Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha dead at 77

Rep. John Murtha, the 77-year-old Pennsylvania Congressman who spoke out for veterans but opposed the Iraq war, died Monday of complications from gall bladder surgery.

Elected to Congress in 1974, Murtha was the first Vietnam war veteran elected to Congress and was known as a rare Democratic hawk when it came to military issues.

He also skated around ethical issues through much of his Congressional career, escaping indictment in the Abscam scandal and was recently under srutiny for intervening in the defense department contract process on behalf of campaign contributors, a role he could play as the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that overseas Pentagon spending.

Although he voted in 2002 to authorize America’s invasion of Iraq, he grew frustrated with President George W. Bush‘s handling of the war and — in November 2005 — called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

“The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he said.

Yet despite his opposition to the war, Murtha became known as an advcoate for veterans.

“He understood the misery of war, said Rep. David Obey today. “Every person who serves in the military has lost an advocate and a good friend today.”

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