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Copyright © 2005, TDPI

BOMB DAMAGE ASSESSMENT: Is John Murtha right?

On November 18, 2005, U.S. Representative John P. Murtha from Pennsylvania, a decorated war veteran and ranking Democrat of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, announced he was introducing a bill in Congress calling for a "redeployment" of U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. would pull forces out of Iraq within six months and set up "quick-reaction forces" that would respond to any dire situation in Iraq.

Rep. Murtha was blasted by many Republicans and at first, fearing backlash from voters, his proposal was not embraced by even liberal anti-war Democrats in Congress. One Congresswoman, Republican Jean Schmidt of Ohio, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel, who told her to tell Murtha that "Cowards cut and run; Marines never do," which resulted in bedlam in the House chamber. Murtha's resolution went down to defeat 403-3.

I don't have a copy of Murtha's resolution before me, so I can't comment on the exact wording of the resolution; I doubt if there was any sort of a detailed plan in the bill. But I'm disappointed in the House of Representatives. I believe a lot of our representatives in Congress, Republicans as well as Democrats, favor exactly what the Murtha bill stated, but they didn't have the guts to vote for it.

Surely any resolution by Congress telling the President how to deploy the military would be considered null and void. That is an important separation of powers issue--the President is the commander-in-chief, not Congress. Congress can always vote to withhold money needed for military operations, but that's rarely done with troops in combat.

No one doubts that Rep. Murtha has the best interests of the troops at heart when he wrote his resolution. I don't believe he's anti-military or anti-war in the least. I don't agree with many conservative commentators who opine that questioning our military's or the President's actions in a time of war is cowardly, demoralizing to the troops, and empowering to the enemy. That's the American way.

I agree with John P. Murtha. He had the guts to voice exactly what a lot of folks in our country feel: let's consider getting the troops out of harm's way. Let's redeploy our troops as soon as possible.

As readers of my newsletters know, I am for the effort to topple Saddam Hussein, station several thousand troops in Iraq, and setting up a strong, long-term American military presence in the heart of the Middle East. But I've always been critical of the plan that was put in motion. In my opinion, we could and should have used air power and our advanced technological superiority to topple Saddam's regime, mostly with air power, rather than entering and occupying Baghdad.

I feel we made a strategic error by not anticipating that occupying Baghdad would trigger the insurgency that has killed thousands of U.S. troops and countless more Iraqi civilians, even though there is ample precedent for it. It was naďve to think that any nation, especially a nation of Muslim Arabs who have been taught to hate the West for decades under Saddam's rule, would embrace the Americans as liberators. The images of celebrating Iraqis slapping the downed statue of Saddam with their shoes--a major insult in the Middle East--was not going to be typical. Why? Foreign occupiers are NEVER seen as liberators--only as just another hostile force, no matter how benevolent their actions or intentions.

Saddam's regime is destroyed; Saddam himself is in jail (although whether or not he is truly out of power can be debated); and the Iraqis have at least a taste of Western-style democracy. So what IS the purpose of stationing troops in Baghdad? Why not redeploy troops out of the city and stop the patrols that net the insurgents so many bloody hits using their remotely-detonated Improvised Explosive Devices?

In fact, back in my May 2004 newsletter I advocated exactly what Rep. Murtha's bill outlined--the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the establishment of bases in the deserts of Iraq where we can quickly react to regional crises.

No one wants to see any American pull out or run, and I would never recommend or suggest that American troops should just turn and leave. I don't believe Rep. Murtha's bill suggested that either; I believe the media and the White House hyped their opposition to the bill by saying Murtha was calling for an "immediate retreat."

Be totally honest with yourself, as I was with myself when I thought about John Murtha and his resolution: Is "redeployment" such a bad notion?

It is already being reported that the U.S. is cutting troop deployments to Iraq, and it is widely believed that troop strength will be reduced in time for the November 2006 elections. Murtha's 6-month timetable for redeploying troops falls perfectly within that time frame. So the Pennsylvania representative is really not suggesting anything new except where to reposition the forces already in Iraq.

What would happen if we did leave Baghdad? Wouldn't it descend into Chaos when the protection of U.S. military forces is removed?

Probably. But there is already Chaos there, with insurgents killing tens of thousands of civilians, military, police, and recruits. I have some doubts about the Shi'ite majority in Iraq having the capacity to rule that country--but at the same time, I have no doubt that there are plans already afoot to use Iranian political, religious, and even military assets to turn Iraq into an Iranian-friendly place. Our old nemesis Muqtata al-Sadr has volunteered his Mehdi Army to track down and destroy insurgents. Things might get bad in Iraq, and may even descend in civil war.

But Iraq in transition is no place for U.S. forces either. We are not there to get our soldiers killed or wounded by a pack of dogs fighting for territory.

I may not agree with every aspect of how we've prosecuted the war in Iraq, but I trust President Bush to formulate a strategy and stick with it, as unpopular as it seems, and for that he deserves my support. But I also think that Rep. Murtha's proposal deserves some consideration too.

I don't know the details of his bill, but I know the United States has the technological capability to monitor and respond with force to almost any situation. Why couldn't we withdraw forces to an outpost in the Iraqi desert and send troops into the cities only when needed? Why perform patrols whose only purpose is to entice the bad guys to shoot at you in order to draw them out into a "real" fight?

Someone out there try to convince me it can't be done.

One last word on Congress's reaction to the Murtha resolution:

I don't like reading about more U.S. casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan, and with a younger brother in the U.S. Army, I would certainly like the war to end so he doesn't have to risk going back.

But make no mistake: our lack of resolve and our failure to follow up after being attacked and taking casualties in Beirut, Lebanon, the failure to destroy Saddam after the first Gulf War, after the first World Trade Center attack, Somalia, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the attack on the USS Cole, directly led to the second, successful attack on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The world in general and the extremist Islamist world in particular came away with one clear message from all of those pre-9-11 episodes versus Islamists: the United States is a paper tiger. We have no staying power in a conflict; we are soft, corrupt, and afraid to get blood on our hands.

I don't necessarily believe that John Murtha was suggesting we cut and run. But the way the conservative media spun the news about his bill made it sound exactly like that: a member of Congress was suggesting we simply turn our backs on Iraq. Judging by the vote on Murtha's bill, I think everyone in Congress realizes that calling for complete, immediate withdrawal from Iraq would serve no one. They may disagree with getting into the war to begin with, but few--with the exception of Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean perhaps--think we should get out.

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Act Of War (June 2005)

ACT OF WAR introduces a whole new hero and a new conflict to techno-thriller fans around the world.

A series of deadly terrorist attacks in the United States and South America--including a nuclear attack near Houston, Texas--has the entire world on red alert. The attacks appear to be targeting an American energy company, but the terror group that calls itself GAMMA seems to be more than the anti-globalization, pro-environmental activists it claims to be.

Enter U.S. Army Major Jason Richter and his partner, Dr. Ariadna Vega of the Army Research Lab's Infantry Transformational BattleLab. These two young engineers have designed and built a land combat system designed to replace an entire motorized infantry squad: CID, or Cybernetic Infantry Device, a piloted robot with the speed and firepower of a weaponized Humvee, the strength of a bulldozer, and the agility of a special ops commando.

The hard-charging National Security Adviser, Robert Chamberlain, pairs Richter and Vega up with an FBI intelligence expert, Special Agent Kelsey DeLaine, and a veteran special ops expert, Command Sergeant Major Ray Jefferson, to form Task Force TALON, the first joint military-FBI unit charged with hunting down and stopping terrorists anywhere in the world. With CID's speed, power, weaponry, and amazing capabilities, combined with the talents of the U.S. Army and the investigative skills of the world's greatest detective agency, TALON is designed to put terrorists on the run around the globe.

But putting conflicting and single-minded personalities like Richter and DeLaine together is like mixing oxygen and gasoline: do it right and it produces horsepower--do it wrong, and it creates an explosion. Even the National Security Adviser can't seem to control his team. Can Task Force TALON survive long enough to hunt down GAMMA and its secret puppetmaster, the shadowy Consortium, before the next deadly attack?

"The novels of Dale Brown brim with violent action, detailed descriptions of sophisticated weaponry and political intrigue... His ability to bring technical weaponry to life is amazing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

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