Thursday, April 16, 2009

Time to give it up

A federal appeals court this week tossed out a slander suit filed against Rep. John Murtha by a Marine facing charges in the killings of Iraqis in Haditha in 2005, but that hasn't stopped a local attorney from pursuing essentially the same case against the lawmaker. The U.S. Court of Appeals panel from the District of Columbia found in a case brought by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich that Murtha, who suggested publicly that the Haditha civilians were killed "in cold blood" by U.S. troops, was covered by a 1998 law that protects federal employees from lawsuits over comments and actions in the course of their official duties. Somehow, attorney Noah Geary thinks that the slander suit he brought on behalf of former Marine Justin Sharratt of Canonsburg is different and will withstand a legal challenge. I sure don't see how. In a new amendment to the suit, Geary, shown above with Sharratt, claims Murtha made his comments about the Haditha incident in order to "curry favor" with soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Puh-leeze! He also contends that Murtha was wrong to offer his views while a Pentagon probe of the killings was in progress. "It is wholly foreign to employment as a member of the legislative branch to make conclusory statements of fact about an ongoing criminal investigation conducted by the executive branch." Hogwash. Murtha is a representative of his constituents in Pennsylvania, not just when he's on the floor of the House, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – much as a soldier is always on duty. Also, Murtha should not be expected to be a "potted plant," just sitting mum in his office. Murtha is a Vietnam combat veteran who also is chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Seems to me that he has legitimate reason to be concerned about how a foreign war is being conducted, and the right to comment about incidents therein. It would have been better if Murtha had said there were "allegations" of misdeeds by the Marines in Haditha, but no one can say, categorically, that his comments, made after consultations with high-ranking military officials, were incorrect. The only ones who really know what went down that day in a dusty Iraqi town are the Marines who pulled the triggers and the people on the other end on their weapons. One group has a self-interest in how the story is told, and the other group ain't talking.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant, Murtha used young men's lives and hurt their reputations for his own political gain.
He was playing politics and he was wrong as you would call anyone on the right that did the same thing.
Murtha had NO right to declare these young men guilty and as a veteran of Vietnam he should have known better.
Even his closest allies could not defend this action and it was a mistake.
Consider if that was your own child being destroyed by a congressman for the sole purpose of his political agenda. It was a man putting his ambition above all else.
Sometimes I wonder why you allow your own anger at the right to color your judgment. I expected better of you.

BTW the O-R should put your blog in the newspaper, it is more entertaining and interesting than the neverending non-local crap that is in there.

April 17, 2009 at 3:52 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

First, thanks for the kind endorsement of the blog. I don't think we disagree on the fact that Murtha's comments were, in your words, a mistake. My point is that I don't believe there's a winnable slander case here, and the plaintiff would be wise to drop it. He's made his point already, I believe, and has little more to gain by pressing on.

April 17, 2009 at 7:38 AM  

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