Over the course of the weekend, I came to realize that creating a detailed timeline on when Murtha made his various allegations would help highlight his ‘misstatements. The first dot in the timeline is Murtha’s categorical declaration that the Haditha Marines had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” He made that accusation on May 17, 2006:
Rep. John Murtha, an influential Pennsylvania lawmaker and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, said today Marines had â€œkilled innocent civilians in cold bloodâ€ 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.
The next day, Murtha was asked about the sourcing for his accusations. Here’s his answer:
Asked about his sources during a midday briefing on Iraq policy in the Capitol, Murtha confidently replied, “All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” Although Murtha said that he had not read any investigative reports by the military on the incident, he stressed, “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine.”
The Marine Corps later corrected the record:
Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is being sued by one of the accused Marines for libel. He had told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gen. Michael Hagee had given him the information on which he based his charge that Marines killed innocent civilians.
But a spokesman for the Marine Corps said Hagee briefed Murtha on May 24 about Haditha. Murtha had made comments on the case as early as May 17. On May 17, for example, he said at a news conference, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
A spokeswoman for Murtha was not immediately available. (Sounds familiar.)
Here’s what we know up to this point.
- Murtha made these malicious accusations before he’d received an official briefing.
- Murtha initially said that his information came from “commanders” and other people “who know what they’re talking about.”
- A Marine spokesman said that Gen. Hagee briefed him but that didn’t happen until a week after Murtha went public with his accusations.
- Murtha said that Gen. Hagee had briefed him before Gen. Hagee had briefed him. I’ll let readers decide whether Rep. Murtha lied outright when he said that.
OBSERVATION: Murtha said that he’d gotten his information from “commanders”, meaning people serving on the battlefield. That was later contradicted by the Marine spokesman, who said that Gen. Hagee briefed him a week after the accusations started flying. Gen. Hagee was the commandant of the Marine Corps, meaning he was serving stateside, which I’m guessing was at the Pentagon. Rep. Murtha later confirmed that Gen. Hagee had briefed him when he told Charlie Gibson that Gen. Hagee had been in his office the week of June 24, 2006.
- Was Murtha briefed by “commanders” out in the field before making these irresponsible accusations?
- Was Murtha briefed by Gen. Hagee who served stateside?
- Was Murtha even briefed before making these irresponsible accusations?
- If he wasn’t briefed, had one of his Pentagon cronies leaked this information to him?
- If his cronies leaked this to him, which one leaked this information?
BACK TO THE TIMELINE
(H/T: Think Progress):
GIBSON: Jonathan just mentioned, thereâ€™s no charges yet filed against any of the Marines that were in this outfit, but Jonathan mentioned a moment ago, defense lawyers are already saying, well, thereâ€™s drone video and there is actual radio traffic to higher-ups that will give a different picture than you have been talking about of this incident. What do you know about that?
MURTHA: I can only tell you this, Charles. This is what the Marine Corps told me at the highest level. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was in my office just last week, so you know, I know there was a cover-up someplace. They knew about this a few days afterwards and thereâ€™s no question the chain of command tried to stifle the story. I can understand why, but that doesnâ€™t excuse it. Something like this has to be brought out to the public, and the people have to be punished.
This was posted on Think Progress on May 30, 2006. Note that Murtha’s story changes again when he said that the Marine Corps Commandant briefed him the prior week. This is the version that I actually believe because it matches what the Marine Corps spokesman said. There’s two other interesting tidbits of information on this in that brief response that must be highlighted. Here’s the first tidbit of information we need to highlight:
I know there was a cover-up someplace.
If Murtha was briefed by Gen. Hagee, why wouldn’t he be specific as to who covered this incident up? Another question that must be answered is who was involved in the coverup? Based on Murtha’s statements, isn’t it possible that the “commanders in the field” who supposedly briefed him were the people who covered this incident up? After all, the investigating officer has recommended that Jeff Chessani face charges on dereliction of duty, supposedly for covering this up.
The Alleged Coverup
Let’s compare the transcript of the interview between Rep. Murtha and ABCNews anchor Charlie Gibson to Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore’s testimony. First review the exchange between Gibson and Rep. Murtha provided earlier. Then read the report on Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore’s testimony:
As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation.
That’s one of the bullet points in Phil Brennan’s June 7, 2007 article. Here’s the full set of bullet points:
- Intelligence gathered by Marine S2 officers in advance of the events of Nov. 19th, 2005, revealed that it was known that an insurgent ambush was planned for the day.
- Although exact details of the planned ambush were not known, some important details were revealed, most importantly, that some 20 insurgents would take part, and a white car would play an important role in the ambush.
- The intelligence was made available to the officers and men of Kilo Company, including Sgt. Frank Wuterich who has been charged with, among other things, murdering the occupants of a white car that came on the scene following the IED explosion that killed one Marine and seriously wounded another. The evidence will show that Wuterich acted appropriately when he shot the passengers of the vehicle.
- Although the media continues to report that 24 innocent civilians were killed that day, the S2’s testimony shows that eight of the dead, including four of the five occupants in the white car killed by Wuterich, were known insurgents and the dead civilians therefore numbered 16, not 24.
- The insurgents whose communications were intercepted and which revealed the planned ambush were the same two men who were the sources of the fallacious and dishonest Time magazine story, which was the source of the accusations against the Marines.
- As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation. None!
When Rep. Murtha said that he ‘knew’ that a cover-up has happened someplace, isn’t it likely that he didn’t know that but rather that he said that for maximum impact? How would it have sounded had he said that he thought that there had been a coverup but he didn’t know who initiated it? I suspect that it wouldn’t have sounded so ominous. It wouldn’t have sounded like the convictions were an eventuality.
In addition to revealing that an after-action report was created and sent up the chain of command, Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony also provides heretofore classified information that shows the amount of intel gathered on the attack was extensive, specific and accurate.
It isn’t a stretch to think that Col. Ware took Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony into consideration before issuing his recommendations that all charges be dropped against LCpl. Justin Sharratt.
Considering Murtha ‘knew’ that a coverup had happened “someplace” and that Capt. Dinsmore had given specific details about the insurgent attack against the 3/1 Marines that were accurate down to the last detail, who would you believe? Furthermore, let’s factor in that Capt. Dinsmore had filed an after-action report with his superiors that included the extensive details of the attack.
When given that decision, isn’t it an easy choice?
That’s why John Murtha must resign his seat in the House of Representatives. That’s why John Murtha must apologize to Justin Sharratt, Frank Wuterich and the other members of Kilo Company. That’s why John Murtha must apologize to the Marine Corp, too.
Finally, here’s a quotes from Col. Ware’s report:
Col. Ware wrote in his report: â€œIt is difficult, if not impossible to believe that trained and experienced Marines would decide to execute 4 unarmed men by leading them into a house, moving them to a back room with no light [curtains were closed] and allow them to move about the room while trying to shoot them with the least-effective weapon in their arsenal.â€
Then there’s this from the Washington Post article:
Ware said all available evidence shows that Sharratt perceived a threat and reacted appropriately. â€œUsing his training, he responded instinctively, assaulting into the room and emptying his pistol,â€ Ware wrote. â€œWhether 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, LCpl Sharrattâ€™s actions were in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force.â€
Frankly, the things Col. Ware is quoted as saying sound airtight and unequivocal whereas Rep. Murtha’s claims seem to shift from interview to interview. Saying that the comparison doesn’t flatter Rep. Murtha is understatement.
UPDATE: Welcome Gateway readers. Be sure to check out all the great stuff I’ve posted here and also the great stuff posted about Murtha at California Conservative.
Putting things in timeline form helped ‘highlight’ Murtha’s shiftiness for me. (I knew it before but the timeline shows step-by-step the ‘shifting sands’ nature of his statements.
Technorati: Justin Sharratt, Frank Wuterich, Jeffrey Dinsmore, Kilo Company, Haditha Marines, Insurgents, Paul Ware, Article 32, Intel, Lawsuit, Michael Hagee, John Murtha, Corruption, Resignation, Ethics
Cross-posted at California Conservative