Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha (1932-2010), who died January 8, was the first combat veteran of the Vietnam War elected to national office; he was also among the last. Murtha began his first of 18 terms in the US House 35 years ago this month, and he was a virtual lock for reelection this November, despite becoming one of the most controversial public servants of this incredibly shady era in American politics. His words and actions during the Bush 43 administration bear directly on the country we live in today, and even his most bitter enemies must acknowledge the weight of his passing.
Murtha was a hard man who exerted soft power through the complex and deeply important business of manipulating the appropriations process to the benefit of his state. The people of Pennsylvania paid out millions in salary and benefits that will extend on for years to come for an inside track that could transcend the fluctuations of electoral activity. It is what legislators are hired to do, but details are generally left up to the individual. Murtha was just one of many, but he was considered one of the best—so much so that, when he turned on a war that our government and media establishment unanimously supported, his spot was only briefly jeopardized.
Murtha’s anti-war shift helped precipitate a chain of events that culminated with the election of Barack Obama. Granted, that has meant no tangible gains for the anti-war movement so far, but it certainly brought humanity a good ways back from the edge of total disaster for long enough to brainstorm solutions. Murtha’s turn legitimized views being voiced before the war even started, but which were effectively censored from the public debate through what is now understood to be a web of bribery, intimidation and willful deceit affixed to social connections between members of Congress, the Bush and Clinton administrations and reporters at several key media institutions. It was a deliberate process “assisted” (in the Scientology sense) by officials of at least four governments. Please look it up yourself right now—I’ll wait….
See? All of this is public record, through various proceedings and anecdotal data contributed by the principles themselves, including John Murtha, who, like all of us, was sold a set of falsehoods that ultimately reversed the greatest economic boom in history, induced an atmosphere of bitter division among civilians and led directly to the death or permanent physical or psychological injury (including lost jobs, broken families, homes foreclosed) of more American soldiers than can ever statistically quantify. Hell, we’ve all heard stories from friends, loved ones, colleagues, but Murtha (who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam) surely heard a lot more than almost anyone, and one can easily imagine the effect it had on him.
Murtha wasn’t stupid, and he was no pacifist. He was a conservative Democrat who was for the war before he was against it. He knew the fix was in, and he said so, even at a cost that routinely proves too high for our so-called “leaders”. He was already under investigation, already widely associated with classic-style political corruption (the type eclipsed in the post-9/11 era), yet he chose to draw heat from an administration known for its vindictiveness because he felt it was his patriotic duty. He thus proved that peace was not a partisan issue. We now know that many of the men who waged the first war in Iraq, from frontline soldiers right up to the executive branch, were opposed to another one, for reasons that now seem obvious. Those soldiers should have never been in Haditha in the first place; they should have been home, protecting their own cities. It’s a price we’ll never stop paying.
The irony, of course, is that his stance against the war, which many at the time thought would be Murtha’s political undoing, instead helped elevate him from general obscurity to becoming a household name on par with Cindy Sheehan, who was the much-abused public face of the anti-war movement until Murtha arrived. It speaks to his legacy that his death (attributed to botched gall bladder surgery) was instantly declared in some outposts of the ‘Net to be an assassination. His death would have otherwise passed with barely a mention. Instead, Murtha’s name will live on as a sterling example of what real leadership—the dirty, dangerous kind—looks like. Well, kids, look closely, because you aren’t likely to see anything like it again, not anytime soon. RIP.
firstname.lastname@example.org; February 8, 2010