10 November 2006

Mr. Murtha: then and now - Haiti and Iraq

Since Mr. Murtha is so 'worried' about the troops in Iraq, I decided to see what he did about a similar situation on a smaller scale under the previous Administration. Namely Haiti in 1994. Do you remember that? Well let me refresh your memory a bit from the Congressional Record October 6, 1994 (from the Government Printing Office site) :
LIMITED AUTHORIZATION FOR THE UNITED STATES-LED FORCE IN HAITI RESOLUTION. This is also known as the Dellums-Hastings-Murtha-Dicks provision or amendment.

Now, far be it from me to find a Republican who stood up against this little bit of sweetness! Oh, heaven forefend! No, I will use Rep. Lee Hamilton (D - IN) on this to describe the joyousness of this wonderful provision:

"I opposed the Dellums substitute not because of what it said, but because of what it did not say. I do not think that this Congress lives up to its constitutional responsibilities when it passes a sense of Congress resolution after American combat forces have been introduced into a dangerous situation.

What we have just done is to pass a sense of Congress that calls for reports, not very much more. We have not approved the policy. We have not disapproved the policy. We simply default. We dodge our responsibility. We do not take a position on the gravest question that a government can make, whether you commit American forces to combat.

The amendment that we just adopted is a classical, classical congressional dodge. It sidesteps the question of authorization. We leave no fingerprints by passing that amendment. What we have done is protect our political flank. But what we have not done is exercise our constitutional responsibility.

Now, I believe in the Torricelli amendment. And may I say that to my amazement, to my utter amazement, the administration has been working in support of the Dellums-Hastings-Murtha-Dicks provision. It has been working in support of a resolution which says, Mr. President, tell us what your policy is. That is what that resolution says. The President has been on television explaining it, they have had all of their Cabinet people up here telling us what the policy is. We passed a resolution a moment ago overwhelmingly saying, Mr. President, what is your policy, and the President of the United States supports it.

Not only that, that resolution says withdraw as soon as possible, and many of you support that position, and we all understand that is a reasonable position. There are several reasonable positions here. But it is not the administration policy. But the administration supported it, and I just do not understand why they can support that amendment.

The Torricelli-Hamilton amendment authorizes the United States presence in Haiti. It is the only amendment, it is the only substitute before us tonight, that does it. We should share responsibility when American forces go into a combat situation, and we should not dodge the question.

If we are going to play a rough role, a good role, a difficult role, we have to be willing to step up to the plate, and we do that by voting for or against an authorization.

Look, my friends, you cannot have it both ways. Members cannot complain about no authorization beforehand, and then duck responsibility for authorization after the fact. And that is what we have done.

I believe we have a clear choice: Do the United States troops operating in Haiti today operate there solely on the President's authority, or do they operate there with the support and the authorization of the United States Congress?

I believe we should authorize. May I say to those of my colleagues who worry about a date of withdrawal, that this Torricelli substitute has no certain date of withdrawal. It provides the amount of time that the military sought. It provides useful pressure to make sure that the job gets done in the time frame that they want it. And it permits the President a waiver if circumstances require. So our troops are fully protected under the Torricelli substitute.

Finally, let me just say that the Torricelli substitute is the only amendment that limits the scope, the purpose of our mission. Under the amendment just adopted, there is no limitation; there is no restraint; there is no restriction. The American forces can do anything they want to. They can get involved in nation building. There is no limitation, none.

If our experience in Somalia means anything at all, it is that we have got to watch it when we put these military troops into position because we can have mission creep."
Do you remember the days of 'Mission Creep'? Where a President would send the Armed Forces out for ONE THING and then use ANOTHER to justify keeping them there? Luckily that little creep is gone. And guess who was FOR that? Why, John Murtha, by providing a misguided, open-ended extension to President Clinton to DO ANYTHING HE WANTS in Haiti. They could even get involved in that dreaded 'Nation Building' stuff, and no good EVER came out of Nations now, did it?

Now, what did Mr. Murtha say about this? Let us look into the record on that day:
Mr. MURTHA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to make a couple of points very clear. Everybody in the field is against this. We asked General Sheldon personally about a date certain. He was against a date certain. General Shalikashvili sent a letter over, said it would hamper the troops and endanger the troops to have a date certain.

We have a resolution passed by the other body, 91 to 8, which says, ``Get out as soon as possible,'' and praises the actions of the troops. This is an identical resolution to it, the resolution we have passed already. I ask the Members to defeat soundly the resolution which micromanages from Washington, DC, what they are going in the field. It would be a disaster for us to pass a resolution like this trying to manage what goes on down in Haiti.

So I would ask the Members to vote against this resolution and vote for the final passage which was the same as the other body passed.
One cannot make this stuff up! Mr. Murtha has just CONFIRMED that he wants to give the President open-ended authority and justifies THAT on the General in charge. And TODAY when the General in charge asks for the SAME DAMN THING? As he characterized it in Haiti: it would be a DISASTER!

So, Congressman Murtha, why was HAITI worth giving absolute and obedient leeway to the MILITARY when it goes for an open-ended mission but NOT in Iraq which, as you have noted elsewhere, is IMPORTANT to the United States?

Personally, I question the timing.

And for those of you looking for more such goodies, I do recommend starting in the 1994 records at the GPO site and just search on 'murtha'. I am also looking for a way to get to OLDER records that may have been finally processed through by Universities and Libraries as the GPO is taking its sweet old time doing this sort of thing, even on such things as the text of the laws that were passed. But the committee hearings with Mr. Murtha are priceless.

Remember to HIM Haiti is more important than Iraq!

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