Sen. John McCain's promise to restore America's standing in the world even while maintaining troop presence in Iraq is based on an essentially faulty premise, says Rep. John Murtha, a retired Marine and Vietnam veteran.
"There is no way that us continuing in Iraq is going to allow the other countries to believe that the United States is more credible," said the Pennsylvania Democrat, one of Congress' fiercest war critics.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Murtha described current Iraq policy as damaging to U.S. credibility, wasteful in its expenses and lives lost, and in dire need of a an expeditious but realistic conclusion. He warned that it would be difficult to recruit international support -- which McCain pledged to do in his March 26th foreign policy speech -- so long as the U.S. remains bogged down in the war.
And while Murtha has in the past acknowledged some military successes of the surge, he continued to argue that the enhanced troop presence had done little to advance America's interests in the region.
"When the allied forces had 47,000 troops there, they grew disenchanted," he said. "In Australia, the leader [John Howard] lost. In England, the leader lost, so they pulled their troops out [actually, Tony Blair stepped down]. We have about 10,000 troops [from these countries] now. So we made up for that with the surge. We sent 30,000 additional troops in. but that doesn't even make up for the 37,000 we lost."
While the congressman anticipated the upcoming congressional testimony of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, he was not holding his breath for a change in policy. Even if there was a drastic alteration, he added, the damage from our presence in Iraq has already been done.
"We cannot afford to spend $330 million a day," Murtha declared, before noting the depreciation of bridges and highways in his home state, as well as the military equipment used abroad.
There were policy affects as well. "President Bush may have hurt us for a long time," Murtha said. "A preventive strike is something you say to yourself, there may be some cases for doing it. We are never going to do another preventive strike because of what Bush did. He has hurt our defense for a long time, maybe for history."
Indeed, Murtha argued, the Bush administration had created an environment in which diplomacy was anathema and telling the truth got one in trouble. Take, for example, the case of Navy Adm. William Fallon, who resigned from his position after being described, in Esquire Magazine, as the man standing between President Bush and war with Iran.
"Admiral Fallon made a mistake," said Murtha. "As a military leader he should never have taken the military option off the table. Adm. Fallon I have great admiration for. He was trying to make changes in Iraq that need to be done. He was trying to get the troops out. He said what I could say, but he can't say it... His situation was unfortunate because it was an excuse to get rid of him. They needed an excuse and they got it."
Unfortunately, he added, issues like these had dotted much of the Bush administration. And not only was there much in the way of U.S. foreign policy to repair, but also much from the past seven years to regret.
"I want to give the president, a president the benefit of the doubt," he said. "But with this one, I should have known better."