Is the Law Finally Closing in on John Murtha?

It takes a special kind of evil to use your position in Congress to undermine your nation's defense and harm the lives and reputations of your fellow citizens who've risked so much on its behalf. And it takes a special kind of party to be so blinded by self-interest and comity that year after year they let you remain in a position to continue that harmful behavior.

I had not paid much attention to Congressman Murtha since 1980, when he was taped suggesting he might accept a bribe to push through private asylum bills for Arab sheiks (who were actually FBI agents working undercover in an operation  to uncover corruption known as Abscam) if only they'd invest in businesses in his district. Then came his Haditha accusations where he slandered several young marines by accusing them of committing "cold blooded murder" in the incident. All but one has had the charges dropped against them.

Now that there are reports the FBI is investigating two companies closely identified with him which are big contributors to his campaigns and even larger recipients of his earmarked largesse of federal funds, I think a little review is in order.

To date, Murtha has escaped any consequences for his role in Abscam or Haditha. In the Abscam case the House Ethics Committee split along party lines, allowing Murtha to escape punishment although the special counsel resigned in protest.

Then came his "rush to judgement" on the incident at Haditha in Iraq:

On November 19, 2005, there was an incident in the then-insurgent infested town of Haditha in which a number of people were killed. Beginning in May of 2006, long before a full official inquiry, and prompted by a very suspect bit of anti-US propaganda in Time, Congressman Murtha hit the media circuit repeatedly. He publicly and falsely accused SSgt. Wuterich and the men of the Marines' Kilo Company of being involved in cold-blooded (premeditated) murder and of covering up the events of that day.

In  this matter Murtha is being sued by Wuterich, and to date is claiming immunity from prosecution. The plaintiff won the right to take discovery of him and that is as much as has been publicly reported to date .

Wuterich sued  Murtha, alleging he'd been libeled, that Murtha had repeatedly asserted "false and malicious lies" about Wuterich and his Company, that these lies were made with full knowledge that they were false and libelous and with gross negligence or reckless disregard for the truth, invading Wuterich's privacy and placing him in a false light. Further, the complaint alleges that since these lies were disseminated throughout the world by others, Wuterich has a new cause of action each time these false and defamatory stories were repeated publicly by any news outlet.

Murtha's slanderous statement, carried around the world and referred to in the suit as Count III (Republication), was this one:

"There was no firefight. There was no IED ... that killed those innocent people," Representative Murtha, D. Pa., said during a news conference on Iraq. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood, that is what this report is going to say."

To date, charges have been dropped against a number of the members of the Company. [Wuterich] had an Article 32 proceeding (equivalent to a grand jury) from Aug 30 - Sept 7. The IO issued a recommendation yesterday but the document has not been released to the public yet. He recommended that murder charges against SSgt Wuterich be dismissed.

Wuterich's counsel notes:

The charges alone, and the Marine Corps press conference that was held at the time of the announcement, already actually unequivocally refute many of Mr. Murtha's outrageous statements such as that the killings were committed in "cold-blood"(premeditated) and that Wuterich and his Marines were not fired upon.

At the time, I noted, "Wuterich offered Murtha an opportunity to resolve the dispute with a simple retraction. Congressman John Kline acknowledged that similar statements made by him were 'premature and inappropriate' and issued a public apology. Murtha has refused to do so and is the subject, therefore, of this suit."

In between skating on the Abscam charge and never really being held to account yet for slandering the troops, Murtha has used his position as chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee of the House of Representatives to funnel well over a hundred million dollars in earmarks -- largely but not exclusively on defense matters -- to confederates in his district who return to him substantial campaign contributions which permit his repeated re-election to office. If you think this pork game is harmless, you are not paying close attention: the process deprives the Department of Defense of the right to obtain the best equipment at the best, most competitive price for the troops and saddles it with services performed by companies on which it does not wish to expend its allotted funds.