FULL TRANSCRIPT from an interview between CBS News and Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) on Sunday's Face the Nation. Video here
MR. SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. Joining us in the studio, Congressman John Murtha. Of course, he is an ex-Marine. He was wounded in Vietnam. He was a hawk on Iraq, but then last November, he said it is time to bring the troops home and it re- kindled a debate, made it even fiercer.
Congressman Murtha, thank you for coming this morning. And I want to start by quoting something that General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this morning on "Meet the Press." He said he believes the war in Iraq is going, in his words, very, very well. What is your assessment?
REP. MURTHA: Why would I believe him? I mean, this administration, including the president, have mischaracterized this war for the last two years. They first of all, they said it will take 40,000 troops to settle this thing right after the invasion. Then they said there's no insurgency, they're dead enders is what the secretary of defense said -- on and on and on this mischaracterization of the war. They said there's nuclear weapons. There were no nuclear weapons there, there's no biological weapons there, no al Qaeda connection. So why would I believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he says things are going well?
I asked my staff -- when they make a statement like this, I said look, look in the latest report that the State Department puts out, the weekly report, and tell me how much progress we've made. So they look at it and we've made no progress at all. Sixty percent unemployment, the Iraqis want us out of there -- 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there -- oil production's below prewar level, water production -- only 30 percent of the people getting water.
Now our troops are being fed well and being taken care of. They're doing everything they can do militarily, but they're in a situation where they're caught in a civil war. And there's two participants fighting for survival and fighting for supremacy inside that country and that's my definition of a civil war.
So I don't believe the secretary. I think we're not making progress, we're caught in a civil war. We've lost almost 20,000 people in this war if you count the casualties and the people who have been killed the three years we've been involved.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Now, I want to make sure I understand. I mean, I think I understand what you're saying, but you're talking about a Marine, and here you are an ex-Marine -- this is a military man. This is not somebody, some civilian out there at the Pentagon. You're saying you no longer believe what Marine General Peter Pace says when he says he thinks things are going well.
REP. MURTHA: That's exactly right. Why would I believe him with all the misstatements and mischaracterizations they've made over the last two years? And the public is way ahead of what's going on in Washington. They no longer believe. The troops themselves -- 70 percent of the troops say we want to come home within a year. The only solution to this is redeploy.
Let me tell you, the only people who want us in Iraq is Iran and al Qaeda and I've talked to a top level commander the other day -- about two weeks ago -- and he said China wants us there also. Why? Because we're depleting our resources -- our mental -- not our mental -- our troop resources and our fiscal resources.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Now Congressman, when you say al Qaeda wants us there, why would al Qaeda want us there?
REP. MURTHA: Because we're depleting our resources. A very small proportion of what's going on Iraq and they've diverted their attention away from the war on terrorism. The war on terrorism's worldwide and in Iraq it's a civil war and we've diverted ourselves away from that war on terror as we're spending our resources and we're caught in a civil war, which are mostly Iraqis. Al Qaeda's a very small proportion of the number of people fighting in Iraq. Iraq will take care of this themselves.
One of the problems I see and the frustrating thing is our ambassador keeps giving advice to the Iraqis. Every time we give them advice, they vote for somebody else. Chalabi gets 1 percent of the vote, he was our guy, he's a Defense Department guy. Alawi who was a State Department guy, he got 8 percent of the vote. And I asked Director Negroponte the other day, I said, you know, how come he only got 8 percent of the vote? Well, he's a good man -- that's not a point. The Iraqis don't pay attention to our advice.
Eighty percent of them want us out of there, 47 percent say it's justified to kill Americans. So we're caught in a civil war and I'm convinced that we've diverted ourselves away from the fight on terrorism.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But let me just ask you this, because you have said before -- and I believe this is a direct quote -- you say only 750 to 1,000 terrorists are in Iraq and that Iraqis will kill or force them out if we leave.
Why would it be easier for them to do that if we leave than if we stay?
REP. MURTHA: Well, when I say terrorists, I'm saying al Qaeda.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Al Qaeda.
REP. MURTHA: They're using terrorist tactics -- the Iraqis are using terrorist tactics. But I'm convinced they know where they are, they know who they are, but they won't tell us because they've turned against us. We have lost the hearts and minds of the people.
Bob, I sat on the floor of the House when the first supplemental came up -- the $87 billion. The most important part of that supplemental was the reconstruction. We had to win the hearts and minds of the people.
We had to get water supply, we had to get unemployment down, we had to do all the things -- electricity. We've got generators. Our troops have air conditioning -- not the troops in the field, but the commanders and so forth. So they sit in their air-conditioned places and they have good food and they're well -- the Iraqis know this and as they see the casualties, they start to turn against us.
Our troops are doing everything they can. I go to the hospitals all the time. I've seen for a year that morale was starting to deteriorate because they don't believe there's a mission. It's open- ended, there's no point to them being there. When they go out, what's your mission I'll say to them after I question them for a while and talk to them. And they say well, my mission was to find IEDs and that means the way they find them is blow them up and lose a leg or lose an arm or be blinded as I saw the other day or lose both his hands like I saw.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Congressman, why do you think that the Iraqis are having such a difficult time training their people? We keep being told that we've got to get this force trained up. How long does it take the Marines to make a Marine out of a recruit? What -- 16 weeks?
REP. MURTHA: Well, it takes about 16 weeks, but then you go into the training of the units themselves, so I'd say it would take a year. We suggested to them -- we said to this administration two years ago you've got to start training Iraqis. They didn't do it seriously until a year ago and now they went from one unit being trained to no units being trained.
So, you know, the thing is the rhetoric is so frustrating when they keep making statements, which are very optimistic, and then it turns out to be the opposite. And the public has caught on to that and they're very, very pessimistic about the outcome.
MR. SCHIEFFER: What do you sense that the Republicans in Congress want to happen here?
REP. MURTHA: Well, it's interesting. A lot of Democrats say to me you know, you're helping the Republicans because if they start to get out, if they get a schedule and a timetable to get out, which I think they need to do, it'll help the Republicans. So they may not say it privately, but they understand how serious this is.
When you have the public against it, when you have the troops against what we're doing, when you have the people in Iraq against it, when you have the periphery against what we're doing, you have to understand that it's going to have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the election.
I think right now I predict there's going to be a big turnover in Congress because people are so dissatisfied by a lot of things -- the way they've handled and mishandled the war, Katrina and, of course, natural gas prices, the Medicare problem. All those things are weighing just like it did in '94.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Congressman, where do you come down on this whole controversy over whether an Arab country should be allowed to operate key ports in this country?
REP. MURTHA: Well, it's an interesting thing. Roosevelt said, President Roosevelt said, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself when he talked about World War Two when World War Two started. These guys have used fear as a club and so then they wonder why the American people would react so viscerally when they talk about letting the Arabs take over the ports. It's no surprise to me.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think they should be allowed to take them over?
REP. MURTHA: Well, I have mixed feelings about it. I really haven't seen enough about it. I mean, my initial reaction was against it, but I said let me take a look at it before I can make up my mind.
Dubai has been a good ally, but I tell ya, I'd have to vote against it right now. I'd have to say that with all the concerns I have about security of the ports, which is not the best in the world, that I'm not sure I'd like Dubai taking over the ports.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you also about this statement by Iran this morning. The Iranian government says that if this whole situation about whether or not they can produce enriched uranium goes to the United Nations, they're just going to speed up the process, which is what the West says is another step toward building a nuclear weapon.
What should we be doing about Iran right now?
REP. MURTHA: Let me tell you, Bob, that's the problem we have. One of the reasons I spoke out after trying to do this privately -- and for years and years I've done everything behind the scenes, tried not to speak publicly about many of these things, trying to give advice to the president. But here, we have a situation where our military's in such bad shape it couldn't deploy to a second front and the Iranians know this. This is not something I'm telling the Iranians. North Korea knows it. China knows it. We're depleting our resources in Iraq, which is a civil war.
We should redeploy out of there and re-do the Army, re-do our military so that we can prevent a war, so that we can say to Iran look fellas, you know, you have to be very careful about what you do because we can use military force.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But I guess the one thing that worries me about it -- if we just left, isn't it going to send a signal that they're going to take this to mean that they've defeated us? And won't that just give them -- won't their morale go up and cause them to try us in another place, perhaps here?
REP. MURTHA: Yes, I know that's the common theory because that's the fear that they try to sell to the American people. I don't see that at all. There was no terrorism in Iraq before at all. The Iraqis have to settle this themselves. This is not a we thing, this is a them thing. They've got a government now and they have to settle it. No matter how complicated it is, they have to sit down, figure out what needs to be done and settle this civil war themselves. There'll be some fighting, but the al Qaeda -- the thing that we're worried about worldwide, the threat we're worried about in the United States -- will disappear because the Iraqis do not like them. It's just that they put up with them because we have become occupiers and we've united everybody against us.