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January 07, 2006

Murtha's "Semper Fidelis" Moment

It is often said there's no such thing as a "former Marine".

On that point, Jack Murtha seems bound and determined to challenge the conventional wisdom. An enormous controversy was launched recently after he proposed we renege on promises made to Iraq, Afghanistan, and our coalition allies to stay the course. Rep. Murtha wanted the United States to strategically "redeploy" its fighting men and women to a safer location, leaving the people of Iraq and Afghanistan defenseless against brutal terrorists who could, after all, simply take part in the democratic process if all they wanted was a voice in the emerging government. I have a question for Rep. Murtha: what, exactly, makes him think a ruthlessly unprincipled enemy will suddenly stop the killing when the only protectors of the emerging democracy are whisked across the border to safety?

streamers.jpg Rep. Murtha's "plan" was enshrined in the unassailable sanctity of a combat veteran's admirable service to this nation. No one, we were told, could question his motives, or his patriotism. Not even, it appeared, another Marine: one who had the temerity to speak publicly what any Marine with any sense at all was thinking privately: that his "plan" flew in the face of 200 years of proud Marine Corps history. Attend any ceremony where Marines gather and you'll see something special: the Marine Battle Colors. During the color ceremony, you'll watch the Marine flag lowered proudly, as it should be, in deference to the stars and stripes: Old Glory. But if you're lucky, you may also get to see another brave sight flying in the stiff breeze. The Marine battle streamers. One for each engagement the Marines have fought in over their long and glorious history. And on the unofficial Marine emblem appear these words: "These Colors Don't Run".

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Marines take those words seriously. Dead seriously. Because a lot of men - good men - have died to earn the reputation the United States Marine Corps enjoys throughout the world. They are respected, and feared, wherever they go. They command the field.

They do not leave it in the hands of the enemy, despite what Representative Murtha would like to see us do. And despite the waggling fingers of Democrats like Harold Ford, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Colonel Danny Bubp taking a fellow Marine down a peg on the House floor that day. Marines police their own ranks. They have always done so. One Marine is never afraid to take another to task when he thinks honor is at stake. And they all have a stake in the future of their Corps. And their country.

General Peter Pace, USMC, did so again the other day when Rep. Murtha stepped out of line and damaged our recruiting efforts, and rightly so. I commend him for having the courage to speak out. It must have been difficult for him. Military men do not like to involve themselves in matters political. General Pace should not have been placed in that position:

"That's damaging to recruiting," Pace said. "It's damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed, and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they are doing to serve this country."
Representative Murtha might do well, if he can find a quiet moment when he is not listening to the sound of his own voice, to consider the motto of the Marine Corps:
Semper Fidelis

It is a short one, for Marines are men of few words, preferring deeds to flowery expressions of feelings. It means "Always faithful". A Marine considers it his highest duty to be faithful: to his country, to his Corps, to what is right. Rep. Murtha might ask himself, to what has he demonstrated faithfulness?

His nation has made commitments to its coalition allies and to two nations which are now dependent on us: Iraq, Afghanistan. Whether or not he likes the cost of those commitments, an honorable nation does not shirk its duty once it makes a promise.

The Marine Corps will have a future that extends beyond this war...or perhaps it won't, if he has anything to do with it. Enlistment rates, whether or not the war lasts, have an impact far down the road. If his words have half the impact he hopes they will have, what damage is he doing to the future of the Marine Corps? Does he even care?

Certainly his words are having an impact now. Consider this news item:

Al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a videotape aired Friday that the United States' decision to withdraw some troops from Iraq represented "the victory of Islam" and called on Muslims to attack oil sites.

Al-Zawahri, wearing a white turban and gray robe and seated next to an automatic rifle, waved his finger for emphasis as he spoke in the two-minute excerpt aired by Al-Jazeera.

"I congratulate (the Islamic nation) for the victory of Islam in Iraq," he said.

You remember I told you more than a year ago that the American withdrawal from Iraq is only a matter of time, and here they are now ... negotiating with the mujahedeen," al-Zawahri said.

"Bush was forced at the end of last year to announce that he will pull out his forces from Iraq, but he was giving excuses for his withdrawal that the Iraqi forces have reached a good level."


This news, of course, is very worrisome to many on Capitol Hill. Rep. Murtha is certainly worried. He appears to have finally realized the impact of his words:

Appearing at a town meeting in Arlington, Virginia, with fellow Democratic Rep. James Moran, Murtha said, "A year ago, I said we can't win this militarily, and I got all kinds of criticism." Now, Murtha told the strongly antiwar audience, "I worry about a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there's a victory when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing."
You remember... those would be those Iraqi forces that Murtha says "aren't ready and will never be ready". That's why we need to skedaddle...err...redeploy as soon as possible. And we see what the response of al Qaida is to the withdrawal of our troops.

Attack. Full speed ahead.

It would appear that the question of just who Mr. Murtha is "faithful" to has been definitively answered. Al-Jazeera and Mr. al-Zawahri certainly like what he has to say. It seems, so far, only to be his fellow Marines who disagree with him.
And combat vets who know what it's really like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cassandra | Permalink | Comments (52) | Politics
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