The Marines who took part in what the military itself is calling the “unjustified killing” of civilians at Haditha last November may as well plead guilty and throw themselves on the mercy of the court.
Better yet, why bother with a trial at all? John Murtha has them tried and convicted already and has announced that a cover-up took place and that the incident is “worse than Abu Ghraib.” And the netnuts, whose skepticism about everything the military says about Iraq seems to have magically disappeared overnight, are trying to compare the 24 civilians who may have been executed by as few as 4 Marines with the more than 240 civilians who were massacred by an entire company in Viet Nam at My Lai. We can forgive them their wild exaggeration because, after all, their hearts are in the right place, even if the facts regarding Haditha are still hidden from everyone. Those facts include the other side of the story, which, if you’re a liberal, isn’t as important as using the incident to reveal some “larger truth” about America and the war. Not exactly clear what that truth is quite yet but give them time, they’re still working on it.
It may very well turn out that the Marines are guilty of unspeakable war crimes and deserving of the harshest punishment imaginable – death by firing squad. Then again, it may turn out that all is not as it appears on the surface and that other mitigating factors will be revealed that could alter our perception of the event. The point is we just don’t know. And this makes all the handwringing on the right and gloating on the left a little hard to understand – especially when one considers the fact that in the past, Iraqis in insurgent strongholds like Haditha have been notoriously inaccurate about relating events surrounding military actions.
Are we getting the whole story from the “eyewitnesses” in Haditha? In fact, if you read media stories of the events that tragic day, one is left with the distinct impression that much of the information comes to us via hearsay – someone is telling a story of what happened based on a story told to them by an eyewitness (we think). Remember that the military, for whatever reason, didn’t begin this investigation until 4 months after the events took place. Is it possible that at least some of the lurid details that have leaked out are incorrect?
Holding one’s condemnation until more facts are revealed is not denying that the incident took place. We used to call this “common sense” – that is, before such silly notions were dispensed with by bloggers who have acquired psychic abilities that enable them to see into other men’s souls not to mention glean details that are unavailable to the rest of us. US military investigators experience with Iraqi eyewitnesses has been extraordinarily uneven, to put the best possible face on it. Remember Guiliana Sgrena, the kidnapped Italian “journalist who claimed tanks fired on her car killing the Italian agent who helped free her? The Iraqi driver swore he was only going 20 MPH when approaching the checkpoint. An investigation revealed he was going 50 MPH. Was the driver lying or was he simply wrong?
The incident I described in my post yesterday at Ishaqi where Iraqis claimed that 11 Iraqis were murdered by US soldiers contains bloodcurdling “eyewitness” accounts of the soldiers executing the Iraqis in cold blood. There are even photographs of the dead at the Tikrit morgue as well as statements from Iraqis that all of the dead, including children, died of gunshot wounds to the head.
The later investigation revealed that insurgents used some civilians as human shields as the Americans moved in and that some civilians died when the house caught fire. It is believed that a few of the insurgents escaped, executing other civilians as they fled.
The fact is, Ishaqi is an insurgent hotbed and some of those statements may have been the direct result of an al Qaeda in Iraq disinformation campaign carried out by sympathizers. And here we have a similar situation in Haditha, a town that has been in the grip of insurgents since the war began. Who do we believe? Who do we trust? Do we automatically take what is told to us by locals whose brothers, fathers, or relatives may be part of the insurgency?
Clearly something happened in Haditha that military investigators believe constitutes a war crime. But until we start to get leaks from the other side of this story, or until we hear what the Marines believed was going on in open court, I prefer to withhold my guilty verdict and instead, pronounce myself troubled about both what the Marines did to civilians and what higher ups may have done to the truth.
Time Magazine is reporting that some of the Marines who took part in the massacre are rolling over on their fellow Marines:
A military source in Iraq says the men of Kilo Company stuck by their story throughout the initial inquiry, but what they told the first military investigator raised suspicions. One of the most glaring discrepancies involved the shooting of the four students and the taxi driver. “They had no weapons, they didn’t show hostile intent, so why shoot them?” the military source says. Khaled Raseef, a spokesman for the victims’ relatives, says U.S. military investigators visited the alleged massacre sites 15 times and “asked detailed questions, examined each bullet hole and burn mark and took all sorts of measurements. In the end, they brought all the survivors to the homes and did a mock-up of the Marines’ movements.” As the detectives found contradictions in the Marines’ account, “the official story fell apart and people started rolling on each other,” says the military source. (HT: Michelle Malkin)
Needless to say, it appears the investigation has progressed past the point of local eyewitness accounts and is now focusing on actual discrepancies in statements made by the Marines involved.
Just as importantly, it appears that a cover-up occurred that goes up the chain of command to at least the battallion level. It is my understanding (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) that battallion commanders have at their disposal funds that they can disburse for reconstruction but that in this case, appear to have been used to compensate victims’ families of the massacre. If true then the nature of the attack on civilians that day was probably falsified at almost the highest levels of command.
Is the war effort going to be further undermined because of the actions of 13 out of the hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women who have sacrificed so much, given so much, endured so much in this cause? Can the lickspittles who couldn’t give a good goddamn about the Iraqi people or our military and who only want to hang George Bush and see this incident as another way to attack their political enemies be allowed to make Haditha a code word for failure?
Not if I have anything to say about it.
Many thanks to all those who pointed out the double negative in my last paragraph above. I have changed the wording from “be prevented from making ” to “be allowed to make.”
Now it makes a little more sense – but I hope my intent was clear nonetheless.