HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — Congressman John Murtha, who said the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq was based on "flawed policy wrapped in illusion" and called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops there, has died.
The Democrat died Monday at a hospital after suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. He was 77.
Murtha's large intestine was damaged during the surgery at a hospital in Maryland, outside Washington, said longtime friend Rep. Bob Brady, another Democrat from Pennsylvania. An infection and fever led Murtha to be admitted days later, on Jan. 31, to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia, where he died.
Murtha, a former Marine who became the de facto voice of veterans, was the first Vietnam veteran to serve in Congress and was "incredibly effective in his service in the House," said Rep. David Obey, a Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"He understood the misery of war," Obey said. "Every person who serves in the military has lost an advocate and a good friend today."
Murtha voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq, but his growing frustration over the administration's handling of the war prompted him in November 2005 to call for an immediate withdrawal of troops.
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised," he said. "It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."
Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat, said in part because of Murtha, "America is now on track to removing all combat troops from that country by this summer."
Murtha's opposition to the Iraq war rattled Washington, where he enjoyed bipartisan respect for his work on military issues.
President Barack Obama called Murtha, who was known in his home state for helping bring money and projects to areas depressed by the decline of the coal and steel industries, "a steadfast advocate for the people of Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years" with a "tough-as-nails" reputation.
Kimberly Hefling contributed to this story from Washington.
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