GENERAL PETER PACE RESPONDS TO REPRESENTATIVE JOHN MURTHA
On Tuesday I wrote that Representative John Murtha (D-PA) was flat wrong and out of line for discouraging, during an "ABC Nightline" interview, American young men and women from joining our country's Armed Forces because of his issue with the war in Iraq. Loons on the Left came out of the woodwork citing Murtha's long USMC career in "comments" responding to my post, as if that patriotic service gave him a free pass to be patently unpatriotic during a time of war.
After all, it's one thing to take issue with the Bush administration and to challenge publicly the reasons for our being there. That is his right as an American citizen and as an elected representative of the people, and, clearly, it's a right that he fought for in two wars. But such a debate over the GWOT shouldn't carry over into a patent undermining of the United States military when it is engaged in a global war on terror. Representative Murtha can call for this country to withdraw from Iraq, but he should not facilitate that anti-war position by appealing to young Americans, considering volunteering for military service, to back away because the war in Iraq is wrong and, worse, the American military is purportedly poorly-trained. That kind of posturing deserves condemnation.
Now a fellow Marine, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers Murtha during a Department of Defense news' briefing:
Q: If I could switch topics, sir, this week Representative John Murtha was asked if he would join the U.S. military today, and he said no. And pressed in that ABC interview -- and I don't know if you saw it or not -- he said -- the interviewer said, "I think you're saying the average guy who's considering recruitment is justified in saying, 'I don't want to serve.'" And he said, "Exactly right." Can get your response to those statements?General Pace, showing admirable restraint, properly described what Murtha did on "Nightline" this past Monday night. John Murtha made statements "damaging" to the morale of the troops, "damaging" to the morale of their families, and "damaging" to the vital recruitment efforts of our Armed Forces. That's what the man did, plain and simple, and his sterling resume and past patriotic service notwithstanding, the Congressman from Pennsylvania was out of line on "Nightline" and did a patent disservice to the United States of America, as have the legions in the Democratic Party who applauded Murtha's ignoble statements.
GEN. PACE: You know, when I got back yesterday, one of the first questions I was asked was what I thought about that. I had not seen the clip. I did get a chance to see it yesterday.
A large segment of the clip had to do with opinion about the war, and that's not my lane. This country's strength is based on the ability of its citizens and its leadership to have divergent views.
There were two parts in what I saw that went directly to my lane in the road, which is the health of the U.S. military. One was a statement that the U.S. Army is not well trained. The United States Army is well-trained. It is the best trained army in the world. It has never been better-trained, and we will continue to make sure that it stays well- trained.
The second was a quote that you just mentioned. That's damaging to recruiting, 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're doing to serve this country. We have almost 300 million Americans who are being protected by 2.4 (million) volunteer active, Guard and Reserve members. We must recruit to that force. When a respected leader like Mr. Murtha, who has spent 37 extremely honorable years as a Marine, fought in two wars, has served the country extremely well in the Congress of the United States, when a respected individual like that says what he said, and 18- and 19-year-olds look to their leadership to determine how they are expected to act, they can get the wrong message.
Q: Sir, you look and sound a little angry about this. Am I misreading that?
GEN. PACE: I would describe myself as "energized" -- (laughter) -- because we have an all-volunteer, all-recruited United States armed forces. I believe that all young people should have the opportunity to serve their country in whatever way they see fit, and that those who would elect to serve in the armed forces of the United States should be encouraged to do, especially when we're in a war where our enemy has stated intention of destroying our way of life.
Q: So, General, is it irresponsible of the congressman to have made those remarks?
GEN. PACE: I think I've said what I needed to say about that.
Q: May I do a follow-up on this briefly, General? The National Guard is doing some very innovative recruiting. You may have heard they have purchased pizza boxes and put recruiting slogans on the top and distributing them free to 900 college campuses in the U.S. And just now, in 15 states we find out that if you bring a buddy in, you get a $2,000 bonus. If the Guard is going to be this innovative and maybe turn around its lack of quota, what about the active forces? The Army seemed a little sluggish, and a lot of people feel that slogan of "An Army of One" doesn't really match today's standards. Like the Guard says, they have to turn to other means of communication rather than the established means, such as radio, TV and newspaper.
GEN. PACE: Actually, I'm kind of proud of what the United States Army has done in the last six months. You know, it was just about six months ago when they were missing recruiting goals. And the leadership of the Army looked at that, put more recruiters on the street, put more advertising out there. And for the last six months, the active Army has in fact met its recruiting goals. So I think the leadership of the Army recognized a potential problem, did what they should have done, which is apply more assets and leadership to it, and the results have been proven in the last six months. They're doing very well.
FOLLOW-UP: John Murtha not only doesn't want a victory by American Forces and their allies in Iraq, but he doesn't even want so much as the appearance of a victory. That to me is rank defeatism.
FOLLOW-UP II: Michelle Malkin links to a Mudville Gazette post carrying the story of an Army veteran of the GWOT in Afghanistan who confronted Rep. Murtha this week. Good stuff!
FOLLOW-UP III: Now Michelle Malkin has come up with a video clip of the Army veteran confronting John Murtha! She calls it "priceless."
FOLLOW-UP IV: Sergeant Seavey had company -- a Vietnam War veteran, General Wagner -- according to Michelle Malkin and Wagner addressed Rep. Murtha as well.