Newspaper Makes ‘Right’ Choice on Iraq

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By: Greg Mitchell

As regular readers of this column know, I embarked on a tireless (to some, tiresome) mission more than two years ago, encouraging newspaper editorial writers to endorse a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, or at least kick around the idea. Since virtually no one took me up on it, I?ve had to repeat it every few months, as various ?turning points? came and went, the American death toll passed 500, then 1000, then 2000, and numerous journalists were killed or kidnapped.

Nearly every major paper continued to ignore or oppose the idea, or even called for sending more troops. The Seattle Times and Minneapolis Star-Tribune were just about the only big-city exceptions.

Last November, after Rep. John Murtha?s well-publicized call for a pullout, I tried again. Like most Democrats in Congress, many newspapers found some merit in Murtha?s proposal, or at least defended him from those who charged the longtime Marine with being a coward (not exactly a risky choice). But in the end, almost none said: Yeah, let?s start to withdraw, and soon. USA Today, for example, called his plea “understandable” but “misguided.”

Now, this week, a full and unconditional endorsement of Murtha?s notion has come from a completely unexpected source: the notably conservative Tribune-Review, which is based in Greensburg, Pa., but considers itself a full-fledged Pittsburgh newspaper. It?s controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, one of the chief funders of conservative think-thanks and activist causes around the country.

Less than two months ago, the newspaper (daily circulation about 102,000), attacked Murtha?s plan. Printed below is the text of the latest editorial, which was published on Tuesday. Perhaps a few other papers would now like to re-visit this subject, with the third anniversary of the start of the war approaching.

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We didn’t agree with Jack Murtha in November when he called for an immediate withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq. The timing was not right. But the times have changed.

When the Pennsylvania congressman made his call, critical December parliamentary elections were ahead; cut-and-run talk was inappropriate.

But successful elections have passed. And contrary to what some may say, Iraqis are stepping up to the plate, as evidenced by the number dying in defense of their fledgling republic. Native Iraqi terrorists and those of the al-Qaida brand also are starting to battle each other.

There’s a growing sense of self-determination, which is a critical trait on the road to democracy.

That said, the world situation has changed dramatically since November. The nuclear saber-rattling of neighboring Iran is heading for a showdown. To meet that threat should diplomacy fail, the United States must begin the six- to nine-month logistical process of drawing down its Iraqi force and repositioning it to respond, if need be, to the Iranian threat.

This is not retreat. This is not cut-and-run. This is a recognition of the reality in Iraq — one that has evolved into an Iraqi problem that only the Iraqis now can solve — and that the paramount world security threat now is Iran.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night, Jack Murtha predicted the “vast majority” of U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by year’s end if not sooner. We hope he’s right. The time has come.

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UPDATE:

In response to the editorial, the Triibune Review published the following letter from a reader:

I was stunned to read that the Trib is calling for the beginning of a drawdown of troops from Iraq. However, I have to applaud the Trib for realizing that it is time to bring them home. I served with the Army in Vietnam for 14 months in 1967 and 1968, and regardless of what anyone says, Iraq is turning into another Vietnam: that is, a no-win situation.

Just as in Vietnam, the Iraqis wave to us during the day and shoot at us at night. Congressman John Murtha recognized this long ago, and his call for a withdrawal should be heeded. America has suffered enough dead and wounded.

Denis L. Andros
Greensburg

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