Murtha: Post-Withdrawal Bloodbath Would Not Be Congress' Fault

Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT
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( - If pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq results in "a bloodbath," the guilt will rest with the Iraqi people and not with the U.S. Congress, according to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a leading proponent of withdrawing troops.

"Many have threatened that there will be chaos, a bloodbath, when the United States redeploys from Iraq, and this in fact may be the case," Murtha said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Monday. "If they continue to choose to spill blood, it will not be on the conscience of the United States."

Murtha said ethnic violence in Iraq would be "a continuation of decades of its own conflicts, which they and they alone can solve."

"The fact that Rep. Murtha acknowledged that leaving Iraq in chaos would lead to genocide but then says it wouldn't be our fault is striking," Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), told Cybercast News Service.

"As Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker noted, the consequences of leaving before completing our mission is ominous," Smith said. "Not just for Iraq and the Middle East but also for our ability to confront and defeat the radical Islamist threat around the world."

Smith said "the safety and security of the United States is at stake, but Democrats don't seem to fundamentally understand that fact."

In his testimony to Congress on Sept. 10, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said that "abandoning or drastically curtailing our efforts will bring failure, and the consequences of such a failure must be clearly understood. An Iraq that falls into chaos or civil war will mean massive human suffering well beyond what has already occurred within Iraq's border."

Murtha continues to advocate a speedy and complete withdrawal of troops from the region even as Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are seeking compromise with Republicans to avoid filibusters that have prevented previous measures from passing.

Murtha said he would not support efforts, such as that offered by Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan, which would mandate troop withdrawals but allow some troops to remain in Iraq to continue training Iraqi security forces.

"The Democrats who elected us are unhappy with the Democrats in Congress," Murtha said, acknowledging increasing frustrations among the anti-war left with Democrats' inability to enact policy change. "They want this war ended."

But Murtha encouraged patience for the anti-war movement, saying he expects Republicans to maintain support for a continued U.S. presence in Iraq until after their primaries when, he said, they will "jump ship" and begin supporting withdrawals.

Once Democrats have the votes to block filibusters and mandate a withdrawal, Murtha estimated redeployment would take 12 to 15 months.

"We have a plan which we think we can sell in the House," Murtha said. "You'll see a change of direction." He declined to say specifically what House Democrats would do but said he expects a troop withdrawal deadline would be included in appropriations legislation in October or November.

Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said he also expects to include provisions in Iraq appropriations bills that would close the detainment facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prohibit torture, prevent permanent bases from being established in Iraq, and require that troops be "fully" trained and equipped before being deployed.

In his speech to the nation last Thursday, President Bush rebutted calls for full withdrawal, saying that "if we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries."

"Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare," Bush said. "Democracy movements would be violently reversed. We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world."

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