I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

GOP Rep. John Kline to be added to Murtha lawsuit unless he apologizes to Marine

Impressively following up on the commitment he made on Wednesday, Mark Zaid, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit this week against Jack Murtha on behalf of the Marine staff sergeant in Haditha, has now written a letter to Rep. John Kline (R-MN) advising Kline that he will be added as a defendant to the lawsuit along with Murtha unless he apologizes for statements he made about Haditha and expresses regret for "publicly prejudging" the guilt of the Marines. As Reuters reports:

A U.S. Marine suspected in the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, threatened to sue a second congressman on Friday for comments the Republican made about the case, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

A lawyer for Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who filed suit against a prominent Democratic lawmaker and war critic, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, told Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota he too would be sued for libel if he did not apologize.

Attorney Mark Zaid said Kline's office had agreed to enter confidential settlement negotiations after receiving the letter. Kline's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Zaid sent a similar letter to Murtha, offering to drop the lawsuit against him if he issues a similar apology and retraction.

Kline is a former Marine and is one of the most loyal Bush supporters in Congress. He is currently facing a tough re-election campaign against FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley. And, as an added bonus, Kline is also the much-revered Congressman of John Hinderaker, who never once mentioned that his own Republican Congressman made such statements about Haditha even as he repeatedly smeared the character of Rep. Murtha with comments such as this one:

Mad Jack [Murtha] is the most notorious example of a public figure who has convicted the Marines accused of wrongdoing in Haditha before any evidence has been offered, but he is hardly the only one: the drive-by media have gleefully joined in.

And this: "One of the most disgusting aspects of the story so far is the behavior of ex-Marine Jack Murtha, who has been making the talk show rounds trumpeting claims of atrocity." And, in discussing Haditha, this: "Jack Murtha is a disgrace." All of those attacks were launched against Murtha by Hinderaker (and so many others) based on his statements about Haditha, while they concealed that another former Marine, Bush supporter Kline, made similar and even more accusatory statements after being briefed on the Haditha investigation.

Fox News trumpeted the Murtha lawsuit on numerous programs all day on Thursday (Congressman Murtha accused of smearing the Marines!). One wonders (rhetorically) whether they will report on this new development -- that a pro-war, pro-Bush Congressman who is also a former Marine is accused of the same thing. One additionally wonders whether the right-wing pundits who viciously attacked Murtha over the lawsuit will do the same to Kline. One wonders, too, if Hinderaker will mention the threatened lawsuit (you can ask him here). They can read the accusatory statements made by Kline here.

As for Zaid, I have exchanged several e-mails with him over the past couple of days in which he objected to my characterizations of the lawsuit as being politically motivated. As I advised him, that claim was well-supported by the baffling fact that it was only Murtha who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit notwithstanding the fact that numerous others, including Kline, made statements that were similar and often even more accusatory than those made by Murtha.

Nonetheless, I also told Zaid that if the lawsuit were expanded to include Bush supporters or war supporters, that would certainly make me re-consider my belief about the motives behind the lawsuit and that I would be happy to say so. I'm happy to say that it now appears that Zaid brought the lawsuit not in order to attack Murtha for political reasons, but out of a fair-minded and noble (albeit misguided) desire to vindicate what he believes to be the unfair treatment his client has received. I still believe that the lawsuit is legally groundless for multiple reasons, but at least Zaid's motives appear to be apolitical and objective.

We will see whether the army of warmongering commentators who used the lawsuit to attack -- yet again -- the character and integrity of Congressman Murtha will be anywhere near as fair-minded by reporting that one of their comrades, Congressman Kline, engaged in exactly the same conduct, at least according to the Haditha Marine whom they glorified on Thursday. Or maybe it will start to occur to some of these computer-based military heroes that the reason that former Marines like Murtha and Kline are making the statements they are making about Haditha is because they are actually concerned about the devastating impact which this war is having on the American military institutions to which they devoted so much of their adult lives.

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