Expose the Left has the video of Rep. Murtha’s verdict first, trial later condemnation of the US Marines. Here’s the partial transcript:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let me ask you Mr. Murtha to give us some details about that. Draw us a picture of what happened at Haditha.
REP. JOHN “JACK” MURTHA: Well, I’ll tell you exactly what happened. One Marine was killed and the Marines just said we’re going to take care – we don’t know who the enemy is, the pressure was too much on them, so they went into houses and they actually killed civilians. And, and –
MATTHEWS:—was this My Lai? Was this a case of – when you say cold blood Congressman, a lot of people think you’re basically saying you got some civilians sitting in a room around a field and they’re executed.
MURTHA: That’s exactly it.
The investigation into the incident at Haditha is not complete. Knight Ridder reports:
Murtha’s comments were the first on-the-record remarks by a U.S. official characterizing the findings of military investigators looking into the Nov. 19 incident. Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and an opponent of Bush administration policy in Iraq, said he hadn’t read the report but had learned about its findings from military commanders and other sources.
Three Marine officers — commanders in Haditha — have been relieved of duty, and at least 12 Marines in all are under investigation for what would be the worst single incident involving the deliberate killing of civilians by U.S. military in Iraq.
The Marine Corps issued a statement in response to Murtha’s remarks:
“There is an ongoing investigation; therefore, any comment at this time would be inappropriate and could undermine the investigatory and possible legal process. As soon as the facts are known and decisions on future actions are made, we will make that information available to the public to the fullest extent allowable.”
Murtha held the news conference to mark six months since his initial call for “redeployment” of U.S. forces from Iraq.
He said U.S. forces were under undue pressure in Iraq because of poor planning and allocation of resources by the Bush administration.
I cannot imagine a more irresponsible statement from Congressman Murtha given that the investigation is still open. The Congressman should explain his sources, or face the charge that he has judged the men involved before the evidence is even compiled.
Breitbart/AP has a brief story.
Andi at the excellent new Milblogs site:
Let’s keep in mind that no matter the outcome of this investigation, it has an effect on all of our troops. Given Murtha’s latest comments, the media will no doubt fan the flames, leaving those on the ground to deal with the fallout.
Army Times coverage here.
Murtha gained notoriety last year when he demanded an immediate and precipitate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. He claimed that victory was impossible and that the US forces were sitting ducks for terrorists. Since them, with the exception of one month, US casualties have declined rapidly and the Iraqi forces have demonstrated increasing ability to operate independently.
Now it looks like Murtha once again has jumped the gun, seemingly anxious to paint US forces as murderous now that his earlier assertion of helplessness has been shown false. He has made this leap despite the investigation continuing into the incident, and in advance of any determination by the military. Not only has he convicted the Marines without benefit of a complete investigation, let alone a court-martial, he has also found them non compus mentis by reason of “combat stress”. In other words, Murtha says they’re war criminals, but it’s the fault of the Bush administration.
Yes, indeed, it’s all very familiar.
There is the possibility that the Marines did gun down innocent civilians as local Iraqis claim. But it is equally as possible that one or more people inside the house opened fire upon the Marines in an ambush after the IED went off. It has happened that way frequently, and that exact scenario left ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt seriously wounded, when the IED attack that wounded them was followed by small arms fire from nearby buildings. The attack was broken when coalition forces counterattacked.
Someone who truly supports the troops, even if they do not support the war, would want this incident fully investigated to uncover the truth. They would want to know the facts.
They would want to know if the Marines fired out of blind rage at the loss of their friends, and they would be equally interested in finding out if the Marines assaulted that location because someone inside fired upon them, as they claimed. Was it a slaughter of innocents, or were insurgents firing from within civilian homes? Were those that triggered the IED among the dead? We do not yet know, and some are already passing judgment.
Per Murtha’s comments, Owens writes:
I had no idea just how accurate those words would prove to be. Congressman John Murtha has now gone so far as to accuse American Marines of cold-blooded murder before an investigation has been completed, and roughly doubled the number of dead without any support for his charges, with the sole apparent goal of inflaming outrage at the expense of our military’s safety.
It would seem appropriate that the United States House of Representatives should at the very least censure Congressman Murtha, who has gone so far out of his way to initiate such inflammatory and potentially dangerous rhetoric. He has dishonored his seat, the military criminal justice system, the Marine Corps and the United States of America.
How a man can make such vicious, unsupported claims and still claim to love the Marine Corps and America is beyond my understanding.
Flashback: Time magazine’s report from March…
The incident seemed like so many others from this war, the kind of tragedy that has become numbingly routine amid the daily reports of violence in Iraq. On the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb struck a humvee carrying Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, on a road near Haditha, a restive town in western Iraq. The bomb killed Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas. The next day a Marine communique from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that “gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire,” prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other. The Marines from Kilo Company held a memorial service for Terrazas at their camp in Haditha. They wrote messages like “T.J., you were a great friend. I’m going to miss seeing you around” on smooth stones and piled them in a funeral mound. And the war moved on.
But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began.
In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis’ accounts of the Marines’ actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military’s initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (ncis), which will conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians. Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Time the involvement of the ncis does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who “placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves.”
Because the incident is officially under investigation, members of the Marine unit that was in Haditha on Nov. 19 are not allowed to speak with reporters. But the military’s own reconstruction of events and the accounts of town residents interviewed by Time—including six whose family members were killed that day—paint a picture of a devastatingly violent response by a group of U.S. troops who had lost one of their own to a deadly insurgent attack and believed they were under fire…