Congress Should Support the Troops by Censuring Murtha

It's customary for stories about Washington D.C. written in the final hours before Congress takes its August break to make some comparison to the city's sweltering steamy heat. This has been a rather cool and dry summer as a matter of fact, but if Congress can't wait to get out of here, most of us are so steamed at its behavior that we can't wait for these pampered, self-serving clowns to beat it out of town.  

Our military pulls the laboring oar to complete the mission in Iraq, and the troops seem to be doing quite a job of it only weeks into the surge, which Congress signed on to under General Petraeus (whom they approved for this position). But the Democratic Congress seems hell-bent on undermining the troops and their mission at every turn. For the most shabby and obvious partisan advantage. Even some erstwhile Republican supporters of the Iraq Mission seem to have lost their spine just as the tide is definitely swinging in our favor, making an honorable withdrawal of our troops possible in a not-so-distant future. The unserious
proposal by Senators Warner and Lugar comes to mind. 

Once again ordinary Americans rise to the challenge while our overpaid political elite ponce about on the stage making outrageous remarks and proposals in an effort to get approving coverage from a media (which itself for the most part seems determined to bury the significance of the mission and its  remarkable achievements).   But nothing - not even the 300 pointless investigations of an Administration marked by remarkable probity nor the base predictions of failure even before the additional  troops hit the ground - proves the  lack of serious purpose  as much as the Congressional failure to censure Congressman John Murtha.

In May of 2006, Congressman Murtha said that
Marines had "killed innocent civilians in cold blood" after allegedly responding to a roadside bomb ambush that killed a Marine during a patrol in Haditha, Iraq, Nov. 19. The incident is still under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Multi-National Forces Iraq. [....]

"It's much worse than was reported in Time magazine," Murtha, a Democrat, former Marine colonel and Vietnam war veteran, told reporters on Capitol Hill. "There was no firefight. There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people," Murtha explained, adding there were "about twice as many" Iraqis killed than Time had reported.  
At the moment he uttered those words and prejudged the Marines charged with wrongdoing, the Time story which focused attention on the incident in Haditha was already showing signs of terminal weakness.  But Murtha claimed he had special information supporting the charges in that now-thoroughly discredited propaganda piece. At the time he made those statements Murtha suggested his claims were made on the basis of a briefing that he'd received from General Hagee, something it later turned out was not true. Hagee briefed Murtha on May 24 about the incident. But Murtha's statements tarring the men who'd risked their lives for us only to find themselves in legal jeopardy were made as early as May 17.

It would appear, though we've no idea where he actually got any of his information, that at best he may have had some access to the raw investigative NCIS files, something because of their very nature, that were never to be deemed conclusive or public, though leaks of damning portions of those reports did appear from time to time in the press. Whether those leaks were from NCIS or from Congressional staff or members with access to them is unclear. Wherever they came from, it is an outrage that this kind of information was leaked to the public. Surely it dispirits the men in the field and poisons the well for a fair hearing.  

Last week, Murtha's slander became even clearer than it did a year ago. The Investigating Officer who reviewed the record on the first of the Marines to be charged found:

Recommended disposition of Charge

Due to the disparate accounts, it is tempting to simply conclude that this case should be tried to either exonerate LCp1 Sharratt or convict him of a crime. However, to adopt the government's position that because there are two differing accounts, a general court-martial is warranted is an abdication of the necessary process of determining whether reasonable grounds exist to warrant a court-martial. It is not as simple as stating there are two accounts so a trial is necessary. Analysis of these two versions must provide reasonable grounds that the Government version of events may be true. In analyzing the evidence, I read several hundred pages of interviews, documents, articles and statements (IE 33-105). Ultimately, there is only one statement by an eye witness to the events, LCp1 Sharratt, and his version of events is strongly corroborated by independent forensic analysis of the death scene. The government version is unsupported by independent evidence and while each statement has within it corroboration, several factors together reduces the credibility of such statements to incredible. In addition, the statements of the Iraqis are unclear, contradictory in part, and simply state self-interested conclusions as to what occurred within house 4. Finally, to believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq. Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy. Much effort during the Article 32 focused on whether the victims were insurgents. Although determining if they were may have some bearing on the credibility of the Iraqi witnesses and may support that LCp1 Sharratt did perceive a hostile situation within house 4, such determinations are not necessary to conclude that LCp1 Sharratt is truthful in his account. From as early as February 2006 LCp1 Sharratt's statements are supported by the forensic evidence. It is likely that members of the Ahmed family were either insurgents on 19 November 2005, or that they were attempting to defend their house and family when Marines entered house 4 uninvited and unannounced. On that fateful afternoon, Jasib heard someone enter house 4. He investigated with his AK-47 in his hands. LCp1 Sharratt saw him and perceived him as a threat. Using his training he responded instinctively, assaulting into the room emptying his pistol. Whether this was a brave act of combat against the enemy or tragedy of misperception born out of conducting combat with an enemy that hides among innocents, LCp1 Sharratt's actions were in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force. Accordingly I recommend that the Charge and specifications be dismissed without prejudice. I further recommend that LCp1 Sharratt be given testimonial immunity and ordered to cooperate with ongoing investigations concerning the events of 19 November 2005. [Emphasis in original]
In other words, the Investigating Officer found what many of us in the blogopshere noticed over a year ago, at the very time Time and Murtha were slandering the Marines and adding to their pain and the pain of the families, friends and the Marine Corps itself: the story was an utter hoax.  

Laughably, when his office was contacted for comment, his spokesman said the Congressman had none because the investigation was "ongoing".  Interestingly, he didn't feel this way when the defendants were first charged and the public and the investigating officer hadn't an opportunity to view their evidence. He poisoned the well when they couldn't easily respond, and now that he's proven wrong he's hiding from the consequences of his unspeakable behavior.

If Congressman Murtha does not personally apologize to the Hilo Company Marines for his intemperate, false and unsupported charges for his own partisan advantage before Congress recesses, upon its return every single member of Congress should be demanding his censure. And anyone who doesn't demand his censure clearly does not seriously support the troops.

If the Congressional majority does not act on this calumny, we will have further evidence of the true nature of our political elite: self-serving demagogues who care not for the men and women sacrificing so much for them. We will have yet another reason to throw a lot of people out of office at the next opportunity.  

And perhaps instead of ludicrous hearings which even their friends in the press are beginning to ignore, Congress should show its support for the fighting men and women by initiating some hearings on how damaging portions of the raw NCIS files made their way to the press, and punish anyone on the Hill who is found to have played a role in that. In addition, in exercising its oversight responsibilities, Congress should be taking a close look at how the NCIS operated in this case and others.

The mantra "We support the troops" should, after all, encompass efforts to protect their legal rights with at least the same fervor the Democrats have argued for the legal rights of those charged with terrorism and held in Guantanamo. Shouldn't it?  

Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.