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May 18, 2006
Murtha Leaping To Conclusions

Rep. John Murtha has decided to skip the investigation and leapt directly to conclusions regarding allegations that US Marines shot and tossed grenades at Iraqi civilians in revenge for an ambush suffered by their unit in Haditha:

Rep. John Murtha, an influential Pennsylvania lawmaker and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, said today 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.

The Marine Corps originally claimed that a convoy from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, hit a roadside bomb that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas, and the ensuing firefight killed 15 Iraqi civilians — casualties the Corps at first claimed were killed in the bomb blast — including seven women and three children.

A March 27 Time magazine report published claims by an Iraqi civil rights group that the Marines barged into houses near the bomb strike, throwing grenades and shooting civilians as they cowered in fear. The report prompted calls for a Pentagon probe.

“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.

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.

Does this sound familiar?

Of course, the investigation might support Murtha's conclusions; just because he has tried to smear the Marines with this conclusion doesn't mean it may not later be proven correct. However, his knee-jerk reaction to assume their guilt and then to exploit it for his own political ends is shameful and egregious. Murtha might recall that these Marines also get the benefit of the doubt while the investigation continues, a concept that apparently he finds inconvenient for the troops in Iraq as long as he opposes their presence there.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 18, 2006 6:37 AM

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