Friday, January 06, 2006

Joint Chiefs chairman says congressman damages troop morale

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the tone and wording of a leading anti-war congressman is damaging the morale of American troops in war zones.

General Peter Pace responded to an ABC TV appearance of Congressman John Murtha, the hawkish ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. A staunch supporter of the military, Murtha became one of the war's shrillest opponents several months ago after spending time with young American servicemen who had been wounded and mutilated in Iraq.

Murtha has demanded an immediate US pullout from Iraq, regardless of the strategic consequences, saying in effect that the troops are fighting a cause that cannot be won militarily. On ABC he went further, telling an interviewer that if he were a young man, he would not join the military today.

The congressman's statements are serious because the Pennsylvania Democrat is no liberal weenie: he fought in Korea and Vietnam during his 37 years in the US Marine Corps, and has been more solid on defense than many Republicans.

Commenting on Murtha's remarks, Pace told reporters,

"That's damaging to recruiting, it's damaging to the morale of the troops who are deployed, and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they're doing to serve the country.

"When a respected leader like Mr. Murtha, who has spent 37 extremely honorable years as a Marine, fought in two wars, has served the country extremely well in the Congress of the United States, when a respected individual like that says what he said, and 18- and 19-year-olds look to their leadership to determine how they are expected to act, they can get the wrong message."

A congressman's constitutional duty - and Murtha's especially, as a top Armed Services Committee member - is to question the commander-in-chief when necessary, and view US defense policy with a critical eye. But like his Senate colleagues and others criticized on this blog, he has unacceptably crossed the line. He should unilaterally withdraw his comments and become more constructive in his criticism.


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