha was getting an award for distinguished public service, and we think that his service to our country in the past few years has been anything but distinguished," Kristinn Taylor, an organizer of the protest, told Cybercast News Service.
Taylor, co-leader of the District of Columbia chapter of the conservative FreeRepublic.com, criticized Murtha over "the way he's been stabbing our troops in the back and undermining morale with his anti-Iraq war stance and his over-the-top rhetoric."
"For a Vietnam veteran, he ought to know better than to do to this generation of troops in combat what his Democratic Party did to the men and women serving in Vietnam -- undermining their morale, giving aid and comfort to the enemy and telling them they can't win," he said.
"If he keeps it up, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and this is a war we cannot afford to lose," Taylor added. See Video
Murtha has received other awards for his stance against the war in Iraq: one from the anti-war organization Code Pink and another from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Murtha was the subject of a Cybercast News Service investigation earlier this year that questioned elements of his military and political record.
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