A combat veteran (left) and not a combat veteran.
A combat veteran (left) and not a combat veteran.

Murtha and Rohrabacher Agreed on Afghanistan

With news of the death of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who in 1974 became the first combat veteran of the Vietnam War elected to Congress, it's fitting to look at his connection to the Orange County congressional delegation's leading chickenhawk.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), of course, never served, unless one counts his Reagan-era rolling around in the hills of Afghanistan with future terrorists. Rohrabacher certainly counts it, pointing to it as proof that he a longtime expert on that embattled land.

Murtha and Rohrabacher agreed on this: there should be no troop increases in Afghanistan.

Rohrabacher, who is a ranking member of the International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Murtha, who wielded considerable clout for two decades as a leader of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee overseeing Pentagon spending and in 2005 called for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq, in December were cited as two of the six most influential Members of Congress on Afghanistan.

New Republic reported that Rohrabacher mattered even though he "hasn't historically been a power player in the Afghanistan debate."

But he turned heads and gained liberal plaudits in November, first by praising President Obama's slow approach to decisionmaking in Afghanistan, and then by coming out strongly against a troop surge and in favor of a bottom-up strategy that would not require additional U.S. forces. . . . Power player or not, Rohrabacher has already started building alliances with liberal Democrats skeptical of a surge strategy, and could be a key bridge in presenting bipartisan opposition to funding for more troops.

As for Murtha:

[W]hat worries Murtha is the idea that escalation in Afghanistan lacks a clear path to victory. In March [2009], he said that the Afghanistan mission had no concrete goal and that it might take as many as 600,000 troops to fully squelch violence in the country. He remained skeptical after the administration released new metrics of success in September [2009], and upon returning this week from a fact finding trip to Afghanistan, he pronounced that he was "still very nervous about this whole thing." He has projected a revolt of antiwar Democrats against the surge idea, and may end up being the one to lead it. 

The only other Republican besides Rohrabacher named by New Republic was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).


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