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Murtha Lied; Marines Were Tried (And Acquitted) By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 18, 2008


On May 17, 2006, John Murtha, he of the unassailable “war hero”/“patriot” mythos, assailed his fellow Marines in Haditha as murderers “in cold blood.” The super-patriot made this indictment, in front of an international audience, before an investigation had concluded. His spurious charges seem to have done those eight men charged little legal damage – but they have caused incalculable harm to the United States armed forces still in the field.  

At Camp Pendleton yesterday, military judge Col. Steven Folsom dismissed all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, the highest-ranking officer accused in the Haditha massacre-of-justice. The ruling makes him the seventh of eight accused in the Haditha skirmish to have charges dismissed. In Chessani’s case, his charges were dropped without prejudice – meaning they could be filed again later, but CentCom could not be part of the process, as there had been fear the judge had an inappropriately close relationship with one of the investigators. Chessani had been accused of violating a lawful order and dereliction of duty in reporting the incident.

The antiwar Left morphed reporting errors into a “cover-up,” much as it deformed a self-defense operation against terrorists hiding amidst Iraq’s civilian population as an imperial assault on 24 blameless Iraqi civilians cowering “as if in prayer.”

Lt. Col. Chessani can now be reunited with his six young children.“We hope it’s over,” said his attorney Brian Rooney.” We believe it should be over.” Rooney added, “We’ve had to go through a two-year process to prove what we knew from the beginning.”

Rooney referred to the report of the military’s internal investigation, issued in March 2006, two months before Murtha denounced his own military before the world. (Watch Murtha slander our troops.) The report concluded, “there is no evidence that the Marines intentionally set out to target, engage, and kill non-combatants.”

Every trial to date has proven the report truthful and Murtha a calumnious liar:

  • In April 2007, the government offered immunity to Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz in exchange for his testimony. He promptly changed his story five times. 
  •     In August 2007, Lt. Gen. James Mattis pronounced 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt absolutely “innocent” of all wrongdoing.
  • At the same time, Lt. Gen. Mattis waved charges of dereliction of duty against Capt. Randall Stone, saying Stone’s actions did not “rise to the level of criminal behavior.”
  • One month later, prosecutors granted immunity to Capt. Lucas McConnell, who was not at the scene, in exchange for his testimony. 
  • In April 2008, the government dismissed all charges against 26-year-old Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum “with prejudice.” Although an eyewitness testified Tatum acted with malice aforethought, Tatum passed his lie detector test, while his accuser failed his. His adversary, a native of Venezuela, also happened to be “trying to get his application for U.S. citizenship released by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which is holding up his papers.” Tatum nearly broke down on the stand last July, telling the judge: “I am not comfortable with the fact that I might have shot a child…That is a burden I will have to bear.”  
  •      Two weeks ago, a jury found Lt. Andrew Grayson “not guilty” of multiple counts of making false official statements and one count of attempting to deceive.

At present, charges remain only against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, those for lesser charges than “murder,” premeditated or otherwise. Wuterich has sued Jack Murtha for defamation , but the damage done to his reputation and that of his squad is overshadowed by the cloud Murtha placed over the entire United States armed forces, for partisan political gain.

Even the infamously left-leaning Reuters (which refuses to call the 9/11 hijackers “terrorists”) noted, “The reports brought international condemnation on U.S. troops in Iraq and famously inspired Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and critic of the war, to charge that the Marines had killed the civilians ‘in cold blood.’” The damage of Murtha’s single news conference alone can hardly be overestimated. Al-Jazeera beamed the Johnstown Democrat’s lurid tales throughout the Muslim world.

However, the lie did not end with that infamous announcement. The Left quickly hooked onto the alleged slaughter as a convenient bludgeon against the president – although in practice they swung mostly at our troops. A headline at The DailyKos trumpeted, “Iraqi Massacre: It’s Not Just Haditha.” Über-leftist Robert Fisk similarly asked, “Could Haditha be just the tip of the mass grave?

As David Horowitz and I explain in our new book, Party of Defeat, this is but the tip of the Left’s lies about American soldiers in harm’s way. Unlike every other conflict in American history, with the exception of the Civil War, our troops have had to enter combat as the same politicians who voted to send them into battle divided the nation, poisoned their name around the world, and subverted their own morale.

The last may be the most overlooked part of the Haditha atrocity. (I speak here of Murtha’s persecution of the innocent.) The ability of U.S. soldiers to prosecute a war and defend themselves (and us) against the terrorist enemy is the cruelest casualty of the Party of Defeat’s war against our troops. Chessani’s lawyer Brian Rooney observed, “You need to trust what your battlefield commanders are telling you and give them the benefit of the doubt.” McConnell’s defense lawyer, Kevin McDermott, stated last year: “You don't want the lance corporal, the 19-year-old kid with the M-16, thinking twice about pulling the trigger for fear that he’ll end up being investigated if in fact he reasonably believes there are insurgents involved with the attack upon him.”

American soldiers have lost their lives because of witch-hunts like those of Murtha against the Haditha innocents. In Party of Defeat, David and I recount the story of Navy SEAL Marc Luttrell. Luttrell led his fellow SEALS on a covert mission in Afghanistan when they were sure a group of local goat-herders had spotted them and were about to report them to al-Qaeda warlords. The group considered shooting the spies but desisted, knowing the fire they would come under for “murdering” innocent Afghan civilians – some teenaged, to boot. Al-Qaeda terrorists rained fire upon them within an hour, killing 19 American soldiers. Luttrell reflected he and his men remained “tortured, shot, blown up, my best buddies all dead, and all because we were afraid of the liberals back home, afraid to do what was necessary to save our own lives.” (Emphasis added.)


Chief among those liberals who cost Luttrell’s friends their lives was one Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, the Speaker of the House’s first choice for House Majority Leader. Murtha is best known for:

As FrontPageMag.com wrote in an editorial last December, “It’s (Past) Time for Murtha to Resign.” Sadly, as David Horowitz and I found in researching our book, his absence will leave behind a den of radicals eager to take up where he left off.

Party of Defeat is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $15, a 30 percent discount and less than Amazon.com. Autographed and personalized copies are also available; details are on the Bookstore webpage. Please call your local bookstores and ask them to stock the new book Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, if they don't already have it in stock.


Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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