While the deaths in Haditha were still under investigation, Congressman John Murtha (D, PA-12), was briefed by those close to the case and then publicly pronounced his prejudgment that United States Marines had murdered twenty-four people in cold blood. On May 18th 2006, Congressman Murtha was interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:
Matthews: “When you say ‘cold blood’, Congressman, a lot of people think you are basically saying you have some civilians sitting in a room or out in a field and they are executed, just on purpose, not because the Marines are scared or anybody is scared.”
Murtha: “That is exactly what happened. This was not an action. This was not. At first they tried to say this was an IED. There was no IED involved in this. This was troops who went in, they were so stressed out that they went into houses and killed women and children. Twenty-four people they killed.”
Then Congressman Murtha revealed his political motivation, “They were so stressed out… the responsibility goes right to the top,” meaning the Marines murdered civilians in cold blood and it is all George W. Bush’s fault.
Yesterday, the officer who conducted Marine LCpl Justin Sharratt’s Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation), recommended the charges against him be dismissed:
Wednesday July 11, 2007 7:01 AM – SAN DIEGO (AP) – An investigating officer has recommended dismissing murder charges against a Marine accused in the slayings of three Iraqi men in a squad action that killed 24 civilians in Haditha, according to a report released Tuesday.
The government’s theory that Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt had executed the three men was “incredible” and relied on contradictory statements by Iraqis, Lt. Col. Paul Ware said in the report, released by Sharratt’s defense attorneys.
“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,” Ware wrote.
The recommendation is nonbinding. A final decision about whether Sharratt should stand trial will be made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case.
It is the second time an investigating officer has recommended charges not continue to trial in the killings. In the case of Marine lawyer Capt. Randy W. Stone, the investigating officer recommended his dereliction of duty charge be dealt with administratively.
Three enlisted men are charged with murder and four officers are accused of failing to investigate the killings. On Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb blast killed one Marine and in the aftermath other members of his squad killed two dozen Iraqis, including women and children in their homes.
Click on the following two images to enlarge them and read LTC Ware’s finding:
You may also read the pdf version on his report at the War Chronicle.
Congressman Murtha should apologize or resign, or both.