[Photo by JEFF FUSCO]
UPDATE: Mr. Murtha was first hospitalized with gallbladder problems in December. He had surgery Jan. 28 at the National Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He went home, but was hospitalized two days later when complications developed. According to a source close to Mr. Murtha — confirming a report in Politico — doctors inadvertently cut Mr. Murtha’s intestine during the laparoscopic surgery, causing an infection. MORE
ASSOCIATED PRESS: A spokesman says Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine Corps officer who became an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, has died. He was 77 […] In 1974 Murtha, then an officer in the Marine Reserves, became the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress. One of Congress’ most hawkish Democrats, he wielded considerable clout for two decades as the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending. Murtha voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq, but Murtha’s growing frustration over the administration’s handling of the war prompted him in November 2005 to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. “The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he said. Murtha’s opposition to the Iraq war rattled Washington, where the tall, gruff-mannered congressman enjoyed bipartisan respect for his work on military issues. On Capitol Hill, Murtha was seen as speaking for those in uniform when it came to military matters. MORE.
POTUS: Michelle and I were deeply saddened today to hear about the passing of Congressman John Murtha. Jack was a devoted husband, a loving father and a steadfast advocate for the people of Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years. His passion for service was born during his decorated career in the United States Marine Corps, and he went on to earn the distinction of being the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress. Jack’s tough-as-nails reputation carried over to Congress, where he became a respected voice on issues of national security. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of nearly 55 years, Joyce, their three children, and the entire Murtha family.
WIKIPEDIA: Murtha has been targeted by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress. In September 2006 the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) listed Murtha under Five Members to Watch in its Second Annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report. The report cited Murtha’s steering of defense appropriations to clients of KSA Consulting, which employed his brother Robert, and the PMA Group, founded by Paul Magliocchetti, a former senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense.
In 2008, Esquire Magazine named him one of the 10 worst members of Congress because of his opposition to ethics reform and the $100 million a year he brings in earmarks to his district. The Wall Street Journal has called him “one of Congress’s most unapologetic earmarkers.” According to the Pennsylvania Report, Murtha is one of “Pennsylvania’s most powerful congressman” and a “master of crossing the aisle and bringing pork into his district.”
In February 2009, CQ Politics reported that Murtha was one of 104 U.S. representatives to earmark funds in the 2008 Defense appropriations spending bill for a lobbying group that had contributed to his past election campaigns. The spending bill, which was managed by Murtha in his capacity as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, secured $38.1 million for clients of the PMA Group in the single fiscal law. The PMA Group is currently under investigation by the FBI. In March 2009, the Washington Post reported that a Pennsylvania defense research center regularly consulted with two “handlers” close to Murtha while it received nearly $250 million in federal funding via Murtha’s earmarks. The center then channeled a significant portion of the funding to companies that were among Murtha’s campaign supporters. MORE
RELATED: In 1980, during his fourth term as a Congressman, Murtha became embroiled in the Abscam investigation, which targeted dozens of congressmen. The investigation entailed FBI operatives posing as intermediaries for Saudi nationals hoping to bribe their way through the immigration process into the United States. Murtha met with these operatives and was videotaped. He did agree to testify against Frank Thompson (D-NJ) and John Murphy (D-NY), the two Congressmen mentioned as participants in the deal at the same meeting and who were later video taped placing the cash bribes in their trousers. The FBI videotaped Murtha responding to an offer of $50,000, with Murtha saying, “I’m not interested… at this point. [If] we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t”, right after Murtha had offered to provide names of businesses and banks in his district where money could be invested legally. The U.S. Attorneys Office reasoned that Murtha’s intent was to obtain investment in his district. Full length viewing of the tape shows Murtha citing prospective investment opportunities that could return “500 or 1000” miners to work. MORE
INQUIRER: “If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district,” he said in a 2009 interview. The remark was intended to illustrate his argument that he never personally profited from his deals to force defense contractors to set up shop in the 12th District. Critics seized on it as a paradigm of congressional cynicism. Never once did he offer even a hint of apology for his methods and the billions in earmarks that became, in effect, a de facto industrial policy in the 12th District. In a classic Murtha moment, in 1993, he attended the ribbon-cutting for the National Drug Intelligence Center. Ordinarily, such a facility would be somewhere inside the Washington Beltway. Instead, it sits in the building that housed Penn Traffic Co., a Johnstown department store that closed after a 1977 flood. Why, Rep. Murtha was asked, was such a center sitting in Johnstown? “Because this is where I wanted it,” he snapped. MORE
ALSO: The Haditha incident occurred on 19 November, 2005, and since then there have been differing accounts of exactly what took place. In November 2005 Murtha announced that a military investigation into the Haditha killings concluded U.S. Marines had intentionally killed innocent civilians. Referring to the first report about Haditha that appeared in Time magazine, Murtha said: “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine. There was no fire fight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. And that’s what the report is going to tell.” The Marine Corps responded to Murtha’s announcement by stating that “there is an ongoing investigation; therefore, any comment at this time would be inappropriate and could undermine the investigatory and possible legal process.” Murtha was criticized by conservatives for presenting a version of events as simple fact before an official investigation had been concluded. In August 2006, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich filed a lawsuit against Murtha for character defamation during an ongoing investigation into the Haditha incident. In April 2009 this suit was dismissed by a federal appeals court, while ruled that Murtha could not be sued because he was acting in his official role as a lawmaker when he made the statements. On December 21, 2006, the US military charged Wuterich with 12 counts of unpremeditated murder against individuals and one count of the murder of six people “while engaged in an act inherently dangerous to others”. Charges were subsequently dropped against seven of the eight Marines involved: Capt. Lucas McConnell, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, Capt. Randy Stone and 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson. Only Sergeant Frank Wuterich is still facing trial on 9 counts of involuntary manslaughter. MORE
PHAWKER: John Murtha, may God have mercy on your soul. You served your country bravely in Vietnam, [salutes] and then you milked her like a barroom ATM. And then, in her hour of need, when she needed you more than she needed you in Vietnam, you stood up and said what needed to be said, when nobody else had the courage or the conviction or the clout: That the emperor had no clothes, that the Iraq war it was a fiasco wrapped in a fantasy. And then you went back to milking her like a barroom ATM. This much I will give you, sir, you were a fucking piece of work. Goodnight and good luck.
[Portrait of Murtha with baby via ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL]