"I think the 'surge' is working." So said Representative John Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. John Murtha, one of the most outspoken congressional critics of the Iraq war, yesterday said he saw signs of significant military progress during a brief trip to the Middle East last week. But he warned that Iraqis need to play a larger role in providing their own security and the Bush administration must develop an exit strategy.
"I think the 'surge' is working," Mr. Murtha, a Democrat, said in a video conference from his Johnstown office, describing the president's decision to commit nearly 30,000 additional troops at the beginning of the year. "But the thing that has to happen is the Iraqis have to do this themselves. We can't win it for them."
Mr. Murtha has been a strong critic of the White House war policy and has been calling for a troop withdrawal plan.
Various blogs like Captain's Quarters, Power Line, and Politico have speculated that Murtha's abrupt turnabout will hurt Democratic chances of forcing a troop withdrawal. That would leave Murtha open to the wrath of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It comes as no surprise then, that he has issued a clarification.
Murtha, one of the most powerful House Democrats when it comes to war funding, gave qualified but likely his most glowing remarks Thursday about the Iraq war.
"I think the surge is working, but that's only one element," said Murtha, who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee. "And the surge is working for a couple of different reasons. And one reason is the increase in troops."
On Friday, however, Murtha's office moved to clarify his seemingly positive take on the surge, this time putting it in the context of renewed criticism of the administration.
"The military surge has created a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government," Murtha's statement read. "Unfortunately, the sacrifice of our troops has not been met by the Iraqi government and they have failed to capitalize on the political and diplomatic steps that the surge was designed to provide.
"The fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily, and that we must begin an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as practicable."
They must have had a chat, Pelosi and Murtha. And well they should. There is no question that Democratic prospects for promoting a U.S. defeat in Iraq have taken a hit. Rasmussen reports a rising confidence in the American public that we are winning the war on terror. As we move through the primary season into summer, the voting public will be presented with a slate of Republican presidential candidates who will be aggressively campaigning on a platform of winning the war in Iraq and winning the war on terror. By that time Democratic contortions on the issue should be pretty entertaining.