WASHINGTON -- While criticism of the war in Afghanistan has slowly been building since Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan, some Republicans are still uneasy questioning the U.S. strategy out of fear that they will appear unpatriotic.
At a town hall meeting in his district on Sunday afternoon, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, discussed how his latest trip to Afghanistan reaffirmed his belief that the United States needs to withdraw its troops from there. Accompanying Murphy on the week-long congressional delegation trip were Democrat Cedric Richmond (La.) and Republicans Sean Duffy (Wis.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Jon Runyan (N.J.) and Bill Shuster (Pa.).
Jessie Sawyer at Avon Patch reports that Murphy also revealed a comment made to him by one of the Republican lawmakers on the trip, who admitted that there is pressure to publicly avoid any criticism of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan so as not to appear unpatriotic. The lawmaker wasn't necessarily against the war in Afghanistan but admitted that being in favor of withdrawal would be a tough position to occupy.
According to Murphy, this Republican lawmaker said that "even if he opposed the war, it wasn't right for him to openly talk about that, [and] if you criticize the war, that you’re putting troops in jeopardy."
The article originally said that the Republican lawmaker was a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, although none of the Republicans who went on the trip actually sit on that committee. Runyan and Shuster are both members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Spokespersons for Kinzinger and Runyan told The Huffington Post that their boss was not the member referenced by Murphy. Duffy's spokesperson also said that it did not sound like something from his boss. That leaves Shuster, whose office did not return a request for comment.
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist -- someone who has called on conservatives to begin exploring alternatives in the war in Afghanistan -- also said that many conservatives are still afraid to openly question the U.S. strategy, after watching Republicans go after Democrats like Max Cleland in 2002 and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.
"What a Republican candidate needs to be sure he doesn't do is sound like he's some liberal attacking the troops and against the military," said Norquist when discussing the 2012 presidential field. "Liberals haven't done that since Vietnam, but people have residual memories that go a long way back, and the Bush people mau-maued Kerry and other critics of Iraq and Afghanistan who wondered whether we should have troops occupying both countries."
"They said, 'Don't you support the troops?' Which is really sort of an odd comment to make, as if somehow we didn't have the troops in Afghanistan...we were going to take away their clothes and food and leave them in the desert. ... It was my team making the accusation, and I couldn't even follow the reasoning," he added.
Murphy is running for Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) open seat and has made his opposition to the war in Afghanistan a centerpiece of his campaign. Yet he voted against a recent measure calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops. Murphy's Chief of Staff Francis Creighton said that calling for withdrawal in 30 days is unrealistic.
"Here are the facts -- Chris isn't just talking about ending the war in Afghanistan, he's doing something about it,'' Creighton said. "He voted against the war funding bill last year, and recently joined 80 of his colleagues in a letter to President Obama demanding that troops begin coming home in large numbers this summer."
"But calling for troops to be withdrawn in 30 days is just political gamesmanship -- it can't be done safely that fast," she added. "And this isn't a political issue for Chris -- he cares about bringing our troops home because it's the right thing to do for them and for our national security, not because it gets him political points. He ran for Congress as an opponent of the Iraq War, and now he's turned his attention to ending the War in Afghanistan."
UPDATE: The Patch article originally stated that the Republican member who talked to Murphy was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That sentence was since removed.