The anti-war left's favorite Congressman, Jack Murtha, is at it again. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Democrat alleged that U.S. Marines committed serious atrocities against Iraqi civilians in an incident near Haditha on 19 November of last year.
According to Congressman Murtha, Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (based at Camp Pendleton, CA), "killed innocent civilians in cold blood" after responding to a roadside bomb attack near Haditha that killed one Marine. An Iraqi human rights group claims that Marines stormed houses near the bombing site, throwing grenades and shooting civilians. The human rights group claims that at least 15 Iraqis were killed in the attack; Time magazine carried a report on the incident in its 27 March edition.
However, Murtha assures us that what actually happened at Haditha is "much worse" than what was described by Time. But careful readers will note that Murtha (in typical fashion) offers no details to support his accusations. Officially, the Marine Corps has relieved three officers of their duties in the wake of the incident, and an official investigation is on-going. But how did John Murtha get his information, and how reliable is it? Has he spoken with Marine and Navy investigators? Read interview transcripts? Reviewed forensic evidence? Heard rumors in the bar at the Army-Navy Club? Murtha won't say, and when pressed for details by Army Times, his press representative couldn't offer any amplifying details.
Sadly, such tactics are part-and-parcel of the Murtha approach. Make a sensational claim and grab some press headlines, knowing that the drive-by media won't question your charges. Afterall, Congressman Murtha served in Vietnam (so did John Kerry!), and he's a retired Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. In the eyes of the MSM, that makes him an unqualified expert on all matters relating to the U.S. military and ground combat in Iraq. Just a few weeks back, Jack Murtha was telling anyone who would listen that U.S. ground forces are "hard broke" after three-plus years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And once again, the charge was long on sensationalism, short on specifics. Since then, that "broken" force has launched a series of major operations against terrorists in Iraq, producing some notable successes. When that happened, Murtha was conspiciously silent.
If Murtha has information that might be of use to Marine and NCIS investigators, he knows how to contact them. On the other hand, if he's trying to meddle in an on-going investigation, he needs to shut up. Should any Marines face disciplinary action for the Haditha incident--and that is hardly assured--a smart defense attorney can mere cite Murtha's remarks as evidence that potential court-martial panels have been hopelessly prejudiced. A military judge might not agree with that assessment, but the impact of Murtha's comments--echoed by his buddies in the news media--could form the foundation for a legal appeal.
But that pre-supposes that atrocities were committed in Haditha last November. So far, all we have are allegation, and an on-going investigation. As a retired Marine Colonel, Jack Murtha supposedly knows enough to keep his yap shut and let the process work. But then again, doing things by the book wouldn't sustain his reputation as the media's favorite anti-war Congressman--never mind the fact that he's wrong far more often than he's right. And that raises another question: let's suppose that those Marine officers are exonerated for their actions at Haditha. If that happens, will Jack Murtha apologize to his "fellow" Marines?