By Chad Smith
Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and John Murtha held a town hall meeting in Midtown on Monday calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, and detailing ways to remedy the financial burdens and damaged political relationships resulting from the war.
Democrats Maloney, who represents Manhattan’s East Side, and Murtha of Pennsylvania agreed on what they called a three-point plan, which mainly focuses on U.S. troops redeploying from Iraq at the “earliest practicable date.”
“It’s time to embrace change,” said Murtha to a packed audience at the Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist at 40 E. 35th St. “It is time that our military is converted from a pervasive presence inside Iraq to a powerful quick-reaction force outside Iraq.”
Murtha is proposing that U.S. forces retreat to the periphery of Iraq, specifically to Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. There, Americans would be safer, the congressmember said, and would serve more as a “reactionary force” in the region. According to Murtha’s plan, American troops would be deployed to Iraq only if the situation in the country grew excruciatingly dire.
“Our military is unsurpassed in strength, but they are not a world police force, they are not trained to be policeman or nation builders or diplomats,” said Murtha in reference to the evermore complicated role American troops are being asked to play in Iraq.
Murtha, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and congressmember for 32 years, made waves on Capitol Hill last November, after he authored the Redeploy Forces From Iraq House Joint Resolution 73, which called for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops.
That resolution, which outlined many of the same points Murtha made on Monday, and which Maloney co-sponsored, received a cold reception from fellow Democrats, many of whom considered it too drastic, and was eventually voted down by the House.
Nevertheless, Maloney wanted to bring Murtha, a man for whom she says she has great respect, to the city to meet with her constituency to try and add more momentum to the antiwar cause.
“John is a true patriot and a man of deep conviction,” she said. “As has been amply demonstrated over the last several months, Congressman Murtha has never shied away from standing up for what he thinks is right.”
Murtha, who did most of the speaking at the meeting, also pointed out that the billions spent each month on Iraq could instead be used at home to help improve port safety, transit security and police and first-responder training.
Also, Murtha said, “We must replace the people responsible for the failed plan in Iraq. We won’t be able to get international help without it.”
Both speakers, who had the overwhelming support of the crowd on Monday, nevertheless have their critics. Some Republicans have labeled Murtha a “defeatist,” and say little of what he proposes is original, citing points made by John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, during his campaign.
Moreover, both Maloney and Murtha in 2002 voted in Congress for war with Iraq, a decision not overlooked on Monday during a press conference after the event.
“I feel that I, personally, was misled by this administration in 2002,” said Maloney. “But if I knew then what I know now, I would never have given the president the authority to wage war in Iraq.”
Asked if she thought the redeployment plan she’s endorsing would relieve pressure on terrorists, resulting in their focusing more on international targets such as New York, the congressmember said, “We never had any real enemies in Iraq; they’re all in Afghanistan and they’re still there. All we’re doing is making new enemies in Iraq.”