Rep. Murtha, first Vietnam vet elected to House, dead at 77

WASHINGTON — Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the first Vietnam veteran elected to the House of Representatives and an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, died Monday of complications of gallbladder surgery, a spokesman for the lawmaker said.

He was 77. He died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., spokesman Matthew Mazonkey told the AP.

Murtha was an active duty Marine until 1955 and remained a reservist through the Vietnam War. When he was elected to the House in 1974, he was a still a reserve officer.

Although he voted in favor the the resolution that granted the Bush administration authority to use force in Iraq, by 2004, he questioned the war, later saying he no longer believed U.S. troops could do more there.

He saved his harshest comments for the Marines involved in the killing of 24 civilians at Haditha, Iraq. The Marines first said they were reacting to an attack; Murtha dismissed their accusations.

“There was no fire fight. 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. And that's what the report is going to tell,” Murtha said in 2006.

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