The Defeatocrats

Rich Lowry writes in today’s NRO:

For most of the three years of the Iraq war, the Democrats have been trying to beat something with nothing. Lately, they have been reduced to a fate even worse: trying to beat something with Murtha.

John Murtha is the longtime Pennsylvania congressman and former Marine who fits the Democratic party’s preferred political formula on the war. That formula is to say inane or incoherent things, but have a veteran say them on the theory that, then, no one will notice their inanity or incoherence. This was basically the rationale of the John “Reporting-for-Duty” Kerry presidential campaign in 2004. Murtha was on Meet the Press this past weekend to mark the third anniversary of the launching of the assault on Baghdad.

Murtha produced his usual hail of misstatements. He said Bush went to war “against the advice of his father and the whole administration.” But the closest there was to a major dissenter in the administration was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, who supported the war. Murtha said there was “no connection to terrorism in Iraq itself.” Leaving aside the more controversial arguments about Saddam’s relationship with al Qaeda, it is incontrovertible that Saddam was giving $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, a rather stark connection to terrorism. He cited the U.S. military’s goal of giving Iraqi forces control of security in 75 percent of Iraq, and scorned it because “75 percent of it is desert.”

It is impossible to know if Murtha wants to be deliberately misleading or is simply ill-informed — but neither option is flattering. Nearly half of the key Baghdad province has been handed over to Iraqi security forces. According to USA Today, these forces have also been given responsibility for parts of such dangerous areas as Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra. This is why U.S. deaths are down to one a day — almost the lowest level since the insurgency began — while Iraqi deaths are increasing. So much for deserts.


The rise of these forces has been a key part of the administration’s strategy all along. Murtha not only pretends that they don’t exist, he portrays himself as having been a brave, lonely advocate for creating them. He said that his advice to Bush early in the war was that “you need to train the Iraqis sooner.” Unassailable advice, to be sure, but from the beginning the U.S. was trying to train Iraqis rapidly — in fact, too rapidly. Haste made waste, as the Iraqi security forces initially shoved out the door weren’t properly prepared. The Pentagon retooled and came up with a more effective training program in the beginning of 2004 that has now borne fruit, although everyone is loath to give it any credit.

For all its missteps, the Pentagon is the embodiment of farsightedness and circumspection compared with its critics, whose imperative often seems simply to declare defeat as quickly as possible. Despite all the hue and cry over Iraq, there is a basic consensus around a common-sense strategy that involves attempting to form a national-unity government and train Iraqi security forces. Whether it ultimately works no one can know, but it is irresponsible to lack the patience to give it a reasonable chance.

Democrats think there is a percentage for them in exactly such irresponsibility, and John Murtha is walking point.

Sad but true.

The defeatist mentality has been the Democratic theme almost from the word go as it relates to the Iraq war. I recall House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (who opposed the Iraq war) statement after the dramatic scenes of the pulling down of the Saddam statue in Baghdad:

“I have absolutely no regret about my vote on this war,” she told reporters at her weekly briefing yesterday, saying the same questions still remain: “The cost in human lives. The cost to our budget, probably $100 billion. We could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less. The cost to our economy. But the most important question at this time, now that we’re toward the end of it, is what is the cost to the war on terrorism?”

Even the Democrats who were allegedly “forced” politically to vote for the Iraq war resolution (like Dem presidential candidate Senator John Kerry) have taken a decidedly negative tone on not only the war itself, but the aftermath. And the few Democrats who choose to remain optimistic about the war, like Senator Joe Lieberman, find themselves ostracized from the party’s so-called ‘mainstream’ wing.

When you’ve got a party that constantly harps on the negative (right along with the mainstream press) while refusing to emphasize the positive it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why so many question their will to win the war.

Should we ignore negative news coming out of Iraq? No. Should we whitewash it with only the positive? No. We acknowledge the problems we face, work to correct those problems, while at the same time praising the efforts and accomplishments of the US military and Iraqi and other coalition forces who are working alongside them. You have to believe you can win something in order to be able to succeed. Simply put, today’s Democrats don’t believe we can win this war yet can’t seem to find the right way to say it without sounding weak, and that’s the face they are putting forth not just to the American people, but to those abroad who want to see us fail – who want to see us lose our resolve. It sends the wrong message, and for that reason alone, I hope that the Republicans do not lose control of Congress this fall. Yes, I was very disappointed in the Republican Congress’ stance on the UAE port deal but when you look at the big picture and look at the alternatives to Republicans who are committed to winning in Iraq, the choice is very clear.

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