We are not supposed to speak ill of the dead. But those whom the deceased viciously smeared and humiliated deserve to be defended. Entrenched Democratic Rep. John Murtha passed away on Feb. 8 after a botched gallbladder surgery. He has been hailed as a "military advocate" (Associated Press) and "one of the greatest patriots ever to serve in Congress" (former Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr.). These obsequious obituaries leave out inconvenient truths:
John "Jack" Murtha was an unrepentant smear merchant and corruptocrat to the bitter end.
In May 2006, during an MSNBC TV show appearance that Marines and their families will never forget or forgive, Murtha accused U.S. troops of wantonly killing some two dozen civilians, including children, in the terrorist stronghold of Haditha, Iraq. Bellowed Murtha: "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Murtha publicly indicted the Marines before military investigations had been completed. His remarks opened military-bashing floodgates around the world.
In the wake of Murtha's reckless blabbing, MSNBC executioner Keith Olbermann accused the Haditha Marines of "willful targeted brutality." The Nation magazine claimed that "members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment perpetrated a massacre." The New York Times dubbed Haditha the "defining atrocity" of the Iraq war. International papers piled on with Vietnam-era "My Lai" allusions. Murtha cold-bloodedly sat back and enjoyed the ride while the Marines were left twisting in the wind.
By 2008, seven of the Marines charged in the incident had been exonerated or had charges against them dropped. Lt. Andrew Grayson was acquitted. Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, Capt. Lucas McConnell, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani all had their cases dismissed. Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the last of the Marines facing charges, awaits a long, dragged-out trial this year.
Murtha, the so-called "military advocate," went to his deathbed refusing to apologize or retract the attacks on the Haditha Marines (several of whom unsuccessfully sued him for libel to restore their honor). Decent people would call this intransigent treachery. Murtha's friends apparently consider it great patriotism.