John “Jack” Murtha, a Democrat from western Pennsylvania’s Twelfth District, died Monday of complications from gall bladder surgery. He had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1974.
During the Bush administration, Murtha consistently assailed the manner in which the Iraq War was prosecuted. In a November 2005 statement, Murtha described the U.S. military as “stretched thin” and “broken.” He added that “the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq” was not only “impeding … progress” there, but was acting as a “catalyst for violence.”
In May 2006 Murtha reacted swiftly and angrily to unsubstantiated allegations that a squad of eight U.S. Marines had killed, without cause, up to two-dozen unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. The congressman appeared on ABC’s This Week program, where he said that the Marines had “overracted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” “There’s no question in my mind about what happened here,” declared Murtha. “There was no gunfire [from the Iraqis]. They [the American Marines] killed four people in a taxi and then in addition to that, they went into the rooms and killed them.” He further alleged that the U.S. military was trying to “cover up” what had occurred in Haditha. He would eventually be proven wrong on each of those allegations.
In February 2008 the taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), which promotes fiscal responsibility and federal earmarks reform, named Murtha as Congress’ 2007 “Porker of the Year” — “for flouting the rules and playing games with reform, while filing spending bills with pork and arrogantly threatening anyone that challenges his authority.”