Last Friday, frequent detractor “jp2” was given a platform to say whatever he wanted. And he chose to castigate us, the authors of this site, for our coverage of the alleged Haditha massacre in Iraq, where 24 Iraqis were reportedly killed by US Marines in November 2005. jp2 stated that we have been “100% wrong” in our writings about the incident, and Representative Jack Murtha (D-Abscam) “100% right.”
Let me recap the situation, as it stands now:
Eight Marines are currently under arrest and awaiting trial by the Corps for various charges, including murder, negligent homicide, assault, making false statements, obstructing justice, dereliction of duty, and other charges.
I am not going to speak for my colleagues here at Wizbang, but merely for myself. (They are more than capable of speaking for themselves; otherwise, they wouldn’t be associated with this site. It’s pretty much a prerequisite.)
From the outset, I have done my best to render no judgments on what did or did not happen in Haditha. Bad things happen in wartime, and what is an open-and-shut in the civilian world is acceptable — sometimes even laudable — in the military. Further, I have a bit of faith in the military to get matters right. It’s often overlooked that it was the US Army that first broke the story of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and in general they tend to get things right the first time more than they get things wrong.
It’s also a tenet of our legal system that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. (Something that is apparently out of fashion in certain areas of North Carolina.) It’s considered — at best — bad form to condemn the accused before they have had their day in court.
These standards tend to slip a bit when dealing with public officials, and I have no problem with that. For example, I’ve pretty much decided that Representative William Jefferson
Clinton is guilty of corruption, based largely on the evidence of him having almost $100,000 hidden in his freezer.
But that principle also holds true when the public official is on the accusing end.
As I’ve often said, I’m a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life. If I say that I think Jefferson is a corrupt swine who ought to be tossed out of office and into the nearest hoosegow, that isn’t worth a fart in a hurricane. But if a high-ranking government official, such as the incoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who has a formidable grip on the nation’s budget, starts pronouncing individual members of the Armed Services guilty of major crimes before they’ve even been charged, then there is a tremendous potential for violating the accused’s rights.
Murtha, it must be remembered, will soon be overseeing the funding for the military. And if he should decide that the Marine Corps did not carry out justice on those he has stated — baldly — have committed horrific war crimes, he would be in a remarkably powerful position to “punish” the Corps for “covering up” to protect their own.
Conversely, the Corps could see the potential threat and stack the deck against the defendants, knowing that an acquittal could have serious consequences on their future funding.
Let me make it clear: if the charges against the accused Marines are accurate, then I want to see them punished to the fullest extent of military law — up to and including execution. Hell, if they’re only half-true, I want to see them punished severely.
But the facts have yet to be determined in the Haditha case. The evidence appears strong, but so did the evidence against the Duke Lacrosse Team. Hell, I thought the OJ Simpson case was open and shut.
It all boils down to one simple fact: one’s opinion on the matter tends to parallel one’s opinion of the US military. If you oppose the military, like jp2 apparently does, then mere accusation is enough and they MUST be guilty of all charges. Further, the military as an institution cannot be trusted to carry out fair and honest trials.
If you’re a mindless jingoist, like those jp2 characterizes, then any accusation against the military is equivalent to treason and heresy. The accusers must be discredited and destroyed, and any actual wrongdoing by members of the military must be covered up to protect the good name of the services.
And if you’re a supporter of the military, like I am, you hear these accusations, sadly admit that they are entirely feasible, and wait to see if the military will “get it right” and reveal the truth of the incident — for good or ill.
As of now, I am neutral on the matter of the Haditha incident. There has been a lot of smoke over the matter, and Congressman Murtha’s injections of his own opinions and statements has NOT helped in the quest for the truth. (I would even consider it trending very close towards “obstruction of justice,” as his position and pronouncements have tremendous potential to sway events. However, there is no legal remedy for his actions.)
I fully intend to shut up and see how things develop on their own, see how the Corps handles the matter, before I start making overarching proclamations. I would urge others to do the same as well — does anyone else remember the demands that Karl Rove be “frog-marched” out of the White House over something that it turned out Dick Armitage did?
And I sincerely hope Congressman Murtha stops trying to insert himself into the Corps’ judiciary system. It’s incredibly unbecoming for a person of his position and power to attempt to influence a criminal case before there’s been a trial — and Murtha’s meddling began before there was even any arrests.