Roy Bean In The New York Times

Trust in my judgment of the book. Besides, you’re gonna hang no matter what it says in there, ’cause I am the law, and the law is the handmaiden of justice. Get a rope.

-Judge Roy Bean

Update: Check out former SF Operator Uncle Jimbo’s overview of Haditha

Today the NYT has an article about Haditha. Here’s the lede:

Last December, when the Marine Corps charged four infantrymen with killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, the allegation was as dark as it was devastating: after a roadside bomb had killed their buddy, a group of marines rampaged through nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.

In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance. After a perfunctory military investigation, Haditha was brushed aside, but once the details were disclosed, the killings became an ugly symbol of a difficult, demoralizing war. After a fuller investigation, the Marines promised to punish the guilty.

I’d laugh if I wasn’t so disgusted.Here’s the deal. If – as the New York Times appears to do – you believe in the process of law, you don’t get to make determinations like those in these paragraphs until the process has worked its way along and reached a conclusion.

You can argue – as many did during Jim Crow – that the process is deeply flawed, and point out the flaws, as many did. Here’s the best the Times can do:

Experts on military law said the difficulty in prosecuting the marines for murder is understandable, given that action taken in combat is often given immunity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Something bad clearly happened at Haditha. Was it a crime? I doubt that we’ll ever know, and the sad truth is that this – like the millions of other cases of civilian death in wartime – will rest primarily on the consciences of the young men who pulled the triggers.

But ask yourself this – do they deserve this?

“We can’t say those guys didn’t commit a crime,” said Michael F. Noone Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer and law professor at Catholic University of America. “We can only say that after an investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

The Times actually has some sensible quotes, which it buries mid-article:

“It certainly erodes that sense that what they did was wrong,” Elizabeth L. Hillman, a legal historian who teaches military law at Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, said of the outcomes so far. “When the story broke, it seemed like we understood what happened; there didn’t seem to be much doubt. But we didn’t know.”

It appears that the Times, facing the fact that they don’t know what really happened at Haditha has made a simple decision. The Marines must hang, no matter what it says in the book.

The article was by Paul Von Zielbauer; there’s a list of his stories here. Note the one that’s titled “Investigator Urges Dismissal Of Charges Against Marine” (behind the paywall).

The Times’ Public editor can be emailed here, I’d encourage it.

53 thoughts on “Roy Bean In The New York Times”

  1. AL

    “It appears that the Times, facing the fact that they don’t know what really happened at Haditha has made a simple decision. The Marines must hang, no matter what it says in the book.”

    I don’t see where you get this from? I read the article this morning and I wasn’t left with the impression that the Times wanted the Marines to hang. I don’t see the justification for your claim. The article seems to me to be about how allegations that were once viewed by many as a “slamdunk” case have turned out to be much more complicated and difficult to prove than was originally thought.

    It seems to me that to see the article in the light in which you see it requires a set of expectations whose gravitational pull is so strong in one direction that nothing can ever be seen in any other light. Honestly, I have the greatest respect for you and your thought, but this seems to me to be a blind spot, this being the NYT, to turn the metaphor around.

  2. mark:

    The article seems to me to be about how allegations that were once viewed by many as a “slamdunk” case have turned out to be much more complicated and difficult to prove than was originally thought.

    If this is so, why does the story begin by saying that the massacre of “24 innocent people” was “brushed aside”? The cold-blooded massacre – Hell, Murtha might as well have written it. They’ve internalized the rhetoric of people like him until it’s second nature.

  3. Glen, the report says that because that’s what happened. According to the US military, the original reports were brushed aside (which is why those who did the brushing were subsequently charged with failure to investigate reports of crimes) prior to the full investigation. It is the military that is doing the investigating, the charging and the prosecuting, not the NYT, which is just reporting on the progress of the investigation and trials. What would you have the NTY do, ignore all this lest someone get the wrong impression?

    The “massacre” is described by the NYT as an allegation, which indeed it is, one made by the US military courts.

  4. _”We can’t say those guys didn’t commit a crime,” said Michael F. Noone Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer and law professor at Catholic University of America. “We can only say that after an investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.”_
    Surely Mr. Noone’s comment is precisely all that can be said. Your assessment that _”Something bad clearly happened at Haditha.”_ is actually more pejorative than Mr. Noone’s statement. I suspect your outrage must stem from a desire not to offend the only sacred cow left in the US – ‘support the troops’. Not a bad principle – but dangerous if meant unconditionally.

  5. More US soldiers killed and tried for zionist causes. Only Israel benefits from these endless Middle East wars. Iraq is the beginning. As we commit war-crimes in Baghdad, the US gov’t commits treason at home by opening mail, eliminating habeas corpus, using the judiciary to steal private lands, banning books like “America Deceived” from Amazon and Wikipedia, conducting warrantless wiretaps and engaging in illegal wars on behalf of AIPAC’s ‘money-men’. Soon, another US false-flag operation will occur (sinking of an Aircraft Carrier by Mossad) and the US will invade Iran.. Then we’ll invade Syria, then Saudi Arabia, then Lebanon (again) then ….
    Final link (before Google Books bends to gov’t demands and censors the title):
    http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?&isbn=0-595-38523-0

  6. I guess I’m missing the conclusion that you see AL. Innocent people can be killed in wartime and the actions covered by the UCMJ, the initial investigation was ignored and not really matching to reality, and the Marines promised to punish the guilty (otherwise, why bring unpremeditated murder charges). The squad leader was “Charged with 18 counts of murder”:http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/12/21/charges-haditha.html. And, in the 2nd investigation that lead to these charges, it was released that the intent was believed to be revenge.

    ++ to mark’s response to Greg – “check out Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haditha_killings. Initially, it was called as 15 civilians and 8 insurgents, and only after the facts did not match up to this it was looked into more. Check out house number 2 – let me know if you consider those people to be innocent.

  7. mark et al – I think what triggered my reaction was the tone of the article, which was to me pretty clearly (based on the opening and closing) one of “guilty troops get off because of higherups slacking off on prosecution”. I’ve reread it and still see it there…VMMV

    A.L.

  8. No worries – one could definitely a biased tone in the first paragraphs, but it sets out a lot of what the narrative and past stories have been about it, for almost a year now. They just chose to go dramatic headline-inflammatory past story-current event matching the headline, instead of dramatic headline-current event-inflammatory past story. I’m not sure if there is a way that a Journalist “should” do it, but it’s interesting how the article might change the way it impacts you. More than the prosecution, I’m more interested in the presiding officer:

    _Colonel Ware later recommended dismissing the charges against those two men, and he has said the killings should be viewed in the context of combat against an enemy that ruthlessly employs civilians as cover. He warned that murder charges against marines could harm the morale of troops still in Iraq._

    Norm: you know Mossad watches this blog, right?
    Ah, feeding trolls. Good times, good times.

  9. Jimbo’s got a piece on Haditha for tomorrow, I think. He asked me for some feedback on it, so I know he’s writing it; just not sure if it’s tomorrow it’s coming out.

  10. AL,

    As the third of three generations of Marines (my children are Army and Navy respectively – but I love them anyhow :-) I am extremely proud of and have great respect for the honor and traditions of the Corps.

    Something went terribly wrong at Haditha. I have followed the story and it is hard to accept the killings as the run of the mill inevitible “collateral damage” occurring in the “fog of war” or any of that sort of thing. Based on what has been released it appears to be, for the most part, just what was alleged; revenge killing of innocents*. It’s hard to see it otherwise. And these things do happen in combat. However, as the Air Force lawyer says, there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to convict.

    That being said, the Marines involved are absolutely entitled to due process under the UCMJ before being referred to as bad Marines, dishonorable murders or whatever other derogatory unfounded label might be placed upon them.

    And that being said, I still don’t see where the article does anything more than report the facts. The allegation was just as the NYT article says it was. All that follows is factual.

    What? Are you trying to silence the media? You don’t like the facts so you don’t want them reported?

    The comparison of the NYT author to Judge Roy Bean is, well, “to the moon”. I nominate you for this week’s To the Moon Award.

    *”Innocents” is a relative term. Some of those killed may not have actually pulled the trigger, but they may have been aware that the trigger was going to be pulled and did nothing to stop it. They may have aided and abetted the trigger pullers. Of course, the children who died didn’t have an option.

  11. So let’s rewrite the opening paragraphs of the story. Here’s the original:

    “Last December, when the Marine Corps charged four infantrymen with killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, the allegation was as dark as it was devastating: after a roadside bomb had killed their buddy, a group of marines rampaged through nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.

    In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance. After a perfunctory military investigation, Haditha was brushed aside, but once the details were disclosed, the killings became an ugly symbol of a difficult, demoralizing war. After a fuller investigation, the Marines promised to punish the guilty.

    But now, the prosecutions have faltered. Since May, charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman. Prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings violated the American military code of justice.”

    Here’s an alternate version:

    “Last December, the decision was made by the Marine Corps to try four infantrymen for the events in Haditha in 2005. While a number of different versions of the events circulated, and the events behind the known facts not completely clear, the known facts – 24 dead iraqis, including women and children – painted a dark picture, and many in the US and Arab media drew dark conclusions about the behavior of the US troops that day, some terming the deaths ‘a massacre’.

    In spite of the preliminary investigation which did not support charging the troops, the horror of the story as it was widely presented and the seriousness of the charges it would represent if they were upheld made the killings an ugly and demoralizing symbol to many who opposed a war they called ugly and demoralizing. Others saw the unavoidable casualties of a war not fought by the rules, where the enemy wears no uniforms and mingles freely with women and children, knowing that our troops will hesitate when that happens.

    The decision was made to put the troops on trial, but when viewed through the lens of the applicable law – the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the crime which was apparent to many who judged based on the early news stories suddenly became far less clear. Prosecutors were unable to make a case, and since May, charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman.”

    Same facts, different story.

    A.L.

  12. AL – I like you writing of it much better. Based on the *FACTS*. Sweet and one reason I keep coming back here. The point that you make about the enemy not following the rules is spot on. In WWII and other wars those folks could rightly be called *SPYS*, put up against a wall and shot. Our support of the resistance in France back then, who were non-uniformed people can and did find this their fate when caught. They accepted their fate. And that is fact, part and partial, of the vaunted *”International Law”* the ‘Left’ always like to trot out and display, usually in the wrong context.

    The Hobo

  13. The Narrative was correct but the facts were wrong. Classic.

    Fact: “innocent people” were not “cold-bloodly murdered.” Most of the dead were hard-core AQ terrorists killed in house-to-house fighting, as both UAV surveillance video and and radio traffic at the time confirm. Evidence that was WITHEHLD from the Defense ala Nifong.

    Another Leftists Lynching, in other words.

    What happened was the dead were both AQ and tied to some Iraqi big-wigs, and Newsweek and Time ran uncritically reports from AQ stringers that grossly distorted what happened (JUST LIKE the Duke / Nifong case btw). Another Nifong-type lynching.

    Eventually: ballistics evidence (showing a firefight took place), physical evidence (“Iraqi witnesses” and the prosecution claimed four fighters were “executed” in a closet that could not hold a single man it was so small) and the efforts by Marine intel men incensed by NCIS pandering to a PC-witchhunt (and exposure to the Defense of the withheld evidence of the UAV surveillance and radio recordings) made the Nifong-type witch-hunt collapse.

    Meanwhile JUST like the Duke LaCrosse non-Rape non-Case, Liberals, Lefties, and the various Witchhunters tied themselves into knots. Including the NYT which could not report what I’ve just told you. Because reporting the ACTUAL FACTS would UNDERMINE THEIR CORRECT NARRATIVE.

    Pathetic.

    “Something went terribly wrong at Haditha.”
    —————
    Nothing went wrong in Haditha. This is war. One of my grandfathers was a Marine in Okinawa. Specifically a flame-thrower man. One of his less lovely duties was rappelling down cliffs to burn out caves. Sometimes there were Japanese soldiers there waiting to kill every Marine and Soldier they could. Sometimes there were innocent women and children. There was no way to know. Either way everyone in the cave was dead.

    Like every other Marine, my grandfather did NOT choose brutality, but survival. A nation that puts enemy civilians over it’s soldiers and Marines is not serious about winning or it’s own survival either. My Grandfather (reportedly) did not like this one bit. It upset him quite naturally as it would any decent man. But he wanted to survive (the life expectancy btw of a flamethrower man in Okinawa was measured in minutes — it was a miracle he lived). And he wanted just as much to do whatever it took to have his buddies live.

    It is fundamentally childish and naive, indeed foolish avedis to believe you can fight a war with scalpels and not kill innocent people at time. The Marines at Haditha did EXACTLY what they were trained to: attack into the ambush and kill their potential killers. In an urban environment this will inevitably kill civilians. So what?

    You’d be happier if the Marines simply stood around and were slaughtered, rather than endanger enemy civilians?

    My perspective: I expect Marines to be and act as Marines, not super-cops issuing Miranda warnings to AQ people trying to kill them. I suspect most Americans share the same perspective.

    The NYT: objectively on the side of AQ.

  14. THe NYT is not the villain here. Rather, it is the entire bloody, costly horrorshow in Iraq that is villainous.

    The children slaughtered in Haditha were not “spy’s”, nor is the very real fact that insurgents or our enemies in Iraq “freely mingle with women and children” any legitimate excuse for slaughtering women and children in act of revenge, and ultimately – echoing avedis – “Something went terribly wrong at Haditha.”

    This macabre incident only proves to shine a hot light on how unmanageable our situation is Iraq is then and now. This is only one of a thousand incidents where children have been slaughtered in Iraq, by insurgents, or as the result of American fire power. This is what happens in war. Soldiers and civilians thrust into desparate life and death situations that we here in our comfy homes, and particularly our chickenhawk leaders cannot possibly imagine, react in ways that may or may not be justified, or even understandable, – but in the heat and fury of those desparate life and death situations human beings are no longer acting in the context of reason, or understanding, or even conscience. Survival and the survival of the people next to you compeld soldiers and civilians to act in desparate and terrible ways in war.

    Pity is all that can be offered to anyone involved in the Haditha incident, – but judgement should fall squarely on those who created this nightmare, and thrust these poor souls into these desperate and terrible situations.

    People can take one side or another, and we can all offer of our tepid, detached, and ultimately meaningless excuses or justifications for what “…went terribly wrong at Haditha.’ –
    Yet – the real reason we are all so disturbed by this macabre episode, is that its horridness demands that we examine and ultimately confront the brutally simple question we all must ask and none can ignore – why are our soldiers and Iraqi children forced to endure these unspeakable horrors in this war? Why? I want to know – why?
    Why?

  15. The horrors of war are being inflicted upon Iraqi civilians because islamist extremists, tribal gangs and the remnants of tyrannical Ba’athist deadenders insist upon using violence to prevent the Iraqi people from governing themselves in peace.

  16. AL at #13
    Yup – it pulls out information that is 4 paragraphs down, and sets a different tone, and I mostly like it better. I’d drop the preliminary investigation part – at least part of which includes a finding that 15 of the civilians were accidentally killed during a gun fight, not as part of aggressive house clearing with fragmentation grenades. And while I’m not sure if you were aiming for neutral tone, but if you were I’d add something around “Others” in the 2nd paragraph to even out “many who opposed a war”, as the views on this were largely(but not completely) based on opinions of Iraq. Minor quibbles, all in all.

    Robohobo at #14
    The NYT article is based on facts too – unpleasant facts, and set in a different tone. And – not all of “these people” are spies. The French Resistance (or Italisan Partisians) has an unfortunate parallel to many of the national insurgents, and I keep holding out hope that the Iraqi people will rise up against them. And the actions of the Gestapo (or Milice) included summary executions, razing of villages, torture and more. Well outside of international law.

    AQI is a different beast all together.

  17. Jim at #14.
    “Here is an account from the defense lawyer”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/10/AR2006061001129_pf.html of one of the people involved. Search for “lingering” to get to a loose idea of what happened. I have few problems believe this was a horrible accident, and casualties of SOP – and hope that this is all that happened.

    This is the account DIRECTLY given from one of the defendants to his lawyer, who proceeded to make it public. No where does it support your grand conspiracy of Al-Qaeda, Drones, Time, NCIS and the moon landing. Do you have anywhere that you could back up your information from? And, in fact, the drone footage was initially “not provided to investigators”:http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/18/africa/web.0818haditha.php – let alone withheld from the defense.

    Please, please – provide me, provide the world with your correct facts.

  18. “We can’t say those guys didn’t commit a crime,” said Michael F. Noone Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer and law professor at Catholic University of America. “We can only say that after an investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

    Slightly off topic, but this statement could have been made, with just as much validity, about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Ray’s report did not exonerate them, despite popular myth. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a concept for the courtroom, not for the court of public opinion.

  19. A.L.,

    “Same facts, different story.” Very true. But to me, your version is more wobbly in that it is purposely designed to carry–if not construct–a particular point of view: yours. You want the story to contain the “moral” lesson that you think other peope should hear so that they don’t get the wrong idea or have their ideas, which are opposed to yours, reinforced about the war. Yours is a didactic approach to journalism regarding the war. You seem to believe that the media in general should make sure that what they report is put into proper context, with proper context in this case defined as not risking undermining support for the war. This is the prism through which you seem to most frequently judge the merits of journalism in general and individiual stories in particular. Personally, I don’t like to read such paternalistic journalism.

    I guess it becomes somewhat personal in the end, that is to say, a matter of subjective interpretation. I’ll go back to my original statement: when I read this story yesterday morning, hours before your post, I did not walk away with the feelings you fear the story will stir. I walked away thinking that the facts around the story now seem murkier than previously beleived and it looks like we may never know what happened.

    Finally, I think your version deliberately conceals information about the premilinary investigation and suggests that it was thorough and conclusive. My understanding is that army prosecutors feel otherwise.

  20. A.L., sure that’s possible. But I will suggest that the NYT feels a duty, which it fullfills reasonably well, of finding a balance between your point of view and mine. As a strong opponent of the war, I was always frustrated by the NYT failure to challenge the Adminstration’s version of events both in the lead up to the war and during the “embed” period of the early days. However, in the end, I do recognize that the NYT is under no obligation to promote my view. As I liberal, I find the NYT conservative. Conservatives find it liberal. War supporters think it’s anti war, war opponents find it too obsequious to the administration. I think John Burns is a great reporter, well deserving of his pulitzers, and that the NYT does as good a job as possilbe in reporting the news for the general public from a middle-of-the-road consensus point of view. For partisans, like you and me, middle of the road point of view can be annoying as hell.

    As to this particular story, nothing hinges upon it beyond the tale & fate of those individuals involved. Were the events of Haditha the result of barbaric savagery or heroic altruism on the part of a small group of US Marines or soldiers, it would not have an impact upon my (or anyone else’s) support for the war. I have no interest in the massacre version being true. It would not reinforce my opposition to the war in any way. I disagree strongly with your central premise that public perception of the war is based upon these individual media-fed stories. I think public perception and support for the war has shifted over time because of the larger more general facts such as length of time, # of troops involved, lack of general progress, all measured against general expectations.

    It just isn’t and should not be the media’s role to buck up lagging support by contexting (if that’s a word) individual stories to ensure readers don’t get the imagined “wrong” idea.

    But let’s take a look at your original post. There’s one quote on which you try to hang the times as hangman, but you don’t mention it’s at the very end of the piece. On the other hand, the quote which you admit is sensible, you criticize as “buried” in the middle. I think you are tugging and massaging the piece to make it appear more slanted than it really is.

    I know my arguements are jumping all over the place…sorry.

  21. mark – no, it’s a wooly issue, and a hard one to talk about.

    But as someone who writes stuff – in part- for a living, there’s a core point in rhetoric which is elementary and typically true; people remember what they read at the front and end of what you write.

    So when I read something that goes Strong-A, Strong-B, Strong-A – it’s pretty clear what my takeaway is supposed to be…and in this case, that’s exactly how the story was structured. And what I reacted to so strongly.

    A.L.

  22. “But I will suggest that the NYT feels a duty, which it fullfills reasonably well, of finding a balance between your point of view and mine.”

    No it doesn’t, and no it doesn’t.

    I’m not sure either AL’s or the NYT’s version of the story is good journalism, but I do know both are biased. Sometimes its really easy to see how the NYT should rewrite thier story for neutral tone. Some cases, like this one, it isn’t. (Maybe some stories have been turned into larger narratives so many times that it’s impossible at some point to have a neutral tone.) However, what is clear is that no attempt to write this story in a neutral tone was ever made by the NYT. I have a simple test.

    Count the number of adjectives per sentence. If its more than about one, then there was never an attempt to achieve a nuetral tone. Facts rarely need adjectives to support them, and those it does need are objective. They certainly don’t need subjective emotional coloring adjectives, and these subjective perceptual adjectives are not factual ones. They are products of an individual experience of the event. The problem is that the writer is taking thier own experience of the event as factual, and doesn’t even see why it isn’t. Not only is the Times peices loaded with coloring words like ‘perfunctory’, ‘dark’, ‘devestating’, ‘ugly’, ‘difficult’, ‘demoralizing’) but its also loaded with emotionally provocative trigger verbs: ‘rampaged’, ‘massacring’. It’s important to note that the articles opens with the false story. It’s still clinging to its original narrative.

    Note the contrast in the third paragraph with its comparitive lack of coloring words. The third paragraph written with as much purple prose as the first two would have looked like this:

    “But now, the prosecutions have completely faltered. Since May, the libelous and inflamatory charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been throughly discredited, and a summary dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman. The now disgraced prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings violated the American military code of justice.”

    The thing that strucks me about so much of the NYT’s writing is that it strikes a tone which I strive to avoid even in my prose fiction because it is so over the top, and so much wants to tell rather than show, that even in a fictional account where I’m trying to provoke emotion it risks losing the audience. It is entirely inappropriate for factual accounts to be written in this way.

    Despite it’s bias, AL’s version of the story is superior not because it clearly contextualizes the various narratives about the story as narratives. It makes it much more clear to the reader that the narratives were simply things other people said about the story. That’s a more honest approach to journalism, even if AL’s bias in wanting to create a replacement narrative is clear.

  23. JR,”Nothing went wrong in Haditha. This is war. One of my grandfathers was a Marine in Okinawa………”

    Yeah? So? My old man was a rifleman on Okinawa (6th Marine Div.). Members of his company regularly shot Japs who came out of caves with their hands up because the treacherous bastards often had grenades concealed under their clothes and were just trying to get close enough to take a Marine or two with them to Nirvana. Wounded Japs were also shot for the same reason.

    What does this have to do with women and children in Haditha? What is your point?

    The war in the Pacific was not about nation building – like Iraq is – it was about the utter anihilation of a ruthless determined foe. The war in the Pacific was not a COIN operation it was full out total war.

    Jim, often your input seems utterly tangental to me.

    If the Marines of K/3/1 had truly come under small arms fire from the homes containing the women and children there would have been evidence and that evidence – like 7.62x39mm spent casing, etc – would would have been presented in their defense and especially to the press. No such evidence exists, apparently. Furthermore, at least one member of the squad testified that the whole thing was a revenge killing. I find it very hard to believe that a Marine – a combat Marine at that – would testify in such a way against his brothers unless there was something very wrong and very upsetting about what happened; something that was so wrong it threatened his sense of honor as a Marine more than his loyalty to his unit and buddies – no snall thing.

    But the point of AL’s post is not to re-try the case.

    As for AL’s re-writing of the introduction, I don’t see much difference from the NYT’s except that AL has avoided mentioning the fact that Marines had filed a fraudulent AAR which stated that all of the casualties – Marine and civilian – were the result of the IED; something blatantly untrue and, quite frankly, very suspicious and punishible under the regulations.

  24. AL, I will try a third approach, one that just covers the facts.

    —-
    Last december the Marine Corps put four infantrymen on trial for the events that were widely reported as “the Haditha Massacre”.

    The details of what happened are not clear. It is known that 24 iraqis were killed by Marines and no weapons were recovered, and many of the civilians were women and children. False reports were filed and evidence hidden by junior officers who have since been punished for doing so.

    After a lengthy trial, charges against two infantrymen and one Marine officer have been dismissed and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman.

    While it is not disputed that the infantrymen killed these unarmed civilians including women and children, the prosecutors failed to prove that when they killed the unarmed civilians they violated policy or behaved apart from standard procedure.
    —-

    By simply stating the facts and leaving out the verbiage about what it means, I present an unbiased report. People can read in bias, they can do that with anything, but I simply presented the available facts with no value judgements included.

  25. Great thread. A.L., you’re doing something right to draw out reasoned, insightful comments from both sides. mark, Dave, avedis, J. Thomas, I learned something from each of your remarks.

    World War II–Studs Terkel’s “Good War”–is the implicit benchmark for so much of the discussion about the media’s performance in Iraq. In other threads, I’ve compared some reporters unfavorably to Ernie Pyle (and John Burns & Michael Yon, favorably). But perhaps we should recognize that in many respects, WW2 was an outlier.

    * In some American wars, the Press was forced to take the side of the government and the majority. (The Revolutionary War, World War I.)

    * In some, there was a tumultuous mixture of pro-war patriotic jingoism and antiwar dissent designed to erode popular support (Northern papers in the Civil War, Spanish-American War (?), Mexican War, Vietnam).

    * A durable press consensus that “this is our war too” may have been limited to WW2 and Korea.

    The other sides (pl.) don’t concern themselves with a perspective like this. Their journalists are on duty as soldiers employed for one of their respective Ministries of Truth, building up civilian or fighter morale, or working to demoralize the Home Front of the Far Enemy or Near Enemy.

    “What attitudes do we wish Western journalists would bring to these fights?”

    It’s a Wicked problem.

  26. AMac, that is good thinking.

    Something that I alluded to but didn’t develop – and it’s in your comment too – is that in nation building/COIN or whatever it is we are doing in Iraq, it is necessary to consider – and win over – the hearts and minds if the *indigenous* population. This is quite different from WW2.

    If Haditha was merely dismissed – or brushed aside – as the Corps originally attempted to handle the matter, the Iraqi population gets the wrong message. More Iraqis migrate to the insurgency to fight against the barbaric invaders…………..the pituce should be easu to get.

    To some extent a tone of disapproval in our press concerning Haditha type incidents might actually *benefit* the mission.

    Iraqis read Time, NYT, etc………it’s sort of nice for them to know that the American public doesn’t approve of the killing of Iraqi women and children; that we value these lives.

  27. Avedis and J. Thomas.

    I hope you do not dislocate your shoulders patting yourselves on the back

    Where does it show that false reports were submitted by junior officers? Do any of the investigating officers reports suggest this.

    It is my understanding that there was and still is a clear dispute about the events and that in most cases, at the final hearing stage, the marines are being found to have acted within the ROE.

    I should also say that I read in another post that the Lt. In charge of the group declared the first house as “hostile” (not the actual term used) and this changed the ROE.

  28. Davod, I had no idea there was any controversy about the false reports. They’re mentioned in a link that Dave provided in #18 above:

    “link”:http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/18/africa/web.0818haditha.php

    However, it appears I was not accurate on that. There was a public report that most of the civilian casualties were due to the IED explosion, and I haven’t tracked down who made that false claim. False reports were passed by junior officers and I remember reading about punishments for it, but this particular link mentions only that one officer lost his command and they didn’t say why.

    _I should also say that I read in another post that the Lt. In charge of the group declared the first house as “hostile” (not the actual term used) and this changed the ROE._

    Yes. I left out that detail, since it’s part of the fog. The claim was that somebody from the house shot at them, so they went in and killed everybody in the house. Then they believed that the insurgent had run to a different house so they went there and killed everybody in that house too. But the insurgent wasn’t there either.

    Apart from that they killed four or five guys in a car who might have been hostile, and they claimed they first challenged them and they tried to run. They killed one guy who was going from one house to another, and four guys who looked suspicious; they claimed that one of those four had an AK47 which they left behind. They left various civilians alive in other houses; they didn’t kill everybody they saw.

    This is all consistent with the ROE. If you believe that a sniper has shot from a house it’s appropriate to search the house. Since there may be a dangerous insurgent in the house, it’s appropriate to throw grenades into rooms before you look and then to shoot everywhere in the room while you do look. If you see someone moving from one house to another it’s appropriate to kill him. And certainly if you see someone who’s armed it’s appropriate to kill him and anybody in the room with him.

    It’s at least common practice after an IED event to kill whoever is present who looks most suspicious — he could have been the spotter who set it off. And MAMs in cars are suspicious, they might be ready to shoot or they might have a car bomb.

    So if the Marines really thought there was a shot from that first building then all the rest follows from the ROE. In that case the infantrymen involved did nothing wrong except fail to collect weapons. They were following the ROE we use to protect civilians from the iraqi insurgents.

    It’s all part of the plan to provide security to iraqi civilians. They were doing the right thing. But if they lied about the shot from that first house then they may have been breaking the ROE. One Marine claimed that they were angry and they were killing people for revenge. That they believed everybody in Haditha was against them and everybody in the area was complicit in the IED attack.

    And the soldier who led the attacks on the houses had participated in Fallujah, where it was considered perfectly appropriate to kill everybody. The ROE were a little different there.

    So anyway, it happened back in 2005. We’ve changed strategy 3 times since then, and we’re about to change again around September or so. it’s all water under the dam now. Iraqis aren’t going to care much results from the trial — they know enough about the ROE to see that in 2005 the difference between following standing orders and indiscriminate revenge killing was so slight that it’s very hard to tell the difference afterward. But now we’ve changed our tactics and we’re out there on foot protecting the civilians, and it’s time for everybody to forgive and forget. The better we do at talking to iraqis and enforcing curfews and killing insurgents while not killing the civilians we protect, the more they’ll support the legitimate iraqi government and the closer we’ll come to victory. The particular Marines who killed those 23 unarmed civilians (and possibly one armed one) have had their reputations tarnished for 2 years, when they probably weren’t doing anything unusual. It’s time to forgive and forget.

  29. I am not so sure about this interpretation of the rules of engagement as they exist or existed at the time of the Haditha incident.

    It is nice and easy to say, “well, those Marines were simply following the ROE”, but where is the proof of this?

    Maybe they were maybe they weren’t – though I find this depiction of the ROEs to be extreme and unlikely.

  30. Yeah, let’s just “forgive and forget”. Let’s “forgive and forget” the deceptions and pathologicaly lies the led to this costly, bloody, noendinsight horrorshow. Let’s just “forgive and forget” the 3700 dead US soldiers, godonlyknows how many contracts, the unknown unknown tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s killed, the many thousands of horribly maimed, or permantely disabled by the Iraq war. Let’s just “forgive and forget” that grim fact that $4bn of the peoples dollars are being wasted in Iraq for the Bush governments socalled legacy. Let’s just “forgive and forget” the wanton profiteering. Let’s just “forgive and forget” and all the crimes and horrors of this war. Let’s just also then “forgive and forget” the insurgents for thier despicable murderous brutality, and of course then we should by the same token “forgive and forget” all the commentary and efforts of the anti-war, anti-Bush government voices foriegn and domestic. Let’s just “forgive and forget” the entire ghoulish nightmare and pretend everything is fine and dandy, return to analyzing really important issues, – like Lindsey Lohans personal life.

    Change the channel, moveon, there’s nothing notable here.

  31. Tony, your post #34 was a perfect example of how people get banned.

    I don’t care how justified or superior you felt at the end of that rant. I am sure that if you are banned — soon or later — you will feel righteous, and perhaps superior, and might even recount it as evidence of… something or other… ’til the day you expire.

    It appears to stem from your not caring about this (WoC) context; you’ve said as much already. Your message is more important than how the “bar owner” and “bartenders” want to run the “bar”. But that cannot stand, not here, or it ceases to be “our bar” and becomes your …something else.

    I am aware that “our bar” gets read as “their echo chamber” by some, but that is not my problem. Never was, never will be.

    Here’s what’s wrong with what you did:

    You took one phrase from someone else’s post and expanded it into a jampacked bitchfest, the sense of which is more or less indistinguishable from others you’ve posted here… in a way that is spot-on for your message and utterly tangential (I am being charitable by using that word here) to the thread. You did not follow Joe Katzman’s recent explicit recommendations for adding value, which addressed his (founder’s) sentiments far better than I could.

    I am not AL, so I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that this sort of content is not why you were invited back.

    I strongly suspect that any more repetition of this sort of post is a reason you will leave, by your choice or by others’. Please be advised that I do not derive satisfaction from this prediction or its entailments.

  32. I was not invited back. I never left. That said, the post that so offended you, was a reaction to a suggestion that offended me. While I question and would challenge judgement being unduly placed on soldiers or civilians thrust by leaders into these kinds of ghoulish circumstances, – I find it insulting to imagine that anyone would simply turn the page, change the channel, sweep off the radar, walk past, or simply “forgive or forget” an incident like Haditha. The horrible incident in Haditha speaks to the epic brutality, ugliness, insanity, and inhumanity of the horrorshow in Iraq, and maybe the entire concept of war.

    I did not, and do not hurl personal aspersions on, or besmirch in anyway the commentarian, but stated in perhaps redundant terms that I disagree with that commentarians suggestion.

    Obviously, I am not a welcome commentarian here, – but I learn and glean information from hearing and debating with theotherside, and would hope and intend that by presenting an alternative viewpoint, and through that debate, – I do add value to the discussion. That is my intent, nothing more.

    What about the question pose in post #15?

    “Deliver us from evil!”

  33. Tony, you are “mindreading” again. I was not offended in any way. I was attempting to be conversational, dispassionate and descriptive. I supposed that asking you to read the “WoC comments guidelines”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/003367.php would avail little or nothing.

    The issue isn’t my being offended, because I’m not. The issue is how you respond to your experiencing being offended. Between stimulus and response there is always a moment. Are you using it, or is it using you?

    This blog isn’t about you repeating how outraged you are at every provocation you experience. In your better posts you seem to see that. I do not deprecate you or your views; I do remark that the content of your post was not of high quality, however furious you felt like being.

  34. Tony, you’re here on sufferance. You were banned before because you presented us with a nonstop series of posts like #34.

    That’s the last post like that I’m interested in seeing here; there are plenty of other places where you can have dialog like that – that’s not what Winds is for.

    I’m interested in what you have to say, and think your point of view is one worth expressing as a part of the conversation. But you have to make your points in that context, or make them someplace else.

    I hope I’m being clear.

    And apologies to everyone – between the holiday and a launch Thursday, I’m buried…

    A.L.

  35. Tony, nobody’s perfect. And the notion that maybe war is _always_ more brutal and horrible than it’s worth is a perfectly credible one. There’s an old Borscht Belt comedy routine that had the tag line “Vass you dere, Fritz?”

    The linchpin of the “chickenhawk” argument, and its sole source of any moral authority, is the idea that until you’ve experienced it up close over a long period you don’t know what you’re talking about, and if you’re hawkish you don’t know what you’re “wishing for”.

    I’m able to find sympathy for that view, even as I question that it trumps all others. I am not addressing that view’s intersection with your own here, just mentioning it as a motif that recurs in line with your passionate comments.

    “War is hell” has been repeated into triteness; it sounds banal to people who don’t really grok the context in which it was uttered. Hell — to a quondam believer in its original meaning — would be eternal damnation to torment, never to experience or witness a moment of peace or joy. Never experiencing God’s grace, not even the hope that it will ever be seen again. To borrow from Eric Blair, a boot stamping on a human face. Forever.

    The problem as I’ve said before is that the calculus of death is tricky. Moral compasses don’t work so well in a really twitchy these-people-might-kill-me environment. This is indisputable to me. One more hellish aspect of warfare.

    Identifying threats and assessing their priority is so tricky and so taxing that humans are by and large really averse to it. Maybe all organisms are. Until (it seems) a tipping point is reached and the model of existence is “it’s almost all threats, almost all the time”.

    That’s not an excuse, it’s just an explanation.

  36. Thanks for your erudite commentary Nortius Maximus. While we are in total agreement that “Identifying threats and assessing their priority is so tricky and so taxing that humans are by and large really averse to it. Maybe all organisms are. Until (it seems) a tipping point is reached and the model of existence is “it’s almost all threats, almost all the time” – I suspect where we divide is in the sordid ticklish details of “identifying threats and assessing their priority”. Are there real “threats” in Iraq that in anyway impact America’s security or prosperity interests, and are we “assessing their priority” intelligently. I think not. I disagree with those who believe that there ever existed, or exists now any legitimate non oil related threats to America in Iraq

    With regard to the Haditha incident, – were this war fully supported by the American people, the tragedy in Haditha would warrant our analysis since innocent, unarmed children and women were slaughtered, – but this horrible incident would be more acceptable in light of the greater good. Since in my opinion, there never was, is, or will be any greater good in Iraq, the Haditha incident call into question why exactly are our leaders thrusting our soldiers into these kinds of horrors, and what greater good will ever be achieved as a result of this costly, bloody, noendinsight war, and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq.

  37. Well, in Haditha and Abu Ghraib and, I’d expect, other situations, there is the additional matter of possible/probable vengeance/revenge/judge-and-jury behavior.

    Much of your most recent post qualifies as redundant. I’ll leave it to AL to determine if it’s over his line. Thank you for the improvement in tone.

  38. Tony, I’ll tell you the best argument I ever heard for invading iraq. It went like this:

    —-
    US foreign policy is completely out of control. Whenever the US public goes crazy and demands that we do something insane, US foreign policy does what they want. Now, after 9/11 it’s only a matter of time before muslim terrorists get a nuke and set it off in an american city. This is inevitable. The terrorists will get nukes, no possible doubt. They will smuggle them into the USA. They will nuke us. Anybody who doubts this is an idiot. And after the terrorists nuke us, we will nuke every muslim nation. This also is inevitable. We will have no choice, the US public will go crazy and the US government will do what the public wants.

    The only possible way to avoid this holocaust is for us to convert every muslim nation into a secular liberal israel-loving state. Once we convert all the muslims into atheist consumers who’re trying to live the american dream, the threat from them will be over and we won’t have to kill them all. So it’s our duty to do this because the only alternative is so horrible.

    Looking over which country to invade first, iraq is the only choice. Syria is off in a corner. Libya is irrelevant. We can’t invade our arab allies, and countries that share a border with israel have too many complications from that. Very very hard to invade iran until iraq is on our side. So iraq must be first. We invade iraq, install a secular liberal democracy, revive their economy so they’re a shining beacon to the rest of the middle east, and then most of the other countries will fall without a fight. But if they do fight we’ll have the central location — from iraq we can strike in any direction.

    It’s the right thing to do. Never mind the fog about international law and needing a pretext to attack and all that. We _have_ to do it, because the only alternative is some US cities get nuked and then every muslim in the world dies. No matter how unlikely it is to work, no matter what it costs, it’s the only moral choice. If we give it our very best try and then we have to nuke them, at least we gave it our best try.
    —-

    To my way of thinking this reasoning is completely batguano insane. But it holds together. Once you accept the assumptions everything fits. It’s the only explanation I can say that about. None of the other explanations fit together logically, and this one does.

    It’s crazy, but it’s the least crazy justification I’ve heard so far.

  39. Though this is widly off topic with regard to AL’s Haditha post, I do want to respond to J Thomas’ post above.

    First regarding nukes, and forgive any redundancy here in repudiating the Bush government parables and scarespeak justifications for predation and wanton profiteeriing, – but nukes are not a threat to America. First as history proves, nuclear weapons development is a very sophisticated, long term, exceedingly costly undertaking. Only states with both the financial, scientific, technological, and infrastructure capacities are capable of developing nukes. Nuke development is beyond the capabilities of even the most well funded stateless organizations such as al Quaida, or Hesbollah, or Hamas. Fixed well protected deep bunkered facilities are necessary, and these kinds of constuctions projects, and the materials and technologies necessary for these projects are well monitored globally, and only within the capabilities of a few companies. For example, look into centrifuge manufacturing, and you will find very few companies that provide all the worlds centrifuges. Stateless organizations lack the large energy and technological infrastructures, the scientific expertise, and the capacity to purchase, and fix the necessary development machinery, and raw materials to complete such a project.

    Now there are issues with the many former Soviet nukes that ended up “missing” after the fall of the Soviet Untion, and dirty bomb scenarios but again, these materials are hot. Non of this stuff moves anywhere on earth without America or some other knowing about, and tracking it. America and most of the Occidental nations, and certainly Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel have the technology to track and monitor the movement of these materials particularly and devises as well. Some jihadist sneaking into an American city with a suitcase nuke, or dirty bomb is the stuff of fiction. American systems would see and track this movement and take out that threat easily. Unless the systems were ordered to shut off, stand down, or be silent on that movement.

    Again, the materials and equipment necessary for nuclear weapons development programs are exceptionally rare, enormously costly, exceedingly sophisticated scientifically, and far beyond the capacity of even the most well funded stateless organizations NK after years of work developed some kind of nuclear capability, but the actual test was a dud. America knows the exact position of NK, Iran’s, Pakistans, and all the nuclear nations facilities, and monitors any alteration to those facilities. We were all well aware of NK potential test, and the exact location of that test long before the actual detonation Iran no doubt will perfect the exceedingly complicated and tedious processes necessary to field a weapon in three or four years, but they will only have the capability of fielding few actual weapons, and again the US knows the exact location of the key, (though not all) facilities.

    Iran’s nuclear development is purely defensive in nature, intended to deter other nations, (or the insanity of some fascist in the Bush government) from attacking or occupying Iran. Iran would never engage in a nuclear exchange, because they are well aware of the grim reality that the certain response would be overwhelmingly devastating. All Irans major cities would be reduced to glass. Millions would be killed, millions more injured, displaced, and there would be no Iranian government left to provide support or aid. The nation would be pushed to the point of total destruction and non-recovery. The Bush government may want you to believe that Iran is planning to attack America, but this is a pathological lie with no basis in truth. All you have is the Bush government scarespeak mantra’s, and no substantive evidence or any verifiable facts or indications that Iran is intent on attacking America. The entire parable is nonesense.

    I could go on here, and there is much more detail to provide, but nukes are not our real concern.

    What you don’t, or seldom hear about however, and what are a very grave concern are bugs and chem. Here, the stateless freaks do have the capacity, especially if they are well funded, by nations that support the malignancy of jihadist islam who just happen to be now, (largely because of the horrorshow in Iraq) swimming in unimaginable oil wealth. SA, Iran, and Pakistan, (one majik bullet away from jihadists nukes) particularly have huge jihadist populations and are benefiting in manifold ways from America entanglements in Iraq. The grim fact that bugs or chem present far less daunting technological and financial challenges, and yet are equally capable of rendering targeted US, or European cities as dead zones, and crippling economies globally, compounded by the even more grim fact that even the hypersuperior US military and defense and intelligence apparatus are incapable of trackig certain materials, and certainly not all materials, or chimera, or recombinant weapons.

    The nanosecond some jihadist mass murder gang acquires this technology, which is far more probable, and much less trackable, – America, or some European city will be hit. Even a successful hoax would thrust the world into momentary chaos. Quarantines of unprecedented and massive scales, major disruptions in all travel and transporst systems, unknown unknown impacts on markets and global economies, overwhelming demands on any nations first responder, healthcare, police, and relief infra structures. One can look to Katrina for chilling proof of just how vulnerable and incapable America is in responding to these levels of attacks or catastrophe’s, wherein an entire city would be shut down, and rendered dysfunctional. Fortunately for all of us, there are indeed very significant infrastructure, technological, and financial prohibitions to bug and chem weapons systems and assets, – the capabilities are well within the reach of well funded, very sophisticated, and very determined states threats, like Al Quaida, or Hezbollah.

    The ultimate point is America is wasting blood, treasure, and credibility and providing the Bush government with the endless excuses for wanton profiteering in Iraq, where there are no real threats to America, – and all but ignoring, and failing to adequately address the very real threats to America brewing in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan.

    The (Iraq-was-a-convenient-target-and-the-Bush-governments-insane-response-to-9/11) is simply hollow, not mention disturbing. Is that kind of action acceptable in your leadership, because it is certainly not in mine, – hence the primary reason why I reject, renounce, and repudiate all the Bush government deceptive, incompetent, imperialist, fascists, and insane policies.

    The real threats to America, and those who are directly responsible for 9/11, and those who are now planning the bug or chem sequel to 9/11, are not now, and never were in Iraq.

    Bush attacked the wrong muslims for the wrong reasons, and there will no good end, and no benefit in any way to America resulting from the Bush governments deceptive, abusive, catastrophically failing horrorshow, and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq.

    “Deliver us from evil!”

    T

  40. “hence the primary reason why I reject, renounce, and repudiate all the Bush government deceptive, incompetent, imperialist, fascists, and insane policies.”

    Well, that didn’t take long.

  41. Tony: I have removed your most recent comment.
    One more of those is two too many.

    Acting on AL’s behalf, in accordance with his express wishes, you are now banned from participation here until and unless AL says otherwise. If you wish to discuss it with AL, I recommend you take matters up off list with him. He’s reportedly busy through Thursday.

    Your opinions are not at issue; what is at issue is (metaphorically) your turning off your hearing aid and fuming loudly and obliviously in someone else’s establishment.

    As I said, I derive no joy from this outcome.

  42. OK, comments are back on. Things were going really well on this thread through about #33 and, dare I say it, I think my own #41 might have some bearing on the actual entry. Further on-topic discussion would be appreciated…

    Nort

  43. I’ll take a shot at getting the thread back on track to some extent.

    Does anyone have a source as to the the ROE in force at Haditha?

    Also, not to be too snide, but just as the Beauchamp stories were said to have smelled fishy to some people supposedly in the know, the Marines’ story of what happened that day in Haditha causes the same reaction in my nostrils.

    Cab passengers and driver shot while running away from the scene? Hell, their bodies are piled up side by side, touching, right next to the cab as if they were shot – as one squad member said – execution style while kneeling.

    Why would a Marine turn on his bro.s and testify that there was an execution of these people if not true?

    Where are the spent casings fron the AK fire the Marines were supposedly taking from the homes where they subsequently killed the women and children?

    It’s hard not to be with Murtha on this one. But the key to what can be done legally turns on the ROE at the time and place and I have seen any official release.

    Are there any Marines or anyone in contact with Marines (I’m talking reliable sources) who are willing and able to shed some light on the ROE question?

    Regardless, based on the cloudiness of facts and circumstances surrounding the case, sufficient evidence of a mission that went horribly awry, I reiterate that AL is being hyper sensitive and his reaction against the NYT is “to the moon”.

  44. AL’s update gives an opinion about the ROE, in a lot of detail. It all makes sense to me. They don’t shoot just anybody, but they shoot people who look like threats. They thought somebody was shooting from the first house, so they treated the whole house as hostile. They didn’t however later kill the 4 survivors. They thought somebody had run away from the first house and possibly he had run to a second house, so they treated that house as hostile too. They thought somebody in a third house had an AK47 so they killed everybody in that house with a pistol. (The pistol was because the SAW jammed. Iraqis said they had separated the men from the women and children and then executed the men, but this was rejected because the men were mostly shot in the face with the pistol, they didn’t try to run away.) They said the guys in the taxi tried to run away which made them targets. And the guy who was walking around outside was a target because he was trying to move from one house to another.

    The ROE only made these people targets because they were present where there was fighting. They could have done all the same things in a peaceful place and the ROE would not support killing them. Except for the guys in the taxi.

    The rules are different from US police rules because we don’t want our soldiers getting killed, and there are too many insurgents to treat them with police methods. If something like this happened in the USA, ideally lots of police would show up and surround the first house, and they’d bring a bullhorn to talk to the shooter, and they’d arrange for noncombatants to leave the house, and so on. But this is an occupation, not a peaceful country with police.

  45. Well, I would say that Jim Henson sees it exactly as I do.

    All the Marines involved have to say is, “the guys in the cab tried to run, so we shot them” and “we took fire from the homes, so we went in and agressively cleared them”.

    End of story…. Sad story story, indeed, but ROE followed and no crime committed.

    All I am saying – in addition to what Jim says – is that the dead guys around the taxi don’t look they were running when shot and killed, where is the evidence that hostile fire was coming from the homes, and why were the Iraqi men in the homes shot in the face with a pistol? If that doesn’t suggest execution I don’t what does. Four men, all hit fatally in the face with pistol fire is pretty rare marksmanship – even for a Marine – given an actual room clearing scenario and not an execution; especially when the women in the room were not hit. Fine target identification and marksmanship indeed! That Marine should be given a ribbon for that feat alone if it’s legit.

    And it is for these reasons, I suspect, that some members of the squad are still on trial.

    Finally, I am still suspicious that the ROE say that it is OK to shoot anyone who moves once Marines have taken fire. Maybe that’s how it is. I am skeptical.

    That being said, I certainly hope that these Marines were following the rules and that the killings were largely a tragic mistake of the type that does occur in war. If that is the case those men will no doubt carry a remorse for the rest of their lives simply because they were doing doing their jobs as trained and ordered. More generally, I completely sympathize with the difficulty and frustration experienced by troops involved in this type of COIN mission.

    On the other hand, if an execution or revenge killing took place, these Marines have done much to damage the honor of the Corps and the image of America in the eyes of the people we are supposed to be helping and they should be disciplined to the maximum extent possible and the sentence should be made very public.

  46. _On the other hand, if an execution or revenge killing took place, these Marines have done much to damage the honor of the Corps and the image of America in the eyes of the people we are supposed to be helping and they should be disciplined to the maximum extent possible and the sentence should be made very public._

    Avedis, when americans hear about stories like this we assume the marines were doing things correctly. And we don’t hear a lot of stories like that, it takes some solid evidence before it will get reported in the US media.

    But iraqis have no particular reason to give us the benefit of the doubt. They hear thousands of stories like this and they tend to believe them. If this particular bunch of marines gets some sort of punishment 2 years after the event, certainly far less than capital punishment, it isn’t going to impress any iraqis. That horse left the barn years ago.

    We have no credibility with iraqis whatsoever. Now that we’ve changed tactics, individual lieutenants are getting some credibility with the particular iraqis they talk to. That doesn’t much transfer to new guys when those lieutenants get rotated out.

    Which is why I think if we’re going to stay in iraq we need our guys to stay there for the duration. Once a unit has developed roots in a particular neighborhood, don’t pull them out until a particular iraqi unit is ready to replace them and guard that neighborhood indefinitely. Maybe send 4% of them at a time off for 2 weeks vacation each year, but they develop personal webs of relationships and they don’t leave in 6 months or a year and the new guy has to develop those fresh. Because that’s the sort of commitment it takes.

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