Smearing Dissent

6 August 2006, Editorial
Philadelphia Inquirer

U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.), a decorated war veteran, is taking obscene criticism from the right for daring to point out that the Bush administration has given our troops an all-but-impossible job in Iraq.

The 17-term congressman had already inflamed the Swift Boat crowd last year by calling for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The fallout reached a ridiculous low point last fall when a Republican congresswoman who'd never been within several time zones of a battlefield called Murtha, winner of two Purple Hearts, a coward on the House floor.

Now, incredibly, the partisan rhetoric is even more vile. Murtha is being called a traitor and a "fifth columnist" because he responded to reports of a possible massacre in Haditha, Iraq, by lamenting that Marines shot Iraqi civilians "in cold blood."

The descriptions of what happened in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, are among the ugliest to come out of the war. The Marines said initially that civilians were killed in crossfire with insurgents after a bomb killed a Marine. A military probe since then has amassed evidence that Marines may have deliberately shot and killed 24 civilians, including children, in a house-to-house search, and that attempts were made to cover up the incident.

Murtha's point was that such incidents are an inevitable result of leaving troops too long in the middle of an emerging civil war with no clear mission. "They don't know who the enemy is, they don't know who they're fighting," he said in one interview. "And then they kill innocent people. I can understand it, but it can't be excused."

That's not the talk of a traitor. It's the talk of a patriot who wants Americans and their leaders to face up to a policy that is spinning out of control. A country that can't handle that kind of debate is a country that can't handle democracy.

Murtha's blunt talk enraged people like retired Navy Capt. Larry Bailey, who set up a group called Vets for the Truth to campaign against Murtha. Bailey also campaigned against Vietnam veteran John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race.

"I will do my best to 'swift-boat' John Murtha," Bailey told a rally in Johnstown, Pa., on Thursday.

It's a sad commentary that someone would publicly brag about such a deceitful, nasty mission.

A larger, competing pro-Murtha rally drowned out much of Bailey's event. It featured former Sen. Max Cleland (D., Ga.), a Vietnam veteran who himself was defeated for re-election in 2002 after opponents tried to smear the military service that cost him his legs and an arm. Cleland told the crowd, "John Murtha knows the smells of the battlefield, and he has felt the sting of combat. When he speaks, Americans ought to listen."

Murtha is on the opposite side of the Iraq issue from fellow Democrat Joe Lieberman, who is taking nasty fire from the left wing of the party.

Yet somehow the congressman and the senator find ways to disagree without trading insults and accusations. This is one case where citizens could learn something from two politicians.

P.O. Box 291
Chocowinity, NC 27817

Larry Bailey, President, Vets For The Truth

Roger Hughes, Chairman, Iowa Presidential Watch PAC and publicist, Boot Murtha Campaign

Linda Eddy, Webmaster, Graphics and Editorial Cartoonist

Amanda P. Doss, Webmaster

Nikki Ann Carlisle Sheppick, OSC District 12 Executive Director - (Operation Street Corner)

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