(CNSNews.com) - "Everything I've said has been right" on the war in Iraq, Rep. John Murtha insisted during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. However, a spokesman for a group trying to "boot Murtha" from office wondered if "the vast majority" of troops will be home by the end of 2006, which the Pennsylvania Democrat predicted in January.
Murtha called the Bush administration strategy on Iraq "a failed policy wrapped in illusion" and referred to an intelligence report leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post, which warned that the U.S. military presence in Iraq was "shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."
"The Democrats are unified against terrorism, but we've got to change direction in Iraq because Iraq is actually -- according to this intelligence report -- increasing terrorism," Murtha declared.
Surrounded by 10 military veterans who are running as Democrats for seats in the House of Representatives this November, Murtha charged that the U.S. military is "short on people" and "taking in people who aren't as qualified as they used to be."
As a result, "the lack of readiness by the forces in the United States means we've got no strategic reserve to meet any challenge overseas," he said.
"We're sending people back with less than a year [of military experience] to Iraq and Afghanistan or calling back people who've been out two or three years," Murtha said. "It's a draft, for all intents and purposes."
The Pennsylvania congressman criticized the Bush administration for vastly underestimating the financial burden of the war in Iraq.
"They said this war would cost $50 billion. It [has] cost over $400 billion to date," Murtha noted. "They said [the Iraqi people] would welcome us as liberators. They said there was an al Qaeda connection. All the things they said in the past turned out not to be true."
The congressman also dismissed the theory that his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq would leave the nation in chaos and a breeding ground for future terrorism.
"It won't be any worse than it is today," Murtha stated, "and it's a civil war today. There's sectarian violence -- it's Sunnis versus Shi'as -- and our troops are caught in between. Go out to the hospitals like I do every week, and you'll see the products of this civil war." Listen to Audio
As further proof of his claim, Murtha pointed to a State Department poll released Wednesday that indicated "80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there," he said. "Then it breaks it down into different provinces, and none of the provinces are less than 65 percent" in their desire to see American troops leave the country.
"The Iraqi people want us out of there because it's not better, it's worse than when we went in," the congressman asserted.
On the other hand, Bush administration officials are "overly optimistic, and they continue to mischaracterize and misrepresent this war, and the people are fed up with it," he said.
Pointing to his fellow candidates, Murtha stated that "these veterans know better because they've been there. They realize the limitation of military power."
The conflict in Iraq "cannot be won militarily," Murtha added. "It's got to be an all-out diplomatic and political effort, and you've got to say to the Iraqis 'You take over' because we're going to be fighting there forever if you don't."
However, Roger Hughes, a representative for the "Boot Murtha" project seeking to turn the 16-term incumbent out of office, told Cybercast News Service that the congressman "has gone above his pay grade" when it comes to the war in Iraq.
Hughes noted that Murtha claimed during the Jan. 15, 2006, edition of "60 Minutes" that "the vast majority" of American troops would be out of Iraq "by the end of the year."
By the time the congressman appeared on "Meet the Press" on June 11, Murtha's prediction had changed so that he expected "a significant troop withdrawal" from Iraq before the mid-term elections in November.
Then on Aug. 23, Murtha responded to the announcement of a recall of Marines with his usual criticism of the war effort. "Bringing these Marines back to active duty after their tour of service was complete shows we are unable to recruit the necessary volunteers to maintain troop levels in our armed forces," he said.
Two days later, Murtha's Republican opponent Diana Irey stated: "Nothing could be further from the truth" and quoted Department of Defense statistics showing that "each of the four services is meeting or surpassing their recruiting goals, on both a monthly and an annual basis."
Hughes said that other examples of Murtha's "lack of memory or accuracy" can be found at the group's website.
"Anybody who says that we should redeploy to Okinawa has gone above his pay grade in terms of knowing how to conduct this war," Hughes added, noting that most experts believe Iraq will become a breeding ground for terrorists if American troops pull out too quickly -- "but obviously, Murtha doesn't."
"Because we're there, neighboring countries like Syria and Iran aren't invading Iraq," he said, "and we know how far those nations are going in supporting terrorists in their states and furthering terror in the world."
Hughes also disagreed with Murtha's assertion that diplomacy and politics are the solution to the problems in Iraq.
The congressman "just doesn't get the fact that there aren't enough words in the universe or throughout history and time to cause these people not to be our enemies," he said.
"This is not an isolated place in one spot in the world that we're battling," Hughes added. "This fight, this war on terrorism, is against a radical sect of Islam that believes all of the world and all its civilizations need to be brought under Islam by the sword. Listen to Audio
"And Murtha doesn't seem to get it," Hughes said.
See Earlier Stories:
Democrats Stuck on 'New Direction' in Iraq? (Sept. 26, 2006)
Murtha: US Staying in Iraq Helps Potential Enemies (July 21, 2006)
Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question (Jan. 13, 2006)
Republicans Question Timing of Dems' Call for 'Surrender' (Nov. 18, 2005)
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