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Congress Supports the Troops

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has laid out a plan that would both increase support for the overstretched U.S. military and block Bush's Iraq buildup.

Americans are looking for a way out of Iraq. Sixty-three percent of the public want all U.S. troops home from Iraq by the end of 2008. Another 54 percent said they would vote to cut off funding for the escalation if they were in Congress. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has laid out a plan that would both increase support for the overstretched U.S. military and block Bush’s Iraq buildup. Conservatives have swiftly attacked Murtha’s proposal, which will he will likely introduce next month, claiming that it is a “slow-bleed” plan that hurts the troops and aids the terrorists. But as Americans now recognize, the real injury to our forces comes from sending them into a brutal civil war with inadequate equipment and extended deployments. The Senate will next week vote on whether to “repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military’s role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.” It also plans to incorporate some of Murtha’s proposals, such as ensuring that all combat troops have proper equipment. The Center for American Progress has released a plan to strategically redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq.

  • The Murtha plan ensures that troops deploying into harms way will have the equipment and resources they need. The Murtha plan would restrict the $93.4 billion in new combat funds that Bush has requested, barring a buildup in Iraq until all troops are “fully combat ready.” A recent audit by the Pentagon’s Inspector General showed that U.S. soldiers have had to go without the necessary weapons, armor, vehicles, and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the military lacks equipment and resources for Bush’s escalation plan. The Army and Marine Corps “are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply” the extra 21,500 troops Bush plans to send to Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace  told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “the military has about 41,000 armored vehicles in Iraq — fewer than will be needed ‘to cover all of the troops that are deploying.'” Earlier this week, military officials gave “Congress a long list of equipment and reconstruction needs totaling nearly $36 billion, denied earlier by the administration in its $481 billion defense appropriations request for the new fiscal year.” Among those requests included “more than 5,000 armored vehicles, another $153 million for systems that defend against the deadly improvised explosive devices in Iraq and $13 million in language translation systems.”
  • It’s time to cut off funding for the permanent bases in Iraq. The Pentagon has “already spent $1 billion or more on them, outfitting some [bases] with underground bunkers and other characteristics of long-term bases.” It has also revealed that coalition forces are establishing as least six “enduring” bases in Iraq, Murtha’s plan would ensure that no funding goes toward establishing a permanent presence in Iraq, a proposal that has strong backing from the public, lawmakers, and experts. Seventy-one percent of the American public opposes establishing permanent bases in Iraq, and 71 percent of Iraqis want the United States to withdraw all forces within a year. Last year, both the Senate and the House passed resolutions that stated the Bush administration could not use any appropriated funds for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq. One of the Iraq Study Group’s key recommendations was that the “President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq.” A continued U.S. presence in Iraq is not contributing to stability. Almost 80 percent of Iraqis believe that the effect of the U.S. military presence in Iraq is contributing to more chaos, rather than more stability.
  • Congress has the responsibility and the authority to protect the troops. A small group of conservatives in the House and the Senate are charging that Congress has no power to “micromanage” the war in Iraq. But as American Progress President and CEO John Podesta and Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb note, “As chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, it is Murtha’s job to get the Congress to do everything it can to mitigate the devastating impact of the president’s surge.” Despite conservative claims to the contrary, few in the Congress are in favor of cutting off funding for the war, since almost no one, including Murtha, is for a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, the vast majority of those opposing the president are in favor of a phased redeployment of American forces out of Iraq over the next 12 to 18 months. Through legislation, Congress can place the onus on the president and his appointees as they make policy choices in Iraq, holding them — not the troops or the commanders — responsible for their choices.