John P. Murtha/Commentary

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"There was a political thunderclap across the capital [November 17, 2005,] when Rep. John Murtha -- Marine veteran, defense specialist, longtime hawk and traditional supporter of presidential prerogatives in foreign policy -- called for pulling American troops out of Iraq. American soldiers, he said, 'have done all they can in Iraq.' Continued engagement by American troops was 'not in the best interest of the United States.'" [1]

John Patrick "Jack" Murtha, "a 73-year-old decorated Marine veteran who served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, is widely respected by his colleagues on military matters. His stance has the potential to influence others in Congress who are nervous about falling public support for the war," Bennett Roth wrote in the November 18, 2005, Houston Chronicle. "'The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,' Murtha said at an emotional news conference in the Capitol."

On November 16, 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney "said the suggestion by some senators that the administration purposely misled the public about the reasons for invading Iraq 'is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.' ... Cheney said that a number of the senators who have attacked the president reviewed the same prewar intelligence and voted for the use of force against Saddam Hussein," Roth wrote.

"Murtha sarcastically dismissed such attacks by alluding to the fact that Cheney never served in the military because he received deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War era. The vice president received deferments from 1963 to 1966 while studying at the University of Wyoming and for having a child," Roth wrote.

"'I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that,' said Murtha. 'I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'" [2]

White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded November 18, 2005, to Congressman Murtha's statement:

"Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled -- nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer."

Bush on the Defense
"Bush, traveling in South Korea, told reporters he agrees with Vice President Cheney's view that politicians who criticize the administration's handling of prewar intelligence are engaging in 'dishonest and reprehensible' behavior." [3]

"What Mr. Bush's Asian hosts have seen, however, is more than a vigorous defense of Iraq policy. For the first time, Mr. Bush and his aides have taken their critics by name, declared their motives to be entirely political, and suggested their approach would give aid and comfort to the terrorists." [4]


John Patrick Murtha was born June 17, 1932, and grew up in Westmoreland County, Pennslyvania. He graduated from from Ramsay High School in Mount Pleasant, PA.

Murtha started to attend Washington and Jefferson College, but left after his first year in 1952; joining the United States Marine Corps to serve during the Korean War. He advanced in the Corps to become a Drill Instructor at Parris Island, and later to be selected for Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. After completion of OCS, Murtha was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In 1959, Captain Murtha took command of the 34th Special Infantry Company, Marine Corps Reserves, in Johnstown, PA, until 1966, when he volunteered for service in Vietnam, duty for which he was rewarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V", two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After his active Vietnam service had ended, Murtha remained as a Marine reservist until his retirement in 1990 with the rank of colonel, ending a military service which spanned 37 years.

While commanding the Johnstown, Pennsylvania marine reserve unit, Murtha attended and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics. He has also completed graduate work in economics and political science at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

John Murtha was elected to, and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1969 to 1974. He ws elected to the US House of Representatives in 1974; the first Vietnam combat veteran to hold federal elective office. He has served continuously as a congressman from Pennsylvania, since 1974.

Mr. Murtha married his wife, Joyce, in 1955, and they have three children and three grandchildren.

Swiftboating Murtha

Murtha "is not a grandstander or even considered particularly partisan," Dale McFeatters wrote in a Scripps Howard News Service editorial November 18, 2005.

"That is why he stunned Washington -- and quite possibly changed the Iraq debate for the better -- when he called for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and listed his reasons for doing so.

"After the shock and awe had passed, House Republicans reacted in drearily predictable fashion, accusing Murtha -- two Purple Hearts, Bronze Star -- of cowardice and treason. (Murtha's reply: He has been to war; his critics have not.)"

"Murtha cannot be brushed off as some zealot from the far left. If support for the war is not to erode further, his proposal and his reasons for offering must be addressed soberly and rationally. We've tried name-calling and it hasn't worked; now let's try actually thinking about where we are going," McFeatters said.

Related Links


Washington, D.C. Office
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SourceWatch Resources


By John P. Murtha


  • "Call for Withdrawal," PBS Online NewsHour, November 17, 2005: "Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and a former supporter of the Iraq war, said Thursday that U.S. troops should leave within six months."

Video Clips


Jack Murtha/Articles & Commentary

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