Iraq War veterans speak out at town hall meeting
By Eric Brewer on 1/6/2006, 7:59pm PT  

Special to BRAD BLOG by BTC News White House Correspondent Eric Brewer

Hundreds of people who came out on a cold January evening to hear Congressman and Marine Corps veteran Jack Murtha speak on the war in Iraq were turned away last night from an overflowing town hall meeting in Arlington, Virginia, that was organized by my congressman, Jim Moran, who supports Murtha's position that it's time to pull the plug on Bush's excellent adventure. But among the 600 or so who did get in were several Iraq War veterans, all of whom criticized the war. One young man, who had served a year in Iraq as a sniper, finished up his statement with the following question:

How come there hasn't been an investigation on the fraudulent lead-up to the war by this administration?

That got applause from the crowd, although little in the way of an answer from the two congressmen. C-SPAN has video of all two-and-a-half hours of it here.

Murtha defended himself from recent criticism he's received, from Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace, among others, over a statement Murtha made in an ABC interview this week that he would not enlist in the military if he had to make the choice today. Last night Murtha said:

Instead of talking about the problems with recruitment...they face it with rhetoric--"Murtha hurting recruitment." All this [problems with recruitment] happened before I said anything...What's happening with recruitment, the guys come home, the men and women come home, and they tell their brothers and sisters, "Don't go. We don't have a clear mission."

I asked Murtha and Moran whether we are currently engaged in building permanent military bases in Iraq. Murtha said, "No," while Moran expanded a bit, saying that the fact that we've constructed the largest embassy in the world there has led some people to "conclude that we're there for a long-term occupation, but Jack has been very clear in his leadership that we should not be establishing permanent military bases in Iraq."