Saturday, March 01, 2008

Haditha Redux

By Jim Simpson

A firefight in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005, became another public relations nightmare for the U.S. Military when Time magazine published a report claiming it was in fact a massacre perpetrated by Marines against innocent Iraqi civilians as retribution for a lethal IED attack.

But, as we all now know, Time was either careless or knowingly complicit in provoking this controversy, for it was quickly discovered that the basis for their story was “massacre” pictures provided by an al Qaeda front group. Insurgents captured subsequently told interrogators that the whole thing was a set up – that al Qaeda deliberately planned the ambush to create this propaganda nightmare.

Nonetheless, anytime our vaunted Fourth Estate levels an accusation against the U.S. military, especially those damned, bloodthirsty Marines, it must be investigated to the last speck. And even if their case is based on the thinnest of evidence, the legal scum issuing forth from the bowels of our military bureaucracy must find a fall guy to cover their inept asses, if only to prove they weren’t total idiots in prosecuting the case in the first place. Sorry, that ship already sailed. I wish they could switch places on the front lines with these honorable men they are scapegoating! They might get a whole new perspective, or at least do us all a favor and self-select themselves out of the gene pool in the first firefight.

On May 17, 2006, the unspeakably vile Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania joined the fray and gained new infamy with these inflammatory comments:

It's much worse than reported in Time magazine. There was no fire fight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.
He made the statement without a shred of evidence, and having been proved wrong on all points, still refuses to apologize.

In any event, having conducted repeated investigations which found nothing and having exonerated four of the eight Marines originally charged, and despite the recommendations of the investigating officer that the whole case be dropped, the Marine Corps nonetheless is relentlessly moving forward with Courts Martial for the other four: SSgt. Frank Wuterich, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson and LCpl. Steve Tatum.

This is probably all old news to you. One thing you may not know however, is that SSgt. Wuterich attempted to sue Congressman Murtha for his public statement. According to Wikipedia:

On August 2, 2006, Marine Corps staff sergeant Frank D. Wuterich, who led the accused squad, filed suit for libel and invasion of privacy. The filing states Murtha "tarnished the Marine's reputation by telling news organizations in May that the Marine unit cracked after a roadside bomb killed one of its members and that the troops "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Murtha also said repeatedly that the incident was "covered up." Wuterich was charged with 13 counts of murder on December 21, 2006.
And while all the murder charges have been dismissed against Wuterich, he still faces a laundry list of other charges – including nine charges of voluntary manslaughter – which provide penalties of up to twenty-nine years in prison. This is by far the most among any of the four Marines still facing charges, Do I detect a whiff of revenge coming from the Congressman’s office? I wouldn’t put anything past that despicable cretin, but it also may explain why he refuses to apologize. To do so might work in favor of SSgt. Wuterich’s suit.

In any event, the prosecution keeps losing. A court recently denied prosecution efforts to subpoena edited comments from a CBS 60 minutes interview of SSgt. Wuterich. According to press reports, the prosecutor, Marine Capt. Nicholas L. Gannon, claimed Wuterich admitted on these edited pieces of tape “that he did in fact order his men to ‘shoot first and ask questions later.’”

Is this the prosecution’s rationale for continuing this inane trial? Here are the facts: The Marines were IED blasted and ambushed with one dead and two wounded. The enemy took shelter in a house of unknown occupancy, which the Marines were ordered to clear. The enemy regularly rigs bombs to civilians, including women and children, uses them as shields while shooting at us, dresses in civilian clothes, and regularly tortures, mutilates and murders civilians. One insurgent came out of a house carrying a baby with the family around him. What were the Marines supposed to do, let him shoot at them with impunity? If SSgt. Wuterich directed his squad to “shoot first and ask questions later,” I call that good advice!

What planet is that prosecutor on? Is this supposed to be what passes for evidence?!? I asked USMC spokesman LtCol. Sean Gibson this exact question. His response was typically high-minded evasiveness:

Our Marines are disciplined and well trained. We adhere to the Law of Armed Conflict and the Rules of Engagement in order to successfully execute our mission while minimizing harm to non-combatants.

I know all that! But does the Law of Armed Conflict provide guidelines as to behavior against enemies that dress as civilians while using real civilians as human shields and children as walking bombs? What about the Geneva Convention? Its guidelines are surprisingly clear. Terrorists have NO legal standing, and even were they signatories to the Convention, which they aren’t, would lose the benefit of its legal protections the minute they start behaving this way. They can legally be shot on sight, as soldiers out of uniform from both sides routinely were during WW II.

If frontline troops have to face a court martial every time there are “civilian” casualties, then you can expect that every time we do battle, the enemy will drag along an army of civilian hostages with him, further increasing the likelihood of civilian deaths – indeed, he is already doing this, as the Haditha case proves. Meanwhile we will find fewer and fewer Americans willing to risk their lives when the rules of engagement demand that, under fire, they carefully discriminate between “civilians” and insurgents dressed as civilians, while facing the prospect of criminal charges the first time some Pulitzer hungry “journalist” accuses them of “war crimes.” If we allow such injustice to continue, we might as well surrender now.