Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Open Thread

Carry on in the comments. Some people will know what I'm talking about.


The Frito Pundito said...


I suppose this is where I'm supposed to post. I would like to keep this fairly tightly focused on the issue of Murtha's betrayal, rather than let it spin off into other issues. As I understand it, you think Murtha has betrayed the Marines (and by extension I suppose, all the Armed Forces) by interfering in an official investigation by pronouncing judgment prematurely, and claiming that there was an official cover up and throwing the doctrine of innocence until guilt is proven out the window to score political points.

There are two main issues here: one is whether Murtha actually did those things you accuse him of, and second, whether that amounts to betrayal. Both are problematic because both rely on subjective assessments and that is why I said this would likely be futile. By the way, I am a scientist by trade, and for me assertions of things "everyone knows" are not good enough - as history has shown repeatedly, the things "everyone knows" often turn out to be wrong. So I would like to stick to statements that are objectively provable, i.e., backed up with evidence. So here goes.

1) Did Murtha interfere in an official investigation? Well, interfering in an investigation is actually a crime, and in order to prove this, it must be shown that someone impeded access to witnesses or evidence. I can't see how you could argue Murtha did either, unless you can show that some Marines, having read his statements, would refuse to cooperate, but I don't have any firsthand knowledge that this was the case, nor I suspect do you. You could say that Murtha poisoned the well with his statements, which is possible, but investigations such as this are always tried in the media and the investigators just have to do their best with that. Patrick Fitzgerald has had to deal with Luskin constantly trying to make his investigation into a media trial. Unfortunately, Murtha, as a private citizen, is allowed to make statements on this case, whether true or not*, just as various commenters were allowed to declare Cynthia McKinney prematurely guilty.

2) Since he is neither a judge in the case, nor a lawyer, he is not bound by the presumption of innocence doctrine, no matter how nice that would be. Besides, he did not speak to the guilt or innocence or any particular persons. His words (spoken on ABC) were "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. " In fact, he is indicting the higher ups more than the troops on the ground.

3) As for these political points he wants to score, unless you have tapped his phone or are a mind reader , that kind of speculation is as unprovable as saying that he doesn't believe in God. He is safe in his House seat, and has said nothing about running for another office, so I can't see the political points he wants to score, unless you think he is running for President (as one of the other posters does), or like all the Democrats in some people's opinion, just wants to take down George Bush (another unprovable assertion).

The next issue, and the larger one, is was this betrayal? Well, betrayal is inherently highly subjective - I believe that I have been betrayed by former girlfriends (they didn't think so), Caesar believed he was betrayed by Brutus (Brutus didn't think so), and Tony Soprano believed he was betrayed by Big Pussy (who unfortunately was never given a chance to voice an opinion on the subject). Betrayal implies a trust that is being violated. Since I doubt you would be so exercised if an average citizen had voiced these comments, it must be because Murtha, as an ex-Marine, is somehow obliged never to criticize the Corps. I don't know if he is aware of this presumption of om muerta (I don't think it was in his discharge papers) , but it seems to me to be opening to the kind of abuses that are now being investigated (as well of those of My Lai, etc.). If there is no criticism there is no accountability, and no correction of things that go wrong. Loyalty, like sincerity, in and of itself is not a virtue - Albert Speer was disloyal to Hitler, but history does not record him as a traitor (obligatory disclaimer: I am not comparing the Corps to Nazis!). Murtha has determined that his loyalty to what he sees as the truth overrides his loyalty to the Corps and I for one applaud him for that. The doctrine that "we shouldn't criticize our troops while they're in harm's way" is as misguided and open to abuse as that of "we shouldn't criticize Israel since it's besieged by other Arab countries", which I have argued against many a time.

The attacks on Murtha for voicing his opinions are disturbing to me because it points out just how topsy turvy our world has become. Rather than being upset about the possible crimes at Haditha or the possible cover up* people are upset that Murtha is talking about it. This attitude is a reflection of a current idea going round regarding criticism of the US policy (and the President) in general, namely that it is the criticism that is the problem. I am reminded of nothing so much as the former Soviet apparatchiks, who tried to destroy every critic, whether through character assassination, harassment or actual jail time - as the former Soviet republics have become more like us, so have we become more like them, in terms of tolerance of dissent. Remember what Tedda Roosevelt said (I'm sure you know it, but it bears repeating)

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

So you are certainly free to think that Murtha went too far in his comments, he spoke injudiciously, fine, but to say that his comments amount to a betrayal is a step on the slippery slope to all suppression of speech, and one which fails to address the underlying problems that caused him to speak out in the first place

Best regards

*The LA Times article you cite hardly disproves Murtha's assertions. There is no official statement yet, in fact, as the article states "That means don't hold your breath," a defense official said. The only comment about the contents of the report comes from "an official close to the investigation", and I would hope that by now everyone would be highly suspicious of anonymous sources, seeing as how they have been shown to be full of it on numerous occasions. In fact, neither the NY Times, the Washington Post, AP nor the Boston Globe quote that official in their write ups, so I am quadruply suspicious of his claims. Besides, even if that is the conclusion of the report, how stringent and independent could we expect one branch of the military to be while investigating another? Ever hear the term "whitewash?" Put it another way, how much did you trust Janet Reno's conclusions in the Justice Department's report on the Whitewater affair? That's why an independent counsel was brought in, because there are inevitable conflicts of interest.

Citizen H said...

You were right about the "futile discussion" part the instant you stated "...as long as you don't pull the 'me and the boys in the ranks' number..." which is 1) condescending in the extreme, and 2) indicative, at least to me, that you don't give a damn what men and women in uniform think. That being said, you can pack sand. I will discuss the standpoint of the man in the line; take it with a brick of salt.

We are going to stick to Perception for the time being, as that is the arena in which politics are conducted.

Whoa, before you hold your hand up and start bloviating about "statements backed up by fact", which your "pointless war with no end in sight" crack over at the other place does not fit: The documents discovered in the remnants of the house in which Zarqawi died reveal an Al Qaeda in disarray, demoralized, with fractured leadership, attempting to foment a war between the United States and Iran as they are faltering themselves. In other words, coalition forces are performing so badly and "pointlessly" that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a shell of its former self on the verge of collapse. From here on we get to see more crazies acting on their own out there.

Let's return to Murtha as you are so eager to do. HQMC issued the following statement in response to Murtha:

"There is an ongoing investigation; therefore, any comment at this time would be inappropriate and could undermine the investigatory and possible legal process. As soon as the facts are known and decisions on future actions are made, we will make that information available to the public to the fullest extent allowable." In other words, they asked him, very respectfully, to let the investigation take its course, and he has not.

Today, here on Okinawa, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Hagee, was on island going to each camp to speak to the Marines about the Haditha incident and how it shows that occasionally Marines lose sight of the values instilled in them during training, and it's time to revisit everything from core values to the Laws of Armed Conflict, which in non-infantry units are rarely discussed after one completes training.


"Since he is neither a judge in the case, nor a lawyer, he is not bound by the presumption of innocence doctrine, no matter how nice that would be". In Mckinney's case, I don't recall any PUBLIC officeholders declaring HER guilty. Being in office, one should at least have the integrity not to abuse his or her highly public profile.

As far as scoring political points go: He HAS been quoted as seeking the Speaker of the House slot if the Dems gain the majority in November. That sounds like point-whoring to me.

Was this betrayal? It comes down to biting the hand that feeds you. What credibility Murtha has as a spokesman in the anti-war line comes from his Marine service, and he thanks them for that credibility by stating that the Marines killed in cold blood. THAT'S WHY THERE'S AN INVESTIGATION! The only sources stating that it was cold-blooded murder are the citizens of a town long known to be an insurgent stronghold; before I was supposed to deploy to Al Asad air base in 2004, just a few miles from Haditha, it was widely known that Haditha was hostile ground to American forces. The Iraqi end of the Haditha publicity has been carried out by a group with known ties to extremist Sunni groups; it would serve them all too well to heap tons of negative publicity on the Marines in Al Anbar Province. According to some accounts men in the houses that were raided were exchanging fire with Marines with their families in the room. That alters the picture from cold-blooded murder to a damned bad mistake on the Marines' part. Once again, that's the purpose of investigation. To sift the truth from the dross. All the Marine Corps is asking is that everyone hold off on passing judgment until the investigation is completed. Murtha did not see fit to do so, even for his brother Marines, whose motto, as I'm sure you know, is "Always Faithful". If there is no criticism there is no accountability? My ass. Look at the Marines now charged with murder in the incident in Hamdaniya-- nobody had heard about it until the accused had been clapped in irons in the Camp Pendleton brig. Sound like a lack of accountability to you?

"The attacks on Murtha for voicing his opinions are disturbing to me because it points out just how topsy turvy our world has become," you say. What's truly disturbing is that every day insurgents kill far greater numbers of civilians but they get a free pass from the press, Amnesty International, and leftists worldwide. Murtha's opinions are disturbing precisely because they only help to alienate those in uniform, or those who once wore Marine green, who hear them. I, for one, now wonder if at some point I'll be hung out to dry before guilt or innocence is determined just so some bloviating turd's poll numbers can go up (Hmm. the Duke rape investigation, anyone?)
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public". And moving heaven and earth to undermine him, fabricating memos, consciously reporting only the bad news in Iraq, and neglecting to acknowledge that, yes, WE FOUND THE WMD, isn't?
Glad to finally get that off my chest. Put it in your pipe and smoke it.

Citizen H said...

Whoops. Murtha is looking for Majority Leader in November if the Dems win.

kissyface said...

Hey Aytch - Happy Birthday to you, too.