Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) continues to tarnish a heroic military career with a “policy” for Iraq that is makes Murtha look utterly disconnected from reality. First of all, military blogger Blackfive catches Murtha arguing for Clinton’s failed policies in Somalia as a model for how things could be done. It was after the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu that bin Laden started to believe that the US was little more than a paper tiger. There was very little about the US engagement in Somalia that wasn’t disastrous – the only exception being the heroism of our troops when faced with such a dire situation.
Next, Jeff Goldstein finds Murtha arguing that his much-vaunted “rapid reaction force” that would be deployed “over the horizon” would be deployed way “over the horizon” – on the Japanese island of Okinawa. When asked by Tim Russert to explain this bizarre statement, Murtha responded:
REP. MURTHA: Well, itâ€”you know, theyâ€”when I say Okinawa, I, Iâ€™m saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly. Andâ€”andâ€”when they donâ€™t know weâ€™re coming. Thereâ€™s no question about it. And, and where those airplanes wonâ€™tâ€”came from I canâ€™t tell you, but, but Iâ€™ll tell you one thing, it doesnâ€™t take very long for them to get in with cruise missiles or with, with fighter aircraft or, or attack aircraft, it doesnâ€™t take any time at all. So we, we have doneâ€”this one particular operation, to say that that couldnâ€™t have done, doneâ€”it was done from the outside, for heavenâ€™s sakes.
First of all, someone as ostensibly knowledgeable as Murtha should know that the Area of Operations in Iraq is controlled by the US Central Command (CENTCOM). Okinawa is not part of CENTCOM’s command structure – it’s part of the US Army Pacific Command (USPACOM). There’d be the little matter of having a completely unrelated command structure dealing with a situation 12,000 miles away. CENTCOM works out of Baghdad and Qatar, which is a little closer to the action.
Secondly, Murtha seems to have absolutely no understanding of the type of war we’re in. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups use tactics that make cruise missile attacks and high-altitude bombing more than a little inappropriate. For one, you can’t get intelligence on the ground when you’re at 30,000 feet. If a group of terrorists attack an Iraqi police station, what the hell would Murtha have us do? Bomb the police station into rubble from an F-16? What do you do with a group of terrorists that routinely uses civilians as human shields when your choice of weapons are limited by air power? Just kill them all?
I seriously have my doubts whether Rep. Murtha is mentally fit for office based on these comments. No one with even an inkling of military knowledge – and Murtha can hardly be accused of that – would see his plan as anything near to viable. Either Murtha is just using this as a shameful cover for retreating and letting Iraq go to hell or alternately has confused real life with Star Trek. We can’t just beam bad guys into space or shoot death rays at terrorists from high altitude. This is a war based on counterinsurgency, which requires boots on the ground, ears to the walls, and close operational relationships with local officials. None of those things can be done when your troops are in Okinawa – or even Qatar.
Either Murtha has lost his grip on reality or he’s being shamelessly partisan. Either way, it reflects badly on someone who at one point served his country with distinctions. Murtha should know better, which makes his comments all the more inappropriate and inadvisable.
UPDATE: Murtha’s challenger, Diana Irey is getting some traction based on Murtha’s slide – as well she should. Murtha has served in Congress for 32 years, and diapers and Congressmen should be changed often – and for the same reason.
UPDATE: Froggy over at Blackfive draws Murtha a nice little map. To get from Okinawa to Iraq directly requires flying over Chinese and Iranian airspace, and would require no less than 6 mid-air refuelings for an F-16 to make the journey – one way. It’s pretty clear that either Murtha’s plan and reality are at odds with each other.