WASHINGTON – Rep. John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran first elected in the anti-war fever of 1974, says American troops will be brought home from Iraq by 2007.
Either President Bush will bow to public opinion or Democrats will have won control of the House of Representatives and increased pressure on the White House, Murtha, D-Pa., said in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
Most likely, there will be a "tidal wave" that propels Democrats into the majority, said Murtha. He predicts Democrats will gain 40-50 seats — well more than the 15 needed for the party to gain control.
Murtha, 73, a retired Marine colonel who has generally been hawkish on war issues, shocked Washington in November when he said the war could not be won and it was time for troops to come home. He offered a plan that would keep troops in the region in case of a national security emergency.
Murtha was elected in 1974, when public outrage over the Watergate scandal and President Nixon swept Democrats into office. He compared this election year to that of 1974 and to 1994, when the GOP rolled into power — partly because of discontent with President Clinton.
"Republicans are spinning the fact that it's going to be very hard. From my experience in '74 and '94, they can't stop it ... even if they did something dramatic," Murtha said.
Murtha said he thinks President Bush would have to bring more than half the troops in Iraq back to the United States before election day for it to start to make a difference to voters.
"If that happens, he would have to admit he made mistakes," Murtha said. "The biggest problem he has had is admitting he made a mistake in going in there in the first place."