Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush led the administration's fight last
week, when he attacked critics of the Iraq war and its intelligence. Vice
President Dick Cheney this week called charges that the administration
misled Americans into war, "the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
But the big bomb dropped Thursday when Pennsylvania Congressman John
Murtha shook the Capitol when he called for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Now, Rep. John Murtha, he Vietnam combat vet from Pennsylvania who started the political firestorm over the Iraq war, plays Hardball.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: Mr. Murtha, I've known you for years, I really like you, but you've always been a hawk. You've always been a defense defender, big defense
spending, big support for the Pentagon, known as the soldiers` friend.
Why are you against the war in Iraq now?
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I've come to the conclusion, Chris, after visiting Iraq two months ago and listening to the commanders who say obviously what the White House wants them to say — but they don't say it with the enthusiasm.
And they talk about the problems they have. For instance, they told me that every convoy is attacked that goes to Haditha. And I was in Anbar province, which has Fallujah and Ramadi and the areas where they're highly contested.
He doesn't have enough troops to protect the border, so he can't complete his mission because he doesn't have enough people.
He told me none of the Iraqis were up to where they should be. All of them were C-3, which is the lowest state of readiness for the Iraqi units. And he says they only work three weeks out of the month and they go home for a week.
Then I came home and I looked at the report which we required in the Appropriations Committee, and that showed no significant progress at all. For instance, unemployment is 60 percent. Energy is below prewar level. Oil production is below prewar level. And we've become the enemy.
I saw a British poll reported in the Washington Times that said 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there. Then I saw a poll, which was confirmed by the Defense Department, 45 percent think it's justified to attack Americans.
Now I'm convinced, until we turn this over to the Iraqis, we're not going to have the success we need. I'm convinced since we've become the enemy, I'm convinced since the U.S. is doing all the fighting or doing most of the fighting, that we're not going to be successful.
The Iraqis are not going to tell the U.S. people where the insurgents are. There's not a great number of insurgents there. There was no terrorism before we went there. And I'm convinced terrorism will be reduced if we redeploy our forces.
Now, a lot of people are saying, "Pull out." They've got a resolution on the floor today — a ridiculous resolution — which calls for an immediate pullout.
No Democrat is going to vote for that. That's not what we're saying. We have what I feel is a very constructive resolution which gives a good proposal about how this war can be ended in a favorable way.
These troops have done a hell of a job. Chris, I go out to the hospital almost every week and I see these young men and women who suffer. I see them asking for nothing. I see them not complaining. I see them actually bearing up very well under the burden.
One young woman from Notre Dame, a basketball player, lost her right hand. She is worried about her husband, because her husband was losing weight worrying about her.
Another young fellow that lost both his hands and was blinded, and the only thing the family asked for that he get a Purple Heart. And the reason he wasn't getting a Purple Heart, because this happened with friendly ammunition.
He got his Purple Heart.
But I find out a lot from the troops that are in the hospitals. I find out what's need. They don't complain.
Only the Congress of the United States can speak for the soldiers. I think we need to change direction in Iraq. I think we need to redeploy our troops beyond the horizon.
This resolution they're going to introduce today calls for immediate withdrawal. That's not what anybody is saying. We need a thoughtful suggestion, a thoughtful resolution, which concludes this war as quickly as possible.
I see no progress at all that's being made. So I came to the conclusion, after almost a year of thought, that it had to be changed.
Now, we provide everything the troops needed. We've made sure they had all the equipment they needed.
When though they went into this war with not enough people for the transition to peace, they come into it with less than the number of people they needed, and also they came in without the body armor they needed, the up-armored Humvee.
They completely miscalculated the degree of resistance they would run into. State Department told them, CIA told them — they ignored that.
The former plan called for a lot more troops and they whittled it down because they thought they could win this thing on the cheap. They said oil would pay for this.
Now let's compare this with his father. His father had a legitimate coalition. He had 500,000 with 100,000 coalition troops. $60 billion — and I was chairman of the committee at the time — went through our committee, was paid for by the international community. Japan, Germany, France — all of these other countries helped pay for it.
He decided not to go into Iraq. He liberated Kuwait with the U.N. resolution and he decided, "I'm not going to go into Iraq." Why? He didn't want to rebuild it. He didn't want it reconstruct it and he didn't want to occupy it. He had an exit strategy.
There is no exit strategy. The path to victory — victory is not a strategy.
I sent a letter to the White House, Chris, in September of last year and I got an answer in May, saying what I suggested they ought to do.
They don't reach out. His dad reached out to everybody, reached out to Republicans and Democrats.
MATTHEWS: I've only got a minute, Congressman. I've got to ask you one last question. When you say "redeploy beyond the horizon" rather than pull out, does that mean pull our troops back from the cities into camps, into barracks? What does it mean, actually?
MURTHA: No, Chris, what I'm saying is redeploy them outside Iraq. Let the Iraqis take over. Give them the incentive to run their own country — because they're not going to run their own country as long as we're doing it for them.
You notice that every person that was elected to the United States was for lost. And so I'm convinced we need to redeploy outside the country as quickly as practicable and safe for the troops.
MATTHEWS: How is that different than what the Republicans are pushing as this kind of bogus resolution they're pushing today?
MURTHA: It's ridiculous. It's an immediate withdrawal without any kind of a plan at all. All they're trying to do is prove to the American people a political message.
MATTHEWS: Is this some Mickey Mouse trick? How would you describe that resolution?
MURTHA: This is exactly what it is. And it's infuriating to me that after a year of study, after almost 25 years on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, with a really thoughtful resolution, they're not willing to have hearings, they're not willing to think about this or talk.
I've had members come to me all day long and say, "I like your resolution, I'm not there yet," "I'm not sure what I want to do" — Republicans and Democrats.
I've got overwhelming support. The public's way ahead off us on this, Chris. The public is saying to me, "I agree with you." But the members want to think about it.
And for them to bring up a resolution today just to discredit what I've done is really reprehensible.
Watch each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.