Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Haditha, the Marines, and the Duty of Every American

In November 2005, something happened in the Anbar province town of Haditha. The twenty-four civilians who died November 19 included children, which is the sort of repugnant atrocity to turn any stomach. The questions are many, however, including who actually killed whom. The only rational course is to let the investigations work their way through the system, and to refrain from emotional rants or rash assumptions. It is also important to take note of known conditions:

• John Murtha, while it is true he once served in uniform, has unquestionably disgraced his service by his quick accusation of guilt and a cover-up, when in fact there is no evidence at all of any sort of cover-up, nor has responsibility for the killings been established. The man is now an immoral traitor, willing to defame Marines serving in combat zones simply to pursue his political agenda.

• There is no previous instance known where a squad or platoon of U.S. Marines has ever engaged in the conduct of deliberately killing civilians. In over two hundred years of service, this has never happened.

• On the other hand, terrorists in Iraq are infamous for the deliberate targeting of civilians, and show no regard for children or known innocents. Also it must be noted that terrorists and their allies have made false accusations before; it is not at all uncommon, given the desire by the thugs to damage the reputation of the Americans if they can do so, for terrorists to lie to the media and to investigators.

• Haditha is not a town of honest, law-abiding people, but a hotbed of insurrection and violence. The Marines went there to find arms caches and terrorists, after all, and they were there. The families and friends of terrorists are hardly reliable witnesses to tell a court what Americans did there.

So what does all this mean? We get fooled by shows like ‘CSI’, believing that any and all actions can be analyzed and quickly prove the guilt or innocence of a suspect. Real life is hardly so obliging, especially in a war zone. Most people do not even realize that basic forensics could not be performed in Haditha; there are no ‘incident scene’ photos or trajectory maps. There have not even been autopsies on the bodies, because Muslim tradition opposes disinterment and the families have resisted the NCIS investigation. The bodies have been buried, and with them the best opportunity to prove what really happened. Since the witness testimony is extremely biased at best and no forensic data will be available, the investigators are facing a difficult situation, where the actions must be inferred rather than conclusively determined. In all likelihood, the most likely course for the Judge Advocate General will be a series of interrogations, to see whose story fails to stay together, and what falls out from the repeated talks. It’s going to be a rough year for the Marines accused, even if it turns out that they did nothing wrong at all.

A word should be said here about Marines. I have a deep and serious respect for anyone who wears the uniform of my country, even more for those men who have had to go into combat. As a result, I do not like to delineate between the Reserves and the Regular Army, much less pick over details between the services. Each is unique and worthy of its honor. That said, when bullets start flying and the President wants a group on which he can depend, it most often falls to the Marines to do the hardest job, take the biggest risks, and bear the heaviest burden. When a man joins the Marines, he’d better plan on getting into a war somewhere, because the Marines are usually the first sent in, and often with less support than they need, and unfortunately they also receive less credit than they deserve. Liberals hate the Marines, because Marines are everything Liberals hate:

They are proud
They are strong
They are unabashedly patriotic
They love America, warts and all
They wear the sharpest uniforms, and carry the sharpest blades
They bathe regularly
They speak in proper English
They do not fail
They stick by each other like the closest of brothers

Small wonder then, that terrorists like al-Muhajer and their traitorous supporters like Murtha would want to smear the Marine Corps. Our duty, yours and mine, as Americans is clear – keep an open mind and let the investigation and the courts reach their conclusions, but in the meantime do not fail our military. Respect the men who wear the uniform and do not assume guilt where none has yet been proven, nor give credence to a vermin who would use politics to slander our bravest and truest heroes. If these men should be guilty, it will be determined and they would be unfortunate aberrations of a noble group, but if they prove innocent, we should be able to say we stood with these men when they needed us, not against them because some coward told a lie to the media.

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