Murtha's Previous Starring News Role: Koppel Loved Him In May 2004
Rep. John Murtha is getting a second round of liberal media gravitas for opposing the Iraq War after he voted for it. Brent Baker just noted the May 7, 2004 CyberAlert, where Koppel used Murtha and former Reagan official William Odom (whom he later acknowledged opposed the war before it occurred), as grist for his question of the day (or every day): "Tonight, Hanging in the Balance: Is Iraq an unwinnable war?"
In fact, Koppel liked Murtha's pessimistic stance so much, he devoted the entire May 10, 2004 Nightline to an exclusive interview with the pessimist. One choice exchange came in the discussion of whether Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, or if he's responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:
Koppel: "The President, today, reaffirmed his support for Don Rumsfeld. You think Don Rumsfeld is the problem? Or do you think that someone at that level needs to resign or needs to be fired?"
Murtha: "Well, I've dealt with Secretary Rumsfeld for a long time. And he's always been very open with me. He's asked for advice. I go over and have breakfast with him and so forth. I think he's been unrealistic about how well things were going. And I would tell him that, over and over again. I'm not prepared to say that it's his fault at this point. I think we have to wait and see what happens from this. Now, they're going to have a show trial. They're going to punish these young people at the very bottom. Because, keep in mind ..."
Koppel: "But you know that's not where the problem is."
Murtha: "Exactly right. That's exactly right."
Koppel: "They clearly did things that are problematic. But that's where the problem lies."
Murtha: "What happened there is -- it'll hurt this country for decades. And there's no way, they dehumanized -- and they dehumanized our own troops letting them do this."
But my favorite use of Murtha's pessimism came on the May 10, 2004 Meet the Press with presidential pretender Wesley Clark:
Tim Russert: "I want to talk about that mission in our remaining minutes. The front page of The Washington Post today, 'Dissension grows in senior ranks on war strategy. U.S. may be winning battles in Iraq but losing the war, some military officers say.' And this is John Murtha, a Democrat, a Vietnam veteran, strong supporter of the war in Iraq. He 'told his Democratic colleagues that he feared the war in Iraq is unwinnable if the U.S. military does not dramatically increase troop levels, provide more ground support and seek significant international involvement. But Murtha...expressed serious doubts that those remedies are even faint possibilities, given current military deployments, a lack of support from NATO allies and widespread outrage over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners of war. Coming from a senior appropriator with close ties to the Pentagon, Murtha's bleak analysis led many colleagues to surmise that he believes a democratic Iraq is a lost cause." General Clark, do you share that pessimism?
Wesley Clark: "I think there's a greater than 50/50 chance, let's say a 2 to1 chance, of a catastrophic early end to this mission."
Russert: "What does that mean?"
Clark: "That means the Iraqi people will simply say, "We want the Americans out of here." You'll see a large outpouring of public animosity in Baghdad and elsewhere, a million Iraqis demonstrating in the streets of Baghdad against us."
Say what you will about the Democrats, but some of their bleak predictions haven't exactly come true in Iraq.