Friday, April 16, 2010

Outrage of the week: USS John P. Murtha

In a departure from tradition, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to name the Navy's 10th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock "John P. Murtha."  From Navy Times:
According to a Navy memorandum obtained by Navy Times, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus notified Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead that he had selected “John P. Murtha” for the previously unnamed LPD 26. It’s the latest example of the Navy breaking a convention for naming its warships; the previous ships in the San Antonio class have been named for American cities.

Capt. Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman for Mabus, who is traveling on the West Coast, said she had no comment on the memo.

The choice of Murtha as the namesake for an LPD appeared to reflect both his support in Congress for more of the gators and his service in the Marine Corps, which included time in Vietnam. San Antonio-class ships can carry about 700 Marines, their equipment and vehicles.

But Murtha might also prove to be a controversial pick: He was accused of ethics violations several times over the course of his career and he caused outrage among Marines in 2005 when he accused troops of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, of “killing innocent people” in a shooting in Haditha, Iraq.
In May of 2006, CNN reported:
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, told reporters Wednesday that he got his information from U.S. commanders, who said the investigation will show that the Marines deliberately killed the civilians.

The U.S. Marine Corps has declined to comment on the report, which initially stated that 15 were killed.

"There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," Murtha said.
In an editorial piece on Thursday, The Washington Times condemned the Navy's decision to honor the late Congressman:
The late Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, has achieved his highest undeserved honor. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to name the Navy's newest San Antonio Class amphibious transport-dock LPD 26 the USS John P. Murtha. This is a slap in the face to every service member who bridled when Murtha publicly accused Marines in Iraq of intentionally killing women and children in cold blood.

Murtha made his views known after details emerged about a firefight in Haditha in November 2005 in which 24 Iraqis were killed. Murtha accused the Marines of engaging in premeditated murder and agreed with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that this was "exactly" like the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Charges later were brought against eight Marines but have since been dropped against all but one. However, Murtha's theatrical rush to judgment still rankles Americans in uniform, whose views on the congressman range from disappointment to the belief that he gave aid and comfort to the enemy.

"This dishonors every Marine who will serve aboard that ship," a Navy officer told The Washington Times. "And it sends a poor message to the acquisition community that politicians can have ships named after them just for sending pork back to their districts." Milblogger "CDR Salamander," who served in the Navy for 21 years, told us this was "a naked political move" and "nothing about this man will be inspiring to the crew assigned to the ship."

To his credit, Murtha was a combat-wounded veteran of Vietnam, but he is hardly unique in that respect. The USNS Benavidez is named for Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, who, wounded and under heavy assault, saved the lives of eight men at Loc Ninh in South Vietnam in 1968. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. Likewise the USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin, which is named for a Marine who was mortally wounded on Iwo Jima while leading his men in a counterattack against a massed Japanese suicide charge. The USNS Shughart is named after Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart, killed at the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. These are the types of veterans who should be given such an honor, not a political hack whose most successful defensive maneuver was saving his pork-laden earmarks from surprise attacks of fiscal responsibility.

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