“Mr. President, yesterday, Jack Murtha, a respected congressman on military matters, and former Marine Drill Sergeant and decorated Vietnam veteran, spoke out on our policy in Iraq. He didn’t come to that moment lightly. He spoke his mind and spoke his heart out of love for his country and support for our troops. I am not going to stand for a swift boat attack strategy against Jack Murtha.
“It disgusts me that a bunch of guys who have never put on the uniform of their country venomously turn their guns on a marine who served his country heroically in Vietnam and has been serving heroically in Congress ever since. No matter what J.D. Hayworth says, there is no sterner stuff than the backbone and courage that defines Jack Murtha’s character and conscience.
“Dennis Hastert - the Speaker of the House who never served - called Jack Murtha a coward and accused him of wanting to cut and run. Well let me tell you, Jack Murtha wasn’t a coward when he put himself in harm’s way for his country in Vietnam and earned two purple hearts - he was a patriot then, and he is a patriot today. Jack Murtha didn’t cut and run when his courage in combat earned him a Bronze Star, and his voice should be heard, not silenced by those who still today cut and run from the truth.
“Just a day after Dick Cheney, who had 5 deferments from Vietnam, accused Democrats of being unpatriotic -the White House accused Jack Murtha of surrendering. Jack Murtha served 37 years in the Marine Corps. He doesn’t know how to surrender - not to enemy combatants, and not to politicians in Washington who say speaking his conscience is unpatriotic.
“Robert Kennedy once said, ‘The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.’ Chuck Hagel showed he hasn’t forgotten that when he said, ‘The Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them.’ But too many in the Republican Party forgot that long ago. They forgot that asking tough questions isn’t pessimism; it’s patriotism.
“We’ve seen the politics of fear and smear too many times. Whenever challenged, Republican leaders engage in the politics of personal destruction rather than debate the issues. It doesn’t matter who you are. When they did it to John McCain, we saw it doesn’t matter what political party you’re in. When they did it to Max Cleland, we saw it doesn’t matter if your service put you in a wheelchair. And when they did it to Jack Murtha yesterday, perhaps the most respected voice on military matters in all of Congress, we saw that this administration will go to any lengths to crush any
“Once again, they’re engaged in the lowest form of smear and fear politics because they’re afraid of actually debating a senior congressman who has advised presidents of both parties on how to best defend our country. They’re afraid to debate a decorated veteran who lives and breathes the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor. They’re terrified of actually leveling with the American people about the way they misled America into war, and admitting they have no clear plan to finish the job and get our troops home. Whether you agree with Jack Murtha’s policy or not is irrelevant.
“The truth is there is a better course for our troops and for America in Iraq and I am going to keep fighting until we take that course for the good of our country.
“American families who have lost, or who fear the loss, of their loved ones deserve to know the truth about what we have asked them to do, what we are doing to complete the mission, and what we are doing to prevent our forces from being trapped in an endless quagmire. Our military families understand that open debate about what’s going on in Iraq doesn’t put our troops at risk; it’s the only way to get it right in Iraq so we can get their sons and daughters home.
“I think all of us should be mindful, as the White House yet again engages in character assassination to prevent Americans from listening to the words of military experts, of the consequences we have already endured from the failure to listen.
“When the administration could have listened to General Shinseki and put in enough troops to maintain order, they chose not to. When they could have learned from George Herbert Walker Bush and built a genuine global coalition, they chose not to. When they could have implemented a detailed State Department plan for reconstructing post-Saddam Iraq, they chose not to.
“When they could have protected American forces by guarding Saddam Hussein’s ammo dumps where there were weapons of individual destruction, they exposed our young men and women to the ammo that now maims and kills them because they chose not to act. When they could have imposed immediate order and structure in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, Rumsfeld shrugged his shoulders, said Baghdad was safer than Washington, D.C. and chose not to act. When the Administration could have kept an Iraqi army selectively intact, they chose not to. When they could have kept an entire civil structure functioning to deliver basic services to Iraqi citizens, they chose not to.
“When they could have accepted the offers of the United Nations and individual countries to provide on the ground peacekeepers and reconstruction assistance, they chose not to. When they should have leveled with the American people that the insurgency had grown, they chose not to. Vice President Cheney even absurdly claimed that the ‘insurgency was in its last throes.’
“And now, after all these mistakes, who is the administration to accuse anyone of wanting to cut and run. We are in trouble today precisely because of a policy of cut and run. This administration made the wrong choice to cut and run from sound intelligence and good diplomacy; to cut and run from the best military advice; to cut and run from sensible war time planning; to cut and run from their responsibility to properly arm and protect our troops; to cut and run from history’s lessons about the Middle East; to cut and run from common sense. That is the debate they are afraid to have in our country. Shame on them.
“Instead of letting his cronies run their mouths, the President should finally find the courage to debate the real issue instead of destroying anyone who speaks truth to power as they see it. It’s time for Americans to stand up, fight back, and make it clear it’s unacceptable to do this to any leader of any party anywhere in our country.
“And I hope my colleagues will come down to this floor and debate the issue on its merits, instead of attacking the character of a man like Jack Murtha, because believe me - that’s a fight nobody’s going to win in our America.”
Friday, October 13, 2006
Seek First to Defame...
Earlier this year, Senator Kerry made a rather poignant statement on the floor of the Senate. Although it was delivered a number of months ago, it raises some timely and legitimate points to consider as we get closer to the upcoming elections.