March 30th, 2009 10:44 EST
U.S. Congressman John Murtha awarded the Navy`s Distinguished Public Service Award
U.S. Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) was awarded the Navy`s Distinguished Public Service Award last year although this has only recently become widely-known to the general public. No one can deny he has been a long-time advocate of veterans` rights and supporter of pro-veteran congressional legislation; his record speaks for itself. He is also a combat veteran, having served in the Marines in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967.
Murtha has long been a critic of the War in Iraq. Although he voted for the initial invasion in March 2003, he later questioned the wisdom of launching an almost unilateral pre-emptive attack against a sovereign state and taking out its leader, especially after it was later disclosed that the justification for the invasion was based on faulty intelligence. He later began to criticize the manner in which forces were deployed and operating and introduced House Joint Resolution 73 in November 2005 to establish a time-line for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq although efforts to obtain passage of the bill ultimately failed.
Many Americans including many veterans agree with his position on these issues; others do not. Few would deny he has a First Amendment right to state his beliefs. Some would even argue as a United States Congressman he had a duty to question the policies of the Bush Administration when he felt they were not in the best interests of the United States and the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
To the extent that critics are using Congressman Murtha`s position on these issues to question whether he deserves the Navy`s Distinguished Public Service Award, such criticism is misplaced and unjustified.
But perhaps where their criticism is not misplaced and unjustified is in their disparagement of Congressman Murtha`s comments about a fire fight which broke out between insurgents and a squad of U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq around the same time that he introduced House Joint Resolution 73.
Murder charges were later filed against eight members of that squad and while those charges were pending, Congressman Murtha stated that the Marines murdered civilians in cold blood. " Now, several years later, charges against six of the eight have been withdrawn or dismissed, one was tried in a court-martial proceeding and found not guilty, " and the trial of the eighth has been continued indefinitely.
Notwithstanding these results, Congressman Murtha has yet to explain his earlier comments about those eight Marines. If those eight had only a vague concept of the terms right to trial, " due process of law, " and presumption of innocence " in the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, rights which they and Congressman Murtha fought to defend and for which many of their friends paid the ultimate price, no doubt they clear to them now. Hopefully, at some point these rights will be clear to Congressman Murtha as well and he will apologize for prejudging these Marines.