Murtha wouldn’t join military today

    Rep. John Murtha, a decorated veteran who spent 37 years in the Marines, says he wouldn’t join the military today.

    Murtha, a key Democratic voice who favors pulling U.S.
    troops from Iraq, told ABC News’ “Nightline” program that Iraq “absolutely” was a
    wrong war for President George W. Bush to have launched.

    “Would you join (the military) today?,” he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.

    replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of
    Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of
    his party’s leading spokesmen on military issues.

    “And I think
    you’re saying the average guy out there who’s considering recruitment
    is justified in saying ‘I don’t want to serve’,” the interviewer

    “Exactly right,” said Murtha, who drew White House ire
    in November after becoming the first ranking Democrat to push for a
    pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as it could be done safely.

    At the time, White House spokesman Scott McClellan equated Murtha’s position with surrendering to terrorists.

    then, Bush has decried the “defeatism” of some of his political rivals.
    In an unusually direct appeal, he urged Americans on December 18 not to
    give in to despair over Iraq, insisting that “we are winning” despite a
    tougher-than-expected fight.

    Murtha did not respond directly when
    asked whether a lack of combat experience might have affected the
    decision-making of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary
    Donald Rumsfeld and their former top deputies.

    “Let me tell you,
    war is a nasty business. It sears the soul,” he said, choking up. “And
    it made a difference. The shadow of those killings stay with you the
    rest of your life.”

    Asked for comment, a Defense Department
    spokesman, Lt. Col. John Skinner, said: “We have an all-volunteer
    military. People are free to choose whether they serve or not.”

    freedom of speech in this country allows all of us the opportunity to
    voice an opinion. It’s one of our great strengths as a nation,” he
    added in an e-mailed reply.

    The White House had no immediate comment.