Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) may experience a brief, long-overdue spasm of accountability.
During a press conference in 2006, Rep. Murtha accused eight U.S. Marines of murder committed during a firefight in Haditha following an IED explosion. No trials or even official investigation had yet taken place; Murtha drew his conclusions in part from a sensational article in TIME magazine:
“[T]here was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
More than two years later, however, Murtha’s mouth may be catching up with him. Now that nearly all of the accused Marines have been either granted dismissals or acquitted, one of the exonerated Marines, LCpl. Justin Sharratt, has filed suit against Murtha for slander, and the suit is going forward.
Details below the break.
Of the “Haditha Eight” charged by the Marine Corps with murder after the incident, six have been granted dismissals and one an acquittal. The court-martial (on reduced charges) of the one remaining defendant, SSgt. Frank Wuterich, according to the L.A. Times, is “delayed by legal wrangling over his interview on CBS’s ’60 Minutes.'” (The dismissal ruling in the case of another of the Eight, Col. Jeffrey Chessani, is being appealed by prosecutors.)
After seven dropped cases and the eighth tied in knots, Rep. Murtha, a veteran of the Corps himself, still clings to his original accusation. At one point a year ago, after the third dismissal, the congressman remarked curtly to one questioner at the Capitol in grumpy stubbornness, “The trial isn’t over yet.” Murtha ended that conversation abruptly by trumpeting his own status as a veteran as he ducked into an elevator .
An additional defamation suit against Murtha, filed by SSgt. Wuterich, is on hold while Wuterich’s charges are still pending. The Justice Department attempted to have that suit dismissed, on the grounds that Murtha was acting in his official role as a congressman, but a federal judge refused, saying that it would set a disturbing precedent (the judge also ordered Murtha to submit a deposition). No doubt this ruling will come in handy in LCpl. Sharatt’s lawsuit.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine” is a point of deep conviction in the USMC. “Ex-Marine” is an oxymoron; there are only former Marines. Most will tell you that the only unquestioned exception to this rule is communist assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, although some will add Lt. Col. Oliver North, reviled for lying under oath to Congress while wearing the uniform. Something tells me Jack Murtha is setting himself up as a prime candidate for the next addition to the short list of “ex-Marines.”
UPDATE: Whoops! Looks like Vietnam veteran Col. Mack Owens (USMCR, Ret.), the author of one of the articles linked above, beat me to it, having nominated Rep. Murtha for the title of “ex-Marine” about a year and a half ago.
UPDATE II: Miz Michelle reminds me that Jack Murtha has an interesting opponent in this year’s election. 28-year soldier and Iraq veteran Lt. Col. William T. Russell (USAR, Ret.) failed to submit enough signatures to get his name on the ballot in the Republican primary for Murtha’s seat, but still managed to win by garnering 4,000 write-in votes, gaining him a spot on the GOP line. Russell decided to run against Murtha the day he saw the congressman give that execrable press conference.
Gateway Pundit has more.