What We Know As Fact
We know that John Murtha accused the Haditha Marines of "killing innocent civilians in cold blood" before the investigation on Haditha had been completed.
We know that Rep. Murtha's story has changed several times. When reporters initially asked him about his sourcing on May 18, 2006, Rep. Murtha said this:
“All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.”
The Commandant of the Marine Corps was in my office just last week, so you know, I know there was a cover-up someplace.
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.
If Gen. Hagee did indeed brief Rep. Murtha on May 24, 2006, that means that Rep. Murtha couldn't make these accusations based on irrefutable facts; at least he couldn't do that on May 17, 2006.
That brings us to our first 'counts' against Rep. Murtha: Violating the Haditha Marines' constitutional protection of (a) being presumed innocent until provent guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and (b) violating their due process rights.
Another accusation Rep. Murtha made was that the officers in charge of the 3/1 Marines covered up their findings of what happened on November 19, 2005 in the city of Haditha. That's absurd because we know that Captain Jeffrey Dinsmore put together a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation, which was sent up the chain of command. That isn't speculation; that's his sworn testimony. The fact that the people further up the chain of command said that there isn't anything to investigate says it all.
Rep. Murtha told ABCNews' Charlie Gibson that he knew there was a cover-up "someplace." As I've said before, if you think something is true but can't prove it, then you should say that "I believe that there is a coverup someplace." You don't say that you know there's a coverup.
That's the second count in the indictment. Rep. Murtha made false accusations against the Haditha Marines. What's worse is that he made those accusations without verifiable proof of wrongdoing. Knowingly filing false charges against someone is a crime.
The third count in the indictment is possibly the weightiest of charges. Murtha's connections within the Pentagon are deep. He's built a mini-empire by acting as a 'recruiter' for companies in the military industrial complex. When they want a new hardware, Rep. Murtha gets it for them. As a result, they paid particularly close attention when Rep. Murtha made an accusation against the Haditha Marines.
With his clout, Rep. Murtha did everything except play the role of judge, jury and executioner. In civilian court, he would've been accused of poisoning the jury pool, which is another violation of the Haditha Marines' due process rights.
I can only speculate that Rep. Murtha also knew about the "shadow body" within the Pentagon established to monitor the proceedings against the Haditha Marines. In the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib and Pat Tillman investigations, it's perfectly reasonable to think that there was a strong political component to these investigations. Here's what Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said on that matter:
"The hysteria and media firestorm over Abu Ghraib and the Pat Tillman investigations led to fear of a similar media reaction to the Haditha incident, causing the military's civilian bosses to set up this shadow oversight body," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
"This extraordinary action politicized the military justice system and was a clear signal to top generals that they were expected to hold individuals criminally responsible. The investigation turned into a quest for a prosecution, not justice," Thompson said.
Based on the known facts alone, Rep. Murtha would have a fight if he found himself in a court of law.
That's why it's time to turn up the heat on the House Democratic leadership to open a thorough ethics investigation into the role John Murtha played in the smearing of the American heroes we know as the Haditha Marines.
It should insult everyone's sensibilities when people's constitutional protections are ignored. That should go double when the people whose rights were violated are military heroes.
In the end, that's the most damning indictment against Rep. Murtha of them all.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. I've been chronicling Mr. Murtha's accusations and 'revisions' since he first made the accusations against the Haditha Marines on May 17, 2006. Follow this link if you want a timeline of Murtha's 'revisions'. You'll want to check out this post. This one, too.