This is swiftboating gone too far:
A U.S. Marine suspected in the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, will sue Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record) for libel after the war critic made public comments about the case and accused the serviceman of murder, attorneys said on Wednesday.
Lawyers representing Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, said Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, made false, misleading and defamatory statements.
The case, to be filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says Murtha's statements in the press about the case have pressured the Pentagon to pursue charges against Wuterich and other Marines, and to use them as "scapegoats" to prove that allegations of atrocities committed against Iraqis will be pursued, "no matter how baseless."
"The false, misleading and defamatory statements disseminated by Mr. Murtha portray ... Wuterich as a cold-blooded killer, untrained and falling victim to stress, as well as being involved in a cover-up of the tragic events of November 19, 2005," the Marine's lawyers say in the court filing.
So what if what Murtha was saying turned out to be true? Everything else he has said has been true and the only thing we are waiting on is the report about Haditha, which could be very close:
Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.
Agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service have completed their initial work on the incident last November, but may be asked to probe further as Marine Corps and Navy prosecutors review the evidence and determine whether to recommend criminal charges, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.
The decision on whether to press criminal charges ultimately will be made by the commander of the accused Marines' parent unit, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. That currently is Lt. Gen. John Sattler, but he is scheduled to move to a Pentagon assignment soon; his successor will be Lt. Gen. James Mattis.
The case is one of several involving alleged unjustified killings of Iraqi civilians that have emerged this year, damaging the military's reputation for humane treatment of civilians and triggering calls by some Iraqi leaders to end the arrangement under which U.S. troops are immune from prosecution by Iraqi authorities.
So while this Marine is suing Murtha, there is a chance he could also be defending himself in criminal court. Perhaps all of this could have been avoided if the Pentagon and White House would have listened to the first claims of what happened instead of ignoring them. True that would go against the typical "head in the sand" attitude the Bush administration does have.
UPDATE (with video below the fold)