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Click at the link for a transcript of Murtha's press conference of May 17, 2006.

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Murtha's Own Words About Haditha

CONTENTS (HYPERLINKS LEAD TO TRANSCRIPTS ON THIS PAGE):

Murtha's press conference, May 17, 2006 | MSNBC, May 17, 2006 | CNN, May 19, 2006 |
CNN, Situation Room, May 30, 2008 | ABC Good Morning America, May 30, 2006
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CNN American Morning, May 30, 2006 | CNN, Paula Zahn Now, May 30, 2006 |
Murtha on the Okinawa redeployment: NBC Meet the Press, June 18, 2006

Recent remarks: Press conference with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 15, 2008.

 
Murtha Haditha press conference May 17, 2006Congressman John Murtha: "cold-blooded killer" press conference, May 17, 2006

Click at the link for a transcript of his complete remarks.

 

Now, two days after I made my statement, on November 19th, we had an incident in Haditha in Anbar province, where a Marine was killed with an IED. Time magazine reported it, and it's kind of a puzzling report, because they're investigating it right now. Let me tell you what the consequences of this have been.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC, May 17, 2006

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, Hardball May 17, 2006Click at the link for a transcript.

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Six months ago, U.S. Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine, came out strongly against the Bush administration in the war in Iraq, calling for troops to come home. Today he spoke out again. I‘m joined right now by Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Murtha, let me ask you about this accusation that you have come out with today, that U.S. service people fighting in Iraq killed civilians in cold blood. What evidence do you have on that now?

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, “Time Magazine”—two days after I made my statement, a Marine was killed in Haditha, the northern part of Anbar Province, and they overreacted. And I pointed this out today to show the tremendous stress on these troops. Insiders have told me over and over again what had happened, they didn‘t tell me until the “Time Magazine” article came out.

But basically the “Time Magazine” article was inaccurate because it was much worse than the “Time Magazine” article showed. They‘ve been doing an investigation now for three or four months. This is unacceptable to me, but the big thing is the stress on these troops. They send these troops back over and over again. These troops are in combat every day.

And when Karl Rove says that they‘re sour on the war, how about disaffected, how about the suffering that they‘re going through? This is not a souring. The public is absolutely upset about this war. Every place I go, they tell me it‘s outrageous the way they‘re handling this war. They send them in with inadequate forces. There‘s no weapons of mass destruction, and in the end, they send them in with inadequate equipment.

So this is absolutely outrageous, and then the troops, you know—I don‘t excuse them, but I understand why it happens, because the pressure is tremendous. You remember a few years ago, we had four special forces people come back and kill their wives. Now, this is the kind of pressure they‘re under. They‘re under combat. And these guys that have never been there, they don‘t understand what it‘s like.

And when he says sour, that‘s ridiculous. That‘s understating the problem. They‘re trying to sanitize this war, and you can‘t sanitize it. That‘s why I keep speaking out. I feel so strongly that these troops—what they are going through.

Chris, we have lost 370 people since I spoke out November 17. And the oil production is still below pre-war lever. Electricity is below pre-war level. They have -- 30 percent have potable water and there is 60 percent unemployment. Now how can you measure progress?

You know what Secretary Rumsfeld said when he went to Iraq? He said well, you can see these television aerials. They only have two and a half hours of electricity in Baghdad, so they might have television satellite dishes. But they don‘t have any electricity, so it‘s not gotten better.

Incidents have increased from 500 a month in November to over 1,000 a month, so, you know, it‘s just—a week, 500 a week to 1,000 a week. So it‘s not getting better. We would have been better off redeploying them. They had no plan for success, Chris. This is the thing that I‘m so disturbed about. I see no plan. They have a paper, you open it up and there‘s nothing in it.

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, Hardball, May 17, 2006MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Mr. Murtha to give us some details about that. Draw us a picture of what happened in Haditha.

MURTHA: Well, I‘ll tell you exactly what happened. One Marine was killed, and the Marines just said we‘re going to take care. They don‘t know who the enemy is. The pressure was too much on them, so they went into houses, and they actually killed civilians. And, you know—

MATTHEWS: Was this melee? I mean, was this a case of—when you say cold blood, Congressman, a lot of people think you‘re basically saying you have got some civilians sitting in a room or out in a field and they‘re executed just on purpose...

MURTHA: That‘s exactly what happened.

MATTHEWS: ...not because the Marines are scared or anybody is scared or the soldiers are scared.

MURTHA: Let me tell you, this was not an action, this was not—at first they tried to say it is an IED. There was no IED involved in this. This was troops who went in—they were so stressed out, they went into houses and killed women and children, 24 people they killed. Now, this is the kind of stuff—this is the kind of stress they‘re under.

Listen, I don‘t excuse it, but I understand what‘s happening. And the responsibility goes right to the top. This is something that should not have happened. It should have been investigated. As I understand it, they have already relieved three commanding officers—three officers in this whole thing, but this needs—this is the kind of stuff that stress is going to cause these kind things. That‘s why I‘m so upset about it.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, I just want to read something from the Marine Corps to make it official then you can continue. The Marine Corps told us today that they‘re not going to comment today because the investigation, as you say, is ongoing. So they‘re investigating.

Let‘s talk about the larger policy question, Congressman. The country may be responding well to you personally when you go around, because they know where you stand. But the country doesn‘t seem to be up in arms against this war. Where are the demonstrators? Where are the protests? You fought in Vietnam. You saw them back here. If this country wants us out of Iraq, why doesn‘t it say so to the president?

MURTHA: Well, the people are saying this in the polls, but they don‘t have relatives in this war. There‘s a very small segment of this population—of the American population involved in this war. The families of the people who are over they are suffering, they‘re sacrificing. And the people themselves, they‘re going back four and five times. This is the reason we have incidents like it.

Melee, the reason we had—Abu Ghraib, the reason we had Abu Ghraib is because the untrained people—and if you remember what I said in one of your shows, one of the soldiers from my district, he was kept by a court order from his family because he abused his family. And he told the Army, and the still put in his position.

So we have untrained people, unsupervised people, and they are stretched too thin. That is the point I am making. It is a terrible tragedy, but the point is that after you keep putting them under that stress day after day, when they see their friends killed, they see there is tremendous pressure on them, they see combat conditions, people blown apart, they are going to crack.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Murtha, you are a very passionate advocate for taking a different direction in the war in Iraq, but your passion doesn‘t work with your party because 80 percent of the Democrats think it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq and you know it because a lot of them are probably in your district.

Hillary Clinton stands out there as a defender of the war to this day, Chuck Schumer, the chairman of the Senate campaign committee, stands out there today as a defender of the war. The big names in your party are still hedging on this war. Well, they‘re opportunists perhaps, hoping that the same thing will had happen to them that happened to Bill Clinton when he played both sides of this issue back in 1990-1991. How can you convince your party leadership, the probable nominee of your party, to oppose this war?

MURTHA: I‘ve been talking to a—a lot of the senators have called me and I told them there‘s only two positions: President Bush‘s position, which is stay the course, which is not a position at all, it‘s open-ended and my position which is redeploy as quickly as possible. The other position is, there‘s all kinds of other positions.

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton is with the president.

MURTHA: And there‘s a lot of members—I don‘t know why they‘re with the president—well I‘ll tell you why they say that, Chris. They say there‘s big chaos when we leave. There‘s chaos now. It‘s gotten worse since November 17, it‘s gotten worse. And the pressure that this incident shows you how much pressures there‘s on the troops and the families. The pressure is tremendous on these families when these guys go back, men and women go back time after time, so they‘ve got to come around. They‘ve got to understand that they cannot continue to support this president, if they want to be elected president.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, we only have a couple seconds here, if a voter is watching right now and if they‘re against the war, they‘re very impressed want to go out and vote your position, but everybody watching right now, it‘s not going to happen, the country is split, but if three quarters of the country go out and do exactly what you you say, vote against this war, they vote for Demorats, this war is not going to end, is it? Even if the Congress goes Democrat, because people like Hillary Clinton at the top are playing it safe.

MURTHA: Let me tell you something, Chris. This war is going to end.

MATTHEWS: When are the Democrats going to seize the leadership of the Congress, win the votes, take over Congress and end the war? Are they going to do it?

MURTHA: I‘ve said, Chris, over and over again, this is not a Democrat or Republican war. When I go by the cemetery, it doesn‘t say Democrat or Republican. It says American. We have to convince Democrats and Republicans that this war has to end.

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CNN Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, May 19, 2006

Click at the link for a transcript of the complete segment.

 

WOLF BLITZER (SPEAKING TO GUEST, CONGRESSMAN MURTHA): There's an investigation of what happened at Haditha. As you well know, U.S. marines were involved in an incident, civilians were killed. The chairman of the house armed services committee Duncan Hunter says, there's been no resolution, this investigation continues. I want to play for you what he said today. Duncan Hunter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: If there were problems in the chain of command, if there was a cover-up, if anything wasn't reported, let the chips fall where they may. But don't presume anything. Those reports aren't finished yet. But the reports and the investigations are being pursued with great integrity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was responding in part to you, because you've suggested this week that there in effect was a massacre.

CONGRESSMAN JOHN MURTHA: Well there was. There's no question about it. I know, in talking to a number of people, and the information, I've never given you bad information yet. I talked to about it, in the context of the fact that these troops are under such tremendous pressure and that's what happens when they're under tremendous pressure. When this thing's all over, you're going to see exactly what I've said to be true. That, there was an IED attack, it killed one marine, and then they overreacted and killed a number of civilians without anybody firing at them. That's what you're going to find out.
But my whole point is, I -- I understand what happened. I don't excuse what happened, but I understand it because the pressure. Going out every day, they miss an IED explosive device, they find IEDs, somebody gets killed with an IED. They don't know who the enemy is, the pressure is tremendous. So when you find something like that, you're going to

BLITZER: The marines say they're still investigating. They don't know what happened yet. The pentagon says the same thing. How do you know what happened?

MURTHA: Wolf, you read the "Time" magazine articles. There are pictures, there are photos. You don't have to talk to the military about the proof. But you will see when the investigation is done that this was an overreaction by our troops, and this is the type thing that hurts us so badly. We're trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Abu Ghraib was another example where they had inadequate forces, untrained people, undisciplined people in a prison. Had one person in a prison who had a court order against him, he couldn't see his family. He told the army that, and they still put him in a prison. So here we are with troops untrained, inadequate forces. They go out every day and there's tremendous stress and this is the kind of things that happens.

BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha, thanks very much for joining us.

MURTHA: Good to see you Wolf.
 

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ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos, May 28, 2006

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. We begin with that investigation into possible war crimes by US Marines in Iraq. Two separate military panels are poised to conclude that on November 19th, 2005, after a roadside bomb hit a convoy of Marines in the town of Haditha, killing Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, several Marines went on a rampage, killing 24 Iraqis, all but one unarmed including children and the women trying to protect them. Investigators are also compiling evidence of a cover-up. And Pentagon officials tell ABC News that at least seven Marines could face criminal charges, ranging from dereliction of duty to murder. Key members of the House and Senate have been briefed on the investigation, including our headliners, Senator John Warner and Congressman John Murtha, who is our first guest. Welcome back, sir.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN MURTHA (DEMOCRAT): Thanks George, you've come a long ways.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Thank you, sir. You have been briefed several times on this incident on November 19th. And you've said that the evidence shows that Marines killed innocent civilians in cold blood. From what you know, what happened?

MURTHA: Well, there's no question in my mind, what happened was an IED went off. And you gotta put this into perspective. Every day they go out, an IED goes off. And I sanitize when I say IED. I'm talking about explosive device goes off. It doesn't - hurts somebody one day, the next day it kills somebody. The next day, it maims somebody. And I see those people in the hospital all the time. So the pressure builds every time they go out. So this particular case, an IED exploded. It killed one Marine. And then a taxi drives up. When the taxi comes up, there's four or five people in it. And they shoot; shoot those four or five people, unarmed. And then they go on a rampage throughout the houses and kill people. One woman, as I understand it, in talking to the officials in the Marine Corps, was bending over a child pleading for mercy and they shot her in cold blood. That's the thing that's so disturbing. And even more disturbing is the fact that, we know the Iraqis knew about it because they made payments to the Iraqis for accidental deaths or for salacious deaths, whatever you want to call it. And then in addition to that, they had - there has to have been a cover-up of this thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) So you believe there was a cover-up?

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, ABC News This Week, May 28, 2006MURTHA: No question about it. First of all, they first tried to say that the IED is what killed these people. The next day, there was a team out there investigating, as they always do. And then nothing happens. Nobody hears about it. They don't tell anybody. Until March, when "Time" magazine broke the news, nobody realized or recognized what happened. These kind of things have to be brought out immediately. Because, the Marines, if they did get away with it, then other Marines would say, well, I'll do the same thing. As a matter of fact, we have another incident which is very similar to this, George. An incident where a Marine - or some Marines pulled somebody out of a house, put them next to an IED thing, fired some AKAs so they'd have cartridges there. And then tried to cover that up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) April 26th in Hamindiyah. And several Marines have been put into custody for that, as well. Let me stay on Haditha for a second. We've read that there is evidence, photographic evidence of what happened. Is that true?

MURTHA: Yeah, that's exactly true. And it's a combination of the people that did the investigation and Iraqis took - took the evidence itself. There's no question about what happened. And the problem is, who covered it up? And why did they cover it up? Why did they wait so long? It's been six months since this happened. It's very simple. They went out the next day, they knew there was something wrong. Two or three days later, they decided that this - these people were murdered.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) So who do you blame for the cover-up?

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, ABC News This Week, May 28, 2006MURTHA: Well, that's what we're trying to figure out. We don't know how far it goes. I mean, it goes right up the chain of command. Right up to General Pace. When did he know about it? Did he order the cover-up? Who ordered the cover-up? I'm sure he didn't. But what - who said, we're not going to publicize this thing? We're not even going to investigate it. Until March, there was no serious investigation. There was an investigation right afterwards but then it was stifled. So we need to know what happened. And the point is, the pressure, the tremendous pressure on these guys, every day when they go out with an explosive device. Second is, the Marines knew about it. And so, this gets around the Marine community, as I'd heard rumors about it. Then, third is, the Iraqis all knew about it. You can bet.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Three commanders have been relieved to their duty. Is that connected to this?

MURTHA: Well, they tell me it's not connected. They tell me this is dereliction of duty. But we cannot allow something like this to fester. We can't allow it to happen. They've got to put the blame where it goes and they gotta get this over with. They gotta make sure that - we're celebrating Memorial Day. And on Memorial Day, the freedom and democracy of this great country and the people that fight for it. And we memorialize the people that have died and the ones that have fought for the country and the family. And here we are with something like this. We gotta make sure the world knows this is not something that our troops do. We can't, we can't allow something like this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) And are you absolutely sure, though, that this wasn't something that happened in the fog of war? It was confusing. That they thought there was fire coming from the houses and they thought they were responding to enemy fire from insurgents?

MURTHA: The reports that I have, from the highest level, no firing at all. No interaction. No, no military action at all in this particular incident. It was an explosive device which killed a Marine. From then on, it was purely shooting people inside the houses and a taxi.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) "Time" magazine reports this morning they also have a photo that shows a Marine - it was taken by a Marine with a cell phone, showing Iraqis kneeling before they were shot. Is that true?

Note from Defend Our Marines: Time magazine later admitted that this story of kneeling and executed Iraqis was fabricated.

MURTHA: Well, I hear that one of them was even in English asking for mercy. And so I haven't heard that. I saw that in "Time" magazine, sitting on your table out there. That's the first I knew about that. But, but I've heard rumors like that the whole time. The point is, the Marines knew about it all this time. Somebody in the chain of command decided not to allow this to happen. How far up it went, I don't know. But the worst thing is, the Iraqis all knew about it. And then they made payments to the families. And that doesn't happen at the lowest level. That happens at the highest level before they make a decision to make payments to the families.

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, ABC News This Week, May 28, 2006STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) You know, a Marine who was accused last year of committing war crimes, Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, has written a letter to "The Washington Post" this morning saying you're rushing to judgment. And saying, that, as he wrote in 'The Post," 'members of the US military serving in Iraq need more than Mr. Murtha's pseudo-sympathy. Let the courts decide if these Marines are guilty. They haven't even been charged with a crime yet, so it's premature to presume their guilt unless that presumption is tied to a political motive."

MURTHA: George, I can understand - anybody that's been over there, I can understand anybody that feels that you're denigrating the troops. What I'm saying is, there's nobody done more for the troops than I have. Nobody's worked harder than I have, in trying to make sure the troops have what they need. But I will not excuse murder. And this is what happened. There's no question in my mind about it. This investigation should have been over two or three weeks afterwards. And it should have been made public. And people should - should've been held responsible for it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) The commandant of the Marine Corps, Michael Hagee, has been in Iraq for the last several days talking to the troops. Not about this incident, he says, but reminding them of their duties under the laws of war. Do you believe the Marine Corps is doing what it takes to fix whatever happened here?

MURTHA: Yeah. And you got to remember that General Hagee is not in the chain of command in this particular incident. Because this goes through the chain of command up to General Casey, to General Abizaid and then to General Pace. So, technically he's in the chain of command when it comes to the punishment. Now, he's acting very quickly now, going out and telling the troops 'we cannot do something like this." It erodes - this is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people. We can't win this militarily. It's now got to be a political victory. And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Well, we've already read that al Qaeda in Iraq is sending video to mosques in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Syria, trying to recruit new insurgents to Iraq. How worried are you - how much damage do you believe this is going to do to the US relations with the Muslim world? And will it become a recruiting tool for terrorists?

MURTHA: George, we've already lost the direction in this war. We've diverted ourselves from the real war against terrorism into Iraq. We made a mistake by going to Iraq. I've said this over and over again. And we can't win it militarily. This is the problem we have. Now, the political successes that they talk about are rhetorical successes, almost. Sure, we've got a government formed now, but the two biggest ministries aren't completed, interior and defense. So when you look at this whole thing, you say to yourself, what progress has been made? All the type things I measure, sewage all over the streets, water, only one hour a day do they get water. They have to turn their water on in the middle of the night. Electricity below pre-war level. Oil production below pre-war level. That's how I measure success. And only the Iraqis should handle this. This is the thing I've been saying. Our American troops are caught in a civil war. I understand what happened. I don't excuse what happened. But I understand what happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) More than a million US service people have served in Iraq honorably. Are you convinced that this is an isolated incident?

MURTHA: Well, I hope it's an isolated incident. I would expect we'll find out that there are very few incidents like this. But when you get pressure that they're under every day. When they go out, and there's an explosion and it doesn't kill somebody, explosion then kills somebody, explosion blows somebody apart, and I see the results of those explosions in the hospital when I go out there every week. You begin to recognize that - that the pressure could cause it. But we have so few people - less than 1% of the people in the United States involved in this war. And so they go back over and over again. Some have been back four and five times. I got a letter from a 10-year-old child. And the child says to me, 'I appreciate the support of your troops. Don't let my dad be deployed for the fourth time." And another woman sitting beside her son who's been in the hospital for over a year, hit by an IED, his brain shaken. He's been in a coma. He can only move his eyeballs. This is the type thing that I see that we can't - we don't need to put up with. It's the Iraqis can only settle this themselves. They don't want our advice, Sistani didn't even open a letter to the President. So, on Memorial Day, we want to be confident that most of our soldiers would not do something like this. It's an isolated incident. But that's why it's so important to get it out in the open and get the punishment at the appropriate places.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Congressman Murtha, we have to end it there. Thank you very much.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you, George.

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Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, ABC Good Morning America, May 30, 2006Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, ABC Good Morning America, May 30, 2006ABC Good Morning America with Charles Gibson, May 30, 2006

 

CHARLES GIBSON (ABC News): I heard you tell George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that you believe this is murder, followed by a cover-up. And I’ve heard you also say that what happened is well-known in Marine circles. Why are you so sure it was murder?

MURTHA: Charles, I started hearing about this probably right before the Time magazine article and then I heard officially about it two months ago. And there’s no question in my mind, when they pay people, as they did right after the incident--a team went into to investigate this immediately afterward. I mean it breaks my heart to think that Marines would do this... There’s no question in my mind about what happened here. There was no gunfire. They killed four people in taxi and then in addition to that, they went into the rooms and killed them. And I don’t know how many were involved in it, but it’s something that we cannot excuse. I can understand it, but it can’t be excused.

GIBSON: Defense lawyers are already saying, well, there’s drone video and there is actual radio traffic to higher-ups that will give a different picture than you have been talking about of this incident. What do you know about that?

MURTHA: I can only tell you this, Charles. This is what the Marine Corps told me at the highest level. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was in my office last week, so you know, I know there was a cover-up someplace. They knew about this a few days afterwards and there’s no question the chain of command tried to stifle the story. I can understand why, but that doesn’t excuse it. Something like this has to be brought out to the public, and the people have to be punished.

GIBSON: The commandant told you that this was a case of murder?

MURTHA: Charlie, don’t mince words here. The commandant said it was a very serious incident. He was not going to tell me it was murder, but everything looked to him just like it looks to me. He didn’t say that in so many words, but he told me exactly what happened. A taxi pulled up, they killed them in cold blood. They went into the houses and killed...He didn’t say it was murder...but what is it , Charles?

GIBSON: You have talked--well, that is what the investigation hopefully will prove. You have talked about this---

MURTHA: Charlie, this has been going on for six months! They covered--they knew days afterwards! Don’t make excuses for the military! This thing has been going on for six months!

GIBSON: I’m not trying to excuses for the military I’m just trying to find out for certain what you were told about, that was all.

 

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CNN Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, May 30, 2006

Congressman John Murtha on Haditha, CNN, May 30, 2006

Click at the link for a transcript of the complete segment.

 

BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Back now to our top story, the war in Iraq. Can democracy prevail with insurgents on the attack, and now a new uproar over an alleged massacre by United States Marines? Let's turn to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He is watching the story for us as well. Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the news from Iraq is bad, but also good. What does it add up to?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Americans are getting mixed signals from Iraq. Good news, Iraq finally has a new government.

SAMIR AL-SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I am honored and privileged to serve as the ambassador of a free Iraq after 16 years of isolation.

SCHNEIDER: Bad news, there is still no agreement on key security positions.

BARHAM SALIH, IRAQ DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: That is a difficult challenge because in this polarized society, there are different views about particularly the issue of security.

SCHNEIDER: Good news?

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: A Democratic political process has grown.

SCHNEIDER: Bad news, so has the violence, nearly 100 people killed this week including three American soldiers and two CBS News journalists.

GEN BARRY MCCAFFREY: I think it's a terribly dangerous place for diplomats and journalists and contractors and Iraqi mothers.

SCHNEIDER: More bad news: allegations of killings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines last November, and a possible cover-up of the incident.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We're supposed to be fighting this war for democracy, and yet something like this happens, it sets us back. It's as bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse.

SCHNEIDER: More bad news: anti-American rioting in Afghanistan.

SAM DEALY, GQ MAGAZINE: It's been a very violent uptick in the insurgency and, you know, pressures are mounting.

SCHNEIDER: Including political pressures. Most Americans want to see U.S. military forces in Iraq decreased, though not immediately withdrawn. Ironically, the good news about Iraq's new government increases pressure for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, which this month 60 percent of Americans said they favored.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Americans have to be frustrated. The United States helped liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban and Iraq from Saddam Hussein, and the result is not just democracy but also insurgency and anti-American violence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting. Thank you, Bill. And up next, I'll speak live with Congressman John Murtha. He's standing by. Also, the Pentagon investigating the allegations of a massacre by Marines in Iraq -- how much do the claims of a cover-up hurt America's overall
mission in Iraq?

Plus, the president names a new treasury secretary. The economy appears to be doing rather well, so why isn't the president getting a lot of political bounce? I will ask Paul Begala and Torie Clarke -- they're standing by live -- in today's "Strategy Session." Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's talk a little bit more now about the Haditha incident, the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of Iraqi civilians, the potential fallout. Joining us, a leading critic of the war in Iraq, Congressman John Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, himself a 37-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. You have suggested, Congressman, that there was a cover-up of this incident that actually occurred back in November. Specify what you have learned, what you have been told.

MURTHA: Well, what I worry about, Wolf, is that this happened six months ago. And nothing -- you heard nothing about it. As a matter of fact, the original story was that an IED killed these 15 people. It became very confusing to the public. "TIME" magazine came out with an article, and they still tried to cover it up. Now, there were payments made to victims, which aren't made unless we kill them, one way or the other. And, secondly, they knew about it the day afterwards. So, there's no excuse for not having this be more open and know exactly what -- and the longer it goes, the worse it is for us, because it looks like it's the policy of our troops to do something like this.

But the Marine Corps itself told me, there were 24 people killed. There was no other enemy action, except the one explosive device. Now, they are under tremendous pressure, Wolf. You -- you have heard me say this before. They are stressful. They go out every day. They see arms blown off, legs blown off. There's inadequate number of forces. So, I understand what happened. But you can't excuse it. And the cover-up is inexcusable. So, the chain of command, the chain of command, somebody in the chain of command said, we don't want to talk about this. It's so devastating that we don't want it to be made public. Well, it's going to be made public at someplace. The Iraqis already knew about it. The Marines knew about it. It was going to come out. And they should have been very open about this from the very start.

BLITZER: Here's what the chairman of the Joints Chiefs, General Peter Pace, himself a Marine, said yesterday on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")

GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: To my recollection, the first we knew about it back here in D.C. was around the 10th of February. And the very next day is when the investigations began. So, from my perspective, as soon as we found out that there were allegations, the investigations began.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think about that, Congressman?

MURTHA: Well, I will tell you, that's a pretty flat statement there. It seems to me something as horrendous as this should take a little something in the statement. I mean, you know, this is a terrible event, a tragic event. It affects the troops. It affects our morale. It affects the ability of them to recruit against us. And just say, well, it is going to start as soon as February, it should -- and even that was too long a period of time. They should have known about it before then, if they didn't know about it. It's a failure of leadership, when they didn't know about it. When other Marines knew about it, when the Iraqis knew about it, when they made payments about it, and they didn't know about it in Washington? I mean, I think we have to find that out. Senator Warner said he's going to have hearings. And he ought to have hearings, ought to find out who knew what when.

BLITZER: There are some who are already making comparisons between Haditha and My Lai in Vietnam, the massacre in which hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed, an incident that you well remember. Is that a fair comparison, a fair analogy?

MURTHA: Well, I think it's a fair analogy, except for the numbers. There was about 124, I think, in the My Lai incident. And then there was 24 here. But it's the same thing, overstressed, these troops going out every day. IEDs go off. Some of them have seen 30 IEDs go off without being -- all at once, they're killed or one of their friends is killed. So, the pressure is tremendous. It's one of those things where we have become the enemy. The Iraq -- there's only 1,000 al Qaeda, as I have said over and over again. There's no progress. Since I made my statement November 17, was two days before this happened, and it's worse today than it was then.

There was 500 incidents in that time a week. And now there's 1,000 incidents a week. So, it has gotten worse during that period of time. And these troops are under tremendous stress. And we ought to redeploy as quickly as we can and let the Iraqis handle this themselves.

BLITZER: What about President Bush? While this investigation continues, what, if anything, should he say about it?

MURTHA: The president should say that anybody that is involved in this, if they are found guilty, ought to be punished severely, because this helps recruit terrorists. If there's anything that is going to recruit terrorists -- he finally admitted Abu Ghraib was a mistake. He finally admitted he had untrained soldiers there, unsupervised, and undisciplined. And that was a tremendous public-relations problem for the United States.

We started to lose credibility then. We're fighting for the ideals of democracy. We're fighting for the ideals of America. And when something like this happens, and then you try to cover it up, it makes it look like the United States doesn't stand for those. Wolf, even when he signed the paper on torture and said we're going to make an exception to torture, when both houses -- both chambers passed that -- against torture, that's the kind of stuff that hurts us and unites the -- the Muslims against the United States.

BLITZER: John Murtha is a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

MURTHA: Good to talk to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we will have more on the fallout from Haditha. Paul Begala and Torie Clarke, they are standing by live in today's "Strategy Session." And, in the next hour, Michael Chertoff tours New Orleans, just days before the start of hurricane season. Our Jeanne Meserve spent some time with him earlier today. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Today, in our "Strategy Session," the investigation into the events at Haditha last November creating a huge political outcry, likely to get worse in the days and weeks to come. Why are some charging there was a cover-up? How much will it hurt the U.S. mission in Iraq? Joining us now, our CNN political analysts, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke. Torie, I will start with you. You worked at the Pentagon. You know the Marines. You just heard Congressman Murtha say there was a cover-up; it goes up the chain of command. What do you make of this?

TORIE CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: With all due respect to the congressman, it is an awful, awful tragedy, but nobody sitting in Washington or in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has all the facts or has all the details. It needs to be taken very, very seriously, but we also need to lower the emotional rhetoric here and have the investigation be conducted, have the charges brought forward, if they will, and then have those people, if these crimes were committed, dealt with very, very seriously. But it's interesting. When you were talking to him about what should the president do, anybody in that chain of command -- and the congressman knows this -- needs to be very careful not to say or do anything that will unduly influence the proceedings. There are military lawyers from coast to coast who are giving that very, very strong advice. So, as much as some people might want to say, boy, we think some really terrible things have happened here, we have got to get to the bottom of it, they are very, very controlled about what they can and cannot say.

BLITZER: Congressman Marty Meehan, a Democrat of Massachusetts, said this. He said, "Something like this" -- the incident in Haditha -- "just fuels the insurgency and makes it impossible for the United States to ever win this militarily." What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is a boon for the insurgency. And I thought Jack Murtha was very persuasive about that in his interview with you. I don't think that he was telling the president to prejudge this. And we will go back and look at the tape or the transcript.
It seemed to me, he said, the president needs to say, if anyone is later found to have been guilty here, he or perhaps even she could -- will be punished severely. The striking thing here is that what we know about this is very little. But all that I know about it, I know from Jack Murtha. That does suggest that the administration -- understandably, governments don't like to put out tragic news, or bad news, or news of bad acts that happen in wartime. But we ought to be learning about this from somebody. And it's -- thank God that Jack Murtha at least...

BLITZER: Well... (CROSSTALK) BEGALA: ... is coming out... (CROSSTALK) 

BLITZER: ... we actually learned about it from "TIME" magazine, which broke the story, and -- several weeks ago. And they did an outstanding job of bringing this to everyone's attention.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But Murtha -- for viewers who don't know Jack Murtha -- I have known him for 20 years -- he's probably the most respected, even revered, congressman by the military. These guys -- he was a Marine for 37 years, as you pointed out. He's a colonel. They love him. And he loves the Corps. And, so, this is really coming from the heart, from a -- from a real American patriot. And I think that's the way the military ought to be handling...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It goes without saying, though, that, yes, there may have been some bad apples. But there are 130,000, 140,000 U.S. troops, or whatever, in Iraq. And almost all of them do obey the rules of warfare, don't get involved in this.
The question to you though, Torie, is, is the war creating this kind of situation, where an alleged atrocity like this may be taking place, because it beats down, on a day-by-day basis, these troops who go into these kinds of situations?

CLARKE: Well, if the only thing they see and hear on -- on the airwaves and coming back to them from the United States is emotional rhetoric like we have been hearing today. And I just think this is a time for members of Congress and others to be very, very responsible and say, yes, it sounds very serious. It sounds awful. Let's get to the bottom of it. But let's not add fuel to the fire, when we don't have all the facts. We will. People can wait a few days, a few weeks. We will have the facts and we can act accordingly. But it does not help to add fuel to the fire.

BEGALA: OK. I think -- I don't know. I didn't even finish the Boy Scouts, OK? So, I am speaking from pristine ignorance, but it won't stop me. It seems to me, though, that those Marines are less stressed out by what a politician says in an interview with Wolf Blitzer than they are by what Jack Murtha told us, 30 IED attacks that some of these guys had seen. There was one report that these Marines were on already their third combat tour. Now, what are we doing to overstress the guys? It was -- I think
Congressman Murtha was right -- a failure of leadership. And I hope this isn't like Abu Ghraib, where one little PFC from West Virginia and a reservist one-star take the fall, and the Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzes, Tommy Franks of the world go on and prosper.

CLARKE: But it's just -- it is factually incorrect and also, I think, somewhat irresponsible to make judgments about all the Marines or everyone in the United States forces serving in Iraq or Afghanistan based on what a few Marines may have done. The reality is, as you said, Wolf, the overwhelming majority of the people there are performing...

BEGALA: Right.

CLARKE: ... under the same tough circumstances and doing very, very well. 

 

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CNN American Morning with Soledad O'Brien, May 30, 2006

Click at the link for a transcript of the complete segment.

 

Congressman John Murtha Haditha as My Lai, CNN , May 30, 2006

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Murder charges could be coming for several U.S. Marines. That's what some members of Congress are being told about the investigation into last year's suspected massacre in Haditha, Iraq. Here's what Joint Chief Chairman General Peter Pace told Miles yesterday on AMERICAN MORNING

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If the allegations as they are being portrayed in the newspaper turn out to be valid, then, of course, there'll be charges. But we don't know yet what the outcome will be. It'll take its course, it will be made public and we'll all be able to make our own judgments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha spent 37 years in the Marines. He retired in 1990 as a colonel. He's been briefed on the investigation. He's in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, this morning. Congressman, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You have said that you believe that, in fact, there was a cover up. How high do you think this goes, sir?

MURTHA: Well, Soledad, this is what worries me. We're fighting a war about America's ideals and democracies ideas and something like this happens and they try to cover it up. They knew the day after this happened that it was not as they portrayed it. They knew that they went into the rooms, they killed the people in the taxi. There was no firing at all. And this comes from the highest authority in the Marine Corps. So there's no question in my mind. And I don't know how. That's what we have to find out.

This is the type of thing that makes it so difficult. We're supposed to be fighting this war for democracy and yet something like this happens that sets us back. It's as bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse. It's the kind of things that hearts and minds of people that 80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there and 47 percent say it's OK to Americans.

Something like this happens, they knew about it, the Iraqis knew about it, the Americans pay them and then it goes up the chain of command and somebody stifles it. If it hadn't been for "Time" magazine in March, this would have never became public and it's something that should have become public immediately. We should have said, this is not something the Americans do.

It breaks my heart to think Marines did something like this. And when you hear some of the stories now that are coming out, it just makes it worse than ever.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, when you listen to the reporters from "Time" magazine, they say that they were waved off their investigation for their reporting early on, being told that, you know, essentially what they were hearing was propaganda, anybody who is claiming a massacre. If "Time" had not continued to dig, do you believe that, in fact, this may have never come out?

MURTHA: Well, I'll tell you how bad it was. The officials -- high level officials told me just last week it will be two months before this is over. The reason I've been speaking out is Iraqis know about this. This has been all through Iraq. There's no question about it. They paid people $1,500 to $2,5000. This doesn't happen unless it comes at the highest
authority. I don't know how high . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: When you say paid people, you're talking an about the military compensating the families, the victims, is what you mean, right?

MURTHA: Yes. And that doesn't happen, Soledad, if it's an explosive device. Now I understand the troops. Troops doing a tremendous job. They carry 70 pounds of equipment. They're out there every day. An IED goes off, it kills somebody one day, the next day.

Some of them have seen 25 and 30 of those go off and they haven't been wounded, like the reporter that was hit. She's been out there day after day and finally it gets to them. The pressure is tremendous. We don't have enough troops over there and they don't know what their mission is. Their mission is to find IEDs.

So the pressure -- I don't excuse it. There's no way you can excuse it. But on the other hand, I understand exactly what's happening with the troops. Think're doing everything they can do. But for the Marines to do something like this has got to be punished as quickly as possible so the world understands that we don't condone something like this.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: There are people who have said it's -- there's a comparison here that can be made to My Lai. Do you think that's true?

MURTHA: Well, I think it's just as bad, if not worst than that. And My Lai, if I remember the circumstances, you're out in the field and they killed civilians but they used the excuse that they looked like they were the enemy. Here there was no shots fired. There was no enemy action at all. A taxi drives up, they kill everybody in the taxi and then they go into homes and pull the people out. And the stories keep getting worse and worse.

And then they try to cover it up saying they were killed by an IED to confuse the message. They're still trying to confuse the message. There's no way you can confuse something like this. You just get the facts out, you get them out as quickly as you can and so . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What do you mean by -- forgive me for interrupting you, but what do you mean by they're still trying to confuse the message?

MURTHA: Well, just like today I was talking to Charlie Gibson at ABC News. He said, well the military says this and the military says that. Look, this happened six months ago. This happened November 19th. They knew the day after what had happened. So they keep spinning it to try to make it look like it was something that happened during action.
This is -- they keep saying well invest -- six months, Soledad, this has been going on. We've got to get it out. We've got to get it over with. We have to make the troops -- and I give General Hagee, the commandant of the Marine Corp, credit. He's over there right now telling the troops, we've got to protect non-combatants. The rules of engagement insist that you don't fire unless you're in danger. And I understand the pressure the troops are under, but that's not the point. The point is, we can't let something like this go on.

And then there's another incident which is very similar to it. And now, from what I've just heard on your program, even another one that happened a year ago. So the troops -- a corpsman worked in or talked to a NPR, he says, well we're fighting terrorists. We can't lower our standards to the terrorists' level. We lose worldwide support. We've already lost the hearts and minds of Iraqi. It's time for us to redeploy, get our troops out of the is middle of a civil war.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Congressman John Murtha. Thanks for joining us, Congressman. Appreciate it.

 

_______________________________________________________

 

Soledad O'Brien and Jamie McIntyre on Murtha's My Lai claim, CNN, May 30, 2006

 

Congressman John Murtha Haditha as My Lai, CNN , May 30, 2006

 

_______________________________________________________

 

CNN, Paula Zahn Now, May 30, 2006

Click at the link for a transcript of the complete segment (which includes an interview with the mother of LCpl Ryan Briones, a Marine who photographed the aftermath in Haditha).

 

ZAHN: Congressman Murtha, thanks so much for being with us tonight.

MURTHA: Good to be here, Paula.

ZAHN: You are accusing Marines of committing murder against innocent civilians in cold blood, even before the investigation is over. What's your evidence?

MURTHA: Well, Paula, the highest level of the Marine Corps came to me -- first, I started hearing stories in the Marine Corps. Then, March -- in March, "TIME" magazine came out with a story which became confused, and I think confused on purpose. This happened six months ago. Two days later, they knew exactly what happened. They know that there was no hostile fire. They know that -- that the IED killed a Marine. And they know that they overreacted. So, the investigation...

ZAHN: Is there proof of that, sir?

MURTHA: Paula, you want to listen to what I'm saying?

ZAHN: Absolutely.

MURTHA: I'm telling you that that is what the Marine -- commandant of the Marine Corps told me. Now, you just wait and you will hear the -- there's nothing I have said so far that hasn't turned out to be true. I said, there were 24 people killed. I said this a month ago -- exactly the number who have been killed.

I said there are women and children been killed, babies been killed. That's what happened. And there was no hostile fire. So, you are going to find out exactly -- everything I'm saying is true. The cover-up is just as despicable and worries me just as much. They tried to cover this up. And six months is way too long. General Pace says he found out about this in February. This should have been over since February. They still tied to -- to do nothing about it. This has -- we have to find out what happened. We have to find out when the higher level knew about it and why they tried to -- to cover this thing up. And they will have hearings in the Senate and the House, I'm sure, to find out the details of -- of why the cover-up.

ZAHN: In spite of what you're saying, sir, what do you make of the report in "The Washington Post" that says investigators have seized radio traffic messages between Marines in the field and a command center showing, in fact, that they did take small-arms fire after the initial roadside bomb went off? If that is true, weren't those Marines entitled to defend themselves?

MURTHA: Well, I wouldn't say they're entitled to defend themselves when a taxi pulls up and they kill everybody in the taxi, when they go inside the homes and they kill women and children. We have a responsibility in this country to defend American principles. We're lowering ourselves to the standards of the terrorists who are acting against us. We have a responsibility to -- to follow the rules of engagement. That means, if you're not threatened, you don't just kill innocent civilians. And this is what happened here. This is a tragic thing about this whole episode, the fact that not only did it happen. You keep asking questions like this. You will find out everything that I have said turns out to be true.

Radio traffic doesn't mean anything, unless you know. Just because they say something's happening on the radio doesn't mean that's what's happening on the radio.

ZAHN: So, you discount that -- you discount that completely?

(CROSSTALK)

MURTHA: I'm -- I'm saying that the highest level in the Marine Corps came to me and told me exactly what they felt had happened. And they're over there today.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, who is not in the chain of command, is over there talking to the troops and telling them they have to guard against this kind of action against noncombatant. One -- one Marine carried a little baby who had been shot in the head out of there in his arms and put it in a body bag. Why am I incensed about this? I'm not sure the investigation would have gone on if I hadn't said something, and I hadn't pressed them.

This thing should never have dwelled this long. It should have been over a long time ago. It's a tragic event. It breaks my heart to think this happened. But you can't hide it. You can't cover it up.

ZAHN: How high do you think this cover-up goes?

MURTHA: Well, that's what worries me, Paula. I don't have any idea. I know they made payments to the families. They don't make those payments to the families unless we kill people in the process of doing the fighting.

ZAHN: Finally, tonight, Congressman Murtha, many of your critics would say that you are making these allegations in advance of the investigation being over, in advance of anybody being charged, because you're politically motivated by your opposition to this war.

MURTHA: Paula, you will see that everything that I'm saying turns out to be true. I'm the messenger. I'm not the guy that committed the crime. The crime is what we should be focusing on, not these -- these allegations. You folks pick up all these stuff from these people that say you shouldn't do it before the investigation. That's just -- six months ago, this happened, Paula. Six months ago, this thing should have been -- should have been done in a month or so. The investigation should be completed. It should have been open, transparent.

We should have known what the outcome was and exactly what happened. If I hadn't spoken out, Paula, this would not have happened.

ZAHN: Congressman Murtha, thank you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

 

_______________________________________________________

 

And, as a bonus, the infamous Okinawa redeployment nuttiness...

NBC Meet the Press, June 18, 2006

 

Congressman John Murtha Okinawa, NBC with Tim Russert , June 18, 2006

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