Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Murtha says Army 'broken, worn out'

"The U.S. Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand-to-mouth" from fighting in Iraq and may not be able to meet future military threats to this country's security, U.S. Rep. John Murtha said Wednesday. "They're barely getting by," said Murtha, a ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense.

"They're drawing back on equipment buys down the road," said the Democrat, who was in Latrobe, Westmoreland County, yesterday to address an invited group of community and business leaders. "We are not able to buy the equipment because of the cost of the war."

Murtha, of Johnstown, Cambria County, said the Pennsylvania National Guard is "stretched so thin" that it won't be able to deploy fully equipped units to Iraq until next year because of equipment shortages and a lack of training for soldiers. They can deploy individuals. They can't deploy units. The equipment is worn out," he said.

Murtha said it will cost $50 billion to upgrade military equipment because of the war, but the government has begun reducing future equipment purchases to save money.

Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, spokesman for the National Guard at Fort Indiantown Gap, said "there are some deployment concerns." But he said most of the 2,100 Guard members currently deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team cannot be sent to Iraq for a second tour of duty because military regulations limit the number of times they can be redeployed. Clever said some units had to leave their equipment in Iraq when they returned to the United States, and that could cause problems with training.

Murtha predicted most of the U.S. troops will be out of Iraq within a year.

"I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course," Murtha said of President Bush. "Staying the course is not a policy."

On Nov. 17, Murtha, a Korean and Vietnam war veteran, publicly called for an immediate troop withdrawal, touching off a political firestorm in Congress that hasn't abated. "We have to change direction. That's going to happen. ... It's just a matter of time," he said yesterday. "If I had my way, they'd be out sooner." Murtha also is pessimistic about the stability of Iraq and the lack of trust between American and Iraqi forces. He said the Iraqis know who the insurgents are but don't always share their knowledge with the United States.

He also believes a civil war is likely because of internecine strife between the Kurds, who control northern Iraq, and Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Murtha said he was wrong when he voted to allow the president to invade Iraq and believes Bush should admit that he made mistakes.

"I admit I made a mistake when I voted for war. I'm looking at the future of the United States military. For some reason, they don't want to admit their mistakes," he said.

Iraqis are fed up with the American occupation because of the personal toll it is taking on their lives, the congressman said. When the U.S. military took back Fallujah from insurgents, American bombings and attacks left 150,000 people homeless.

"A military victory is unattainable if you don't win the hearts and minds of the citizens," he said. "It's time to turn it over to the Iraqis. They'll let us fight there forever."-from the story in Thursday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

No comments: