Media Ignore Congressman Murtha’s Long History Of Opposition to the Iraq War

As reported by the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, the network evening news broadcasts tonight all lead with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn.) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq. Yet, they seemed disinterested in focusing much attention on Rep. Murtha's “denouncement” of the Iraq war more than a year ago. (Please see a May 10, 2004 CNN story stating, “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a ‘lack of planning’ by Pentagon chiefs and ‘the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable.’") Maybe most important, the networks totally ignored the fact that Rep. Murtha has been expressing disgust with the Bush administration’s prosecution of this war since six months after it started.

Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with how things were going in Iraq on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of President Bush’s defense leadership team. The network news organizations this evening chose not to inform their viewers of this, and, instead, implied that Rep. Murtha was a "hawk" that has always supported this war, and that his statements today were recent revelations.

Quite the contrary, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):

“One of the strongest Democratic supporters of the invasion of Iraq joined the growing offensive against the administration's postwar planning today, demanding that President Bush fire his defense leadership team.

“The Democrat, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, a decorated Vietnam veteran, said that he had been misled into voting for the war by incorrect information from top administration officials and that the president had also been misled.

"’You can't fire the president unless you're in California,’ Mr. Murtha said. ‘But somebody recommended this policy to him, and he took the recommendation. Somebody has to be held responsible, and he's got to make the decision who it was.’"

The following day, Rep. Murtha went on MSNBC’s “Hardball” to discuss his views on this subject with Chris Matthews. In this interview, not only did Rep. Murtha state that he would not have voted for the war resolution knowing what he knew "now," but also, contrary to assertions made by many members of Congress of late -- as well as much of the mainstream media -- he saw "all" of the intelligence reports: "I mean, I'm not blaming anybody else because I saw all the intelligence reports. All of them indicated we had imminent danger."

What follows is a full transcript of that interview.

September 18, 2003 “Hardball”:

Chris Matthews: Earlier this week, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania called on President Bush to fire those responsible for drafting and executing the post-war plan in Iraq. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The architect of this post-war planning has to go. You can't fire the president unless you're in California. I mean, what I'm saying is, we're not going to turn this policy around unless the president -- somebody recommended this policy to him. He took the recommendation. So somebody has to be held responsible and he's got to make the decision who it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Congressman Murtha, the toughest question of all. If you know everything you know now, when the time of the vote came last fall, would you have supported the war?

MURTHA: Well, I certainly feel misled by myself. I mean, I'm not blaming anybody else because I saw all the intelligence reports. All of them indicated we had imminent danger. Obviously, we made a mistake. I made a mistake. We didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. We didn't find any nuclear weapons. We didn't find any al Qaeda.

So all the premise to the war was inaccurate. Now, was he a bad guy? Sure, he's a bad guy. Should we have gone in? That's a tough question to answer. We're in there. That's the problem. And the war went fine.

MATTHEWS: No, but if you questioned the honesty with which this war was sold, isn't it fair to ask you if they were honest with you, would you have supported the war? If they'd said there are no weapons of mass destruction facing us when we go in there or threatening the United States? There's no connection to 9/11. Would you still have said yes?

MURTHA: No, I think I probably wouldn't have. I think I probably would have said, "Look, we can continue inspections. And this thing will work out."

As it is, we've got 48 percent of the army deployed. We've got a third of the reserve and guard deployed. We can't sustain this deployment. We're making all kinds of mistakes in the post...

MATTHEWS: Whose fault is it?

MURTHA: Well, what I say is, and I went over there right before the war, four or five days to see what it was all about. The planning was fine. The military did an excellent job. But they said there's a red line which if you cross the red line, you're going to be attacked. They weren't attacked.

MATTHEWS: By weapons of mass destruction.

MURTHA: By biological, chemical.

MATTHEWS: Where did that intel come from?

MURTHA: I've never been able to find out. And then they said if Saddam Hussein is cornered, the same thing is going to happen. All right. That didn't happen.

We're embarrassed internationally. We have lost credibility. Now what can we do to retain our credibility?

They're losing hope in Iraq. Lugar, Senator Lugar's report in June said, "OK, 80 percent of the Iraqi people support us. They support the liberation." But every day, we're losing support in Iraq because of the poor post-war planning.

I'm talking about 60 percent unemployment. I'm talking about none of the oil -- one of the high level officials, I think it was Secretary Wolfowitz, said the oil will pay for the whole reconstruction. So far we put $6 billion in. They're asking for $21 billion more and we're not near the cost.

But the big thing is losing hope. You're in a guerrilla war. In a guerilla war, you've got an X factor you have to overcome. These guys, the spirit of the enemy is, they're attacking us and getting away with it. Because the people aren't with us. We've got to win the people. You've got to get the employment down.

MATTHEWS: It sounds like the war you fought in.

MURTHA: It sounds like the Vietnam War. Exactly the same thing. And it's a major difference and a major miscalculation. Now to the hospital...

MATTHEWS: When you were fighting in Vietnam as a combat guy, did you ever get this sense that we didn't have the hearts and minds of the people? And that's why you couldn't trace the enemy or catch him?

MURTHA: One of the problems we had was, we couldn't get intelligence because the people wouldn't tell us anything. They'd just attack us and fade into the population. The same thing is happening now. They fire an RPG and then they disappear. And the Saudi people -- or the Iraqi people don't tell us where they are and who they are.

MATTHEWS: What will change in the next year or two to make it better for us over there?

MURTHA: Let me tell you what I think we ought to do. First of all, you've got to get the people to work. You have to get electricity out there. We have less electricity today than we had before the war. You've got a higher unemployment than you had before the war.

They say we're making progress and we are making progress. But the perception is we're not making progress. Hostility in the Iraqi nation is increasing. We're really running into a -- the problem of losing the thing.

John Hamry, the former undersecretary of defense did a study. He said they've got three months to turn this thing around. I believe they've got three months, maybe four months, maybe five months. If they don't get people back to work and get the people on our side, we're going to lose this.

MATTHEWS: You're a conservative Democrat on war issues. You're a hawk, right? Fair enough.

MURTHA: Yes. Hawk.

MATTHEWS: Does the president listen to you, Jack? Do you ever call him up and say, "Mr. President, I've got to talk to you. You're only hearing from the wrong people. You ought to hear from people like us"?

MURTHA: I talked to vice president and I talked to him about going to the U.N. And I talked to him, that we had to have a vote in Congress. We did all those things. So I felt constrained, since we did all those things, even though I was even then touchy about whether we should go to war. But they were seeming to be going in the right direction.

Here's what's happening. I'm out to the hospital. Beverly Young, which is the wife of Bill Young, the chairman of the appropriations committee said, got this one kid who we think is losing hope. Lost his hand. Lost his thumb and one finger on the other hand. Going to lose his foot, blind in one eye. He says, "Was this right? Is this the right thing?"

Now, the reason I'm saying this, not only in Iraq are they starting to lose hope, the reserve families you talk to are saying the same thing.

So we're making full circle here. We're coming to the point where America is against this extra money and the people in the United States are thinking this deployment is a mistake. Then the troops will start thinking this is a mistake. The only way we win this is to win the hearts and minds of the people. Restore hope to the Iraqis and overcome the x factor, which is the spirit of the guerrillas in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Good to hear from you, Jack.

MURTHA: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I always thought you were brilliant. You're right on this one, too, I think.

Anyway, thank you, John Murtha, Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.