Skip to comments.Donít rewrite Murthaís legacy (Haditha Marines)
Posted on 12/27/2011 9:25:28 AM PST by smoothsailing
— On Dec. 18, Tribune-Democrat Editor Chip Minemyer called for someone in our military to step forward and acknowledge that “Murtha got it right” on Haditha.
He cites a New York Times report that classified documents found on an abandoned base in Iraq “support assertions by the late congressman that Marines – stressed to the breaking point by the nature of that conflict – killed 24 people, including women and children, on Nov. 19, 2005.”
Mr. Minemyer is dead wrong. The only fact in his assertion that the documents confirm is that 24 people, including women and children, were killed in a combat engagement on that day.
A review of the documents on the Times website reveals there is absolutely nothing to support the late congressman’s repeated and breathless assertions that Marines “murdered innocent civilians in cold blood” – long before the investigation was completed.
But the interviews with members of the chain-of-command – which the Times did publish – do confirm what I asserted throughout my campaigns against John Murtha:
That there was a continuing and concerted effort on the part of the Islamic insurgents to create a My Lai-type incident as part of their information operations (called “IO” by Marines interviewed) at the height of the war in Iraq.
The interviews also document the Marines’ frustration with the number of civilian casualties and confirm the efforts of the enemy to put civilians in harm’s way, in order to have civilian casualties that could be photographed and displayed in both the United States and the Middle East to discredit the American war effort.
The true effects of Murtha’s comments were characterized in my interview on Fox News’ “Happening Now” on April 8, 2008 (posted on YouTube):
“… when he threw the Haditha Marines under the bus, he put the United States Congress’ ‘stamp of approval’ on enemy propaganda. And certainly John Murtha, of all people, should understand this.
“Having served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, he should understand enemy propaganda; as a savvy politician, he should understand propaganda … and when he takes the enemy’s story, puts it out as the gospel truth, accuses our Marines of ‘cold-blooded murder,’ he has reinforced their message on the Arab street and undermined the support for the troops at home.”
This interview put the lock on Murtha’s political cage; it was created by the candidacy of an Iraq War veteran for his seat. He remained silent in the public debate on the Iraq War issue – until his last interview with The Tribune-Democrat the week before his death in February 2010.
The incidents at Haditha occurred at a time and place where the insurgents were pursuing a strategy that included the tactic of using human shields in the cross-fire between themselves and U.S. forces.
It remains a terrible tragedy that approximately half of the Iraqis who were killed in that firefight were innocents who were inserted into the cross fire by the insurgents.
Whether they died as a result of insurgent gunfire or U.S. gunfire is irrelevant. The innocents died because the insurgents had a tactic of using human shields while trying to kill Americans, in order to cause civilian deaths and produce the kind of propaganda Murtha endorsed.
The fact also remains that seven of the eight Haditha Marines were not only found “not guilty,” but they have been fully exonerated.
In the case of Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt (one of Murtha’s own constituents), he was found to have conducted himself to the highest standards of the Corps for a Marine in combat.
The eighth Haditha Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, is still awaiting trial. The politically appointed leadership at the Department of Defense will not dismiss the charges against Sgt. Wuterich because of the political liability to the current administration.
Highly ironic, given that even John Hugya, Murtha’s former chief of staff, has acknowledged that Murtha got it wrong by calling for Wuterich to be exonerated last October.
Also ironic, is the Obama administration stating that one of the major issues preventing the United States from maintaining a presence in Iraq was the Iraqi refusal to allow American forces to maintain immunity from Iraqi law.
The major issue raised by the Iraqis: Haditha.
After all, how could they trust America’s military court system when it acquitted seven Marines whom a senior U.S. congressman and military veteran had already pronounced as guilty of murder?
The strategic military and economic vulnerabilities created by our abrupt and poorly planned withdrawal from Iraq all have a direct cause that can be attributed to Murtha.
In spite of the evidence that he was wrong while he was alive, Murtha never apologized to the Marines he falsely accused, and went to his grave defiant and unapologetic.
This is, and should remain, his legacy.
Minemyer’s suggestion to rehabilitate Murtha’s reputation by having the Department of Defense say “Murtha was right about Haditha” would only smear, denigrate and insult the brave sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives and limbs in their service to this nation in Iraq.
William T. Russell is a former Republican candidate for the 12th Congressional District seat formerly held by John Murtha. He is an internationally published columnist and has been a featured guest on a number of national television and radio news shows. He is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and veteran of Desert Storm, the Iraq War, and the Balkans. He and his wife, Kasia, were both in the Pentagon on 9/11.
— The final years of John Murtha’s life were stained by a controversy over comments he made concerning actions by U.S. Marines in late 2005 in Haditha, Iraq.
He was sued by soldiers for slander and chastised by political foes.
And the echoes of that debate followed Murtha to his grave years after he said Marines killed innocent civilians “in cold blood.”
But a powerful new investigative report by The New York Times seems to support assertions by the late congressman that Marines – stressed to the breaking point by the nature of that conflict – killed 24 people, including women and children, on Nov. 19, 2005.
A Times reporter found in a junkyard near Baghdad numerous pieces of evidence from the investigation into the Haditha incident.
Michael S. Schmidt wrote that some 400 pages of top-secret interviews and interrogations which were to be destroyed as the last American troops pulled out of Iraq were instead casually discarded. The junkyard also held additional classified information such as maps of helicopter routes.
Schmidt wrote: “An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.”
Schmidt’s in-depth story charts both the atrocities committed at Haditha, as described in testimony by Marines who were involved, and the intense stress those military personnel faced each day from the threat of suicide bombings and roadside explosive devices.
He wrote: “Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.”
As has been reported, eight Marines were charged after the Haditha incident. Charges against six were eventually dropped, while one was acquitted and the eighth may face a trial for voluntary manslaughter in 2012.
The incident took place during the most intense period of the Iraq war – which was declared “over” just this past week, as U.S. soldiers began packing up and heading home.
The Times describes how on that 2005 morning, a convoy of military vehicles was headed to an outpost in Haditha when one vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
One Marine died and others were injured.
Some of the remaining Marines went looking for those responsible for the bomb.
A day later, 24 Iraqis were dead – “including a 76-year-old man and children between the ages of 3 and 15 ... many inside their homes,” the Times reported.
Murtha, an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran, understood the horrors of combat.
He knew the circumstances those soldiers faced.
And he realized that such incidents were damaging to efforts to reconcile U.S. military actions with the Iraqi people.
Murtha had access to reports based on the same classified information uncovered – quite literally – by The New York Times.
Several months after the Haditha incident, the veteran congressman uttered the words that fueled political campaigns and led to twin slander lawsuits filed against him.
Former Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey, reached by email, said Murtha’s goal was to help the public and others in government understand that soldiers in Iraq faced very challenging circumstances which sometimes led them to take actions that resulted in unnecessary civilian casualties.
“Congressman Murtha’s purpose all along was to draw attention to the high number of civilian casualties in Iraq, said Mazonkey, who is now chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown.
“And, in many cases, it worked – civilian casualties were significantly reduced as we started focusing on winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.”
In his final interview, with The Tribune-Democrat’s Randy Griffith a short time before his February 2010 death, Murtha recalled the moment when he spoke out:
“What I was doing here was I was looking at the big picture. I make comments when I believe it might (bring) change. I felt very strongly because of what was going on.”
At least two political opponents – Republicans Diana Irey and William Russell – attempted to gain ground with voters and potential donors by attacking Murtha for his statements.
In 2006, Irey said: “Shame on you, Congressman Murtha. You have clearly lost your way.”
There is now speculation that the Times report will lead to a reopening of the investigation into the handling of the Haditha incident, both by the soldiers on the ground and by others later, as well as a probe of how classified documents wound up in a dump.
In addition, someone in our military needs to step forward and acknowledge that Murtha got it right, and that stances such as his helped turn the tide of this war in a direction that is allowing our soldiers to come home – six years after that bloody day at Haditha.
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 724-532-5091.
Haditha Marine-Murtha Ping
In a perfect universe, that filthy corrupt ‘Rat should even now be fellating Kim Jong Il WAY downstairs.
Everyone says that there’s no such thing as an Ex-Marine.Well,Murtha was the exception that proves that rule.
Absolutely right. Gunny Ermey would have kicked Murtha’s ass and spit on him, right after dressing him down as he so richly deserved.
I hope the Murtha Furker is burning in Hell.
My most fervent hope is that murtha is still feeling all the fury of hell and damnation. And that he feels it for eternity.
I’ll voice a strong second on that for you.
Both are/were despicable humans and most Vets would not consider either one our "Brothers," though both served in harms way.
And while Murtha slimed a group of Marines in one instance/incident, Kerry's (Knowingly) faux accusations, tarred with that broad brush, ALL of us who served in Vietnam and we were made to feel ashamed of our service to the point, most of us hid that fact for 30+ years.
Thank God Murtha, the Iraq Vets Against the War (an offshoot and sponsored by the Vietnam Vets Against the War) as well as Code Pink and sundry other Anti-War Zealots--though they tried--were not successful in attributing atrocities and War Crimes to all who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some of us Nam Vets vowed to never let that happen again and for the most part, have been successful in that those who have made such accusations, were not simply left to their own designs absent any documentation or proof (as Kerry was able to get away with) and when pressed for same, their charges were seen to be specious, malicious and fabricated.
Maybe God will forgive Kerry (and Murtha to a lesser degree) for all the hurt, pain and suffering they caused, but I won't....not ever!!!
John Murtha was a disgusting human being who insulted the service of all veterans and took the US Congress to a lower image than ever before. He is and always will be an embarrassment to America.
Goes to show, you can always trust some scumbag editor for a second-rate Democrat newsroom to put the soiled reputation of a corrupt Democrat politician (co-conspirator, Abscam) ahead of the legacy and reputation of a group of brave US Marine combat veterans. Minemyer is the ultimate coward. What a sick, slimy bastid.
Excellent piece by Bill Russell and he couldn't be more correct about Murtha. The below pic shows just exactly where Murtha's priorities were on the war in Iraq.
Somebody needs to remind Minemeyer that Murtha just re-spewed Tim McGirk’s lie.
Thanks for posting, Lancey. It’s important to remember.
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