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Murtha Details His Exit Strategy
CBS News
January 13, 2006

(CBS) Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., believes the vast majority of U.S. troops in Iraq will be out by the end of the year and maybe even sooner. In his boldest words yet on the subject, the outspoken critic of the war predicts the withdrawal and tells 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace why he thinks the Bush administration will do it.

"I think the vast majority will be out by the end of the year and I'm hopeful it will be sooner than that," Murtha tells Wallace, this Sunday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

"You're going to see a plan for withdrawal," says Murtha. He believes Congress will pass it because of mounting pressure from constituents tired of the war that could affect the upcoming midterm elections.

The political situation will force President Bush to accede to Congress, he says. "I think the political people who give [the president] advice will say to him, ‘You don't want a democratic Congress. You want to keep a Republican majority, and the only way you're going to keep it is by reducing substantially the troops in Iraq,'" Murtha says.

The president has said publicly that any decision regarding Iraq would be based on the situation there and not on Washington politics.

Murtha rejects the president's argument that the war on terror is being fought in Iraq. "The insurgents are Iraqis – 93 percent of the insurgents are Iraqis. A very small percentage are foreign fighters….Once we're out of there, [Iraqis] will eliminate [foreign fighters]," says Murtha.

"[President Bush] is trying to fight this war with rhetoric. Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is," he says. "We're inciting terrorism there....We're destabilizing the area by being over there because we're the targets," Murtha says.

When Wallace challenges him by saying, "General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says your comments are damaging recruiting and hurting the troops," Murtha responds by saying it's the military's own fault. "[Troops] are rotated [into Iraq] four and five times. They have no clear mission," says Murtha. "One of the problems they have with recruitment is [that] they continually say how well things are going and the troops on the ground know better."

President Bush has said there are only two choices in Iraq: victory and defeat. And he has implied that Murtha is a "defeatist." Murtha, of course, disputes that.

There have been 13 servicemen from his Congressional district killed in Iraq. Could the families of those dead be offended? Wallace asks.

"Well, I hope [those families] understand," says the Vietnam combat veteran. "It's my job, my responsibility, to speak out when I disagree with the policy of the president of the United States," says Murtha. "All of us want this president to succeed…I feel a mission here, with my experience, that I have to help the president find a way out of this thing."

By Bob Anderson ©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.