Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Teresa Heinz Kerry Defends John Murtha

Teresa Heinz Kerry
Assault on Murtha should alarm us all
The Tribune-Democrat

“Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.”

– U.S. Rep. John Murtha, Nov. 17, “War In Iraq.”

U.S. Rep. John Murtha completely changed the public debate in our country by calling for an immediate redeployment of our troops in Iraq. Whether you agree or disagree with his specific proposal is not the point – but his critics’ words demand a response.

Murtha speaks with special authority.

His national security credentials are impeccable. His patriotism is unwavering. His influence on national defense is unsurpassed. None in Congress spends as much time as Murtha with the wounded from the Iraq war. His voice on matters of national defense deserves – indeed, commands – great respect.

This is why his political opponents think him so dangerous. The orchestrated assault on Murtha should alarm us all. Just when you thought the debate could sink no lower, the politicians committed to staying the course in Iraq turned the fire hoses of smear and intimidation on this icon of national security. Listen to what they said:

They said he had given aid and comfort to the enemy. They accused him of abandoning the troops. And one rookie representative, the most junior member in the House, so lost any decency or sense of decorum that she called Murtha a coward.

(She later said she should have rephrased her sharp comments.)

I think they smeared the wrong representative.

Murtha’s history is one of heroism and leadership. He served in the Marine Corps from 1952 to 1955. He served as a Marine Corps drill instructor and a reservist. He re-upped so he could serve in Vietnam. He was wounded twice while serving as a Marine intelligence officer, and then went back into the reserves from 1967 to 1990. He was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Congress, where he has served with honor and distinction as a bipartisan advocate of national defense ever since.

How bipartisan? When President Reagan wanted to build the MX missile, Murtha broke with his party to fight for what Reagan called the “peacekeeper.” Reagan sent him to El Salvador and the Philippines as an election observer and, as an official representative of the United States, to Pakistan to attend President Zia’s funeral. When President George H.W. Bush said of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, “this will not stand,” Murtha stood with him and voted to use military force to drive Iraq out.

His credentials on national defense are unimpeachable.

He has been named Minuteman of the Year by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States. He has been honored by the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. He is a winner of the Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award, and an honoree of the Association of the United States Army.

When Murtha received the distinguished public service award from the American Legion, he was praised by the national commander as a veteran, supporter of a strong national defense and holder of an outstanding track record on veterans’ issues.

That is Jack Murtha’s history, and the summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots who attack him cannot rewrite it.

That’s why they resort instead to the most reprehensible type of personal attacks.

We’ve seen this before. I know and love another Vietnam veteran who served our country with distinction and honor – who suffered the slings and arrows of distortions, half–truths and falsehoods.

Scoundrels who would stifle debate and smear dissenters weaken our democracy and diminish our nation’s ability to make decisions and change course when circumstances demand.

This war is hard – hard to win, hard to support, and for most, hard to figure out. We all want the best for our troops, our country, the Iraqi people and what is best for the Middle East. Much is at stake.

But if we want the best outcome, the best minds we have must be free to express their strongest beliefs and best advice.

Murtha has earned our respect. His right to speak out is an intrinsic component of our democracy. It should be honored – we should hold that right sacred – even if his words deviate from the party line, the president’s talking points, or public opinion.

I think Murtha did our country an enormous public service for speaking out as he did, and I support for him for exercising his right.

A courageous person is always to be admired.


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