Pennsylvania 12th district Republican Congressional nominee Diana Irey, surrounded by a dozen supportive war veterans, demanded that John Murtha apologize for his statement that US Marines are guilty of killing Iraqi civilians in cold blood.
John Murtha made the comments in question during a press conference he held last week and during his appearances on TV news shows, claiming "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Murtha made his remarks regarding an incident that happened on November 19th in Haditha, Iraq.
"Mr. Murtha, You need to make this right for our fellow Americans," Irey demanded. "You need to formally apologize for your reckless statements and your rush to judgment. Such unfounded criticism of United States Marines serves only to empower those who promote hatred of Americans in foreign lands."
"My opponent tells the story of this incident as if he was on the ground that fateful day. He somehow had a front row seat when all of the rest of America awaits the results of a monumental investigation, convicting these men without due process," Irey said.
Murtha alleges a coverup by the US military, but has not shown evidence of such a coverup. While making definitive statements about what occurred during the incident, Murtha is insisting on a congressional investigation, while at the same time admitting he never bothered to read the report on the incident released by the Pentagon.
During a May 17 news conference, Rep. Murtha discussed the incident with reporters as he continued what opponents have called "the Murtha anti-war diatribe," that the US should pull the troops out of Iraq.
He said a Pentagon investigation would ultimately show that the troops in Haditha "overreacted because of the pressure on them and killed innocent civilians in cold blood." The Marines involved have not been tried as yet but are either in a brig at Camp Pendleton Marine Base or resticted to the base pending legal proceedings.
Mr. Murtha, who claims close ties to top defense officials as a retired Marine colonel and the top-ranking Democrat, said he had not read the Pentagon report because was basing his information on frequent discussions with "the commanders," he said, "people that know what they're talking about." Murtha did not disclose the names of these commanders or their connection to the incident and subsequent investigation.
Reporters have failed to ask Rep. Murtha why he hasn't read a report on which he is commenting, said a Pentagon source.
Ms. Irey, of Carroll Township in Pennsylvania, accused Murtha of denying the Marines due process and had put American troops in danger with his remarks.
"John Murtha was a patriot," Irey, a Republican, said at the Press Club. "...but many years have passed and I say again my opponent has lost his way because the comments and actions of late are not that of a patriot. Rather they serve to aid and comfort our enemies."
"These inflammatory remarks read around the world not only put American lives at risk," she said, "but will also be used as a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations."
A spokeswoman for Mr. Murtha said the congressman would not comment on Ms. Irey's remarks.
The crowd that assembled during Ms. Irey's event illustrated the prominent role that critics of Mr. Murtha's from outside the 12th District are likely to play in her campaign against him.
At least three of the eight veterans standing behind Ms. Irey on the dais during her speech at the Press Club were from Virginia and Ms. Irey said financial support was pouring in, not only from Murtha's district, but from around the country for her campaign against the well-financed Murtha.
One of those veterans, Eric Cooper of Springfield, Virginia, said he sent Ms. Irey a contribution yesterday and has been promoting her Web site to those who are angry about Mr. Murtha's comments on Iraq, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"There's a lot of anger out there [at Mr. Murtha] and she kind of represents that anger for us," said Mr. Cooper, who said he served in the Marines between 1984 and 1993. "I know that I cannot vote for Diana Irey, but I can support her and I will."
"By coming out and calling them 'cold-blooded killers,' he's already tainted the minds of a possible jury of those who will be hearing these allegations," added Irey.
As of late April, Federal Election Commission records show that Ms. Irey had raised nearly $75,600 but had less than $27,000 in cash. Mr. Murtha, who is among the top recipients of lobbyist contributions in Congress, had nearly $1.5 million on hand for the race, according to the Post-Gazette.
An attractive woman, Diana Irey, elected in 1996, is the only woman ever to be elected as a Washington County commissioner. She is now in her tenth year of public service.
Appointed by Governor Tom Ridge, Irey served on the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. And she is past president of the Mon Valley United Way.
Murtha's current position on the Iraq war and his biting comments have done much to erase the memories of his ties to the Abscam corruption investigation and the recent allegations of his ties to his brother's consulting firm. The anti-war left appears to overlook corruption on the part of their heroes, said one political observer.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.