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May 26, 2006
Haditha Makes Abu Ghraib Look Like A Picnic (Update)

When the story on Abu Ghraib broke, the coverage and hyperbole regarding the supposed "atrocities" at the notorious prison blew the abuses far out of proportion. As many remarked at the time, no one died from wearing panties on their heads, and the pathetic perpetrators of the abuses found themselves tried, convicted, and sentenced to justifiable prison terms. Abu Ghraib was an embarrassment arising from a lack of unit discipline.

Haditha, on the other hand, turns out to be a real atrocity, the kind of shameful event that will justifiably haunt the US for years:

Marines from Camp Pendleton wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

An administrative inquiry overseen by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found that several infantry Marines fatally shot as many as 24 Iraqis and that other Marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports. ...

Looking for insurgents, the Marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.

In its initial statement to the media, the Marine Corps said the Iraqi civilians were killed either by an insurgent bomb or by crossfire between Marines and insurgents.

But after Time magazine obtained pictures showing dead women and children and quoted Iraqis who said the attack was unprovoked, the Marine Corps backtracked on its explanation and called for an investigation.

This makes me physically ill. We can say it happens in every war, and that would be accurate, but it doesn't excuse it in the least. Our military has the reputation of high discipline and morale, and 99.9% of our troops live up to that standard. As with Abu Ghraib, only on a much less serious scale, the actions of one undisciplined unit will reflect horribly on those who have done their best to protect Iraqi civilians, especially the children. Those 99.9% of our troops provide the best possible security for the United States. If these men turn out to be war criminals of the most despicable variety, they will have damaged the work done by our armed forces immeasurably.

I keep hoping that this report will say something different when it gets publicly released, but I know it won't.

Needless to say, every Marine involved in this atrocity must face court-martial, and their command has to answer for the brutal murders of people that we took under our protection. Those court-martials must be public and thorough. Nothing should be held back. The men charged should receive the best defense possible in order to ensure that justice is done. If the report turns out to be accurate and the men involved are found guilty, they need to get the full punishment due them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

We need to demonstrate that we stand for something better than Haditha, and we need to show the world that we will hold all those responsible accountable for their crimes. Justice will provide cold comfort to those who have died and those who mourn them, but we owe the victims and the Iraqi people as much justice as we can provide.

Addendum: This post isn't about John Murtha, but I know people want to discuss it, so the comment section is open for that topic as well. I will note that in my original post, I acknowledged that Murtha may have had the story correct -- but that he should have held his commentary until it came out, and that he should not have used it as fodder for his anti-war rhetoric. Murtha politicized it, which was wrong. He also accurately described the conclusions, and that is unfortunate, and I'm sure that Murtha feels the same way about that.

Others blogging this story:

* Hot Air
* Politburo Diktat
* Confederate Yankee
* My Pet Jawa
* QandO
* Just One Minute

UPDATE: We (me included) need to keep in mind that the Marines accused have a right to a presumption of innocence; that's what I meant about making sure that they get the best defense possible, but I didn't say it very well. The report is just the prosecution's case, and like any criminal investigation, we have to wait until the witnesses and evidence gets tested in court, in this case a court-martial.

I disagree that this is just an administrative review, however. This report will come from the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, not a board of inquiry. These people perform real criminal investigations just like any police department, and they're pretty good at what they do. If the report recommends charges against these Marines, that has real weight.

I hope that this turns out to be false; I'm sure all Americans do. The men and women of our armed forces are real heroes, and my wife and I pray for them every day. If it turns out to be true, then we need to vigorously pursue justice for the victims -- and we cannot remain on the sidelines and pretend the event never happened.

UPDATE II: Longtime CQ reader The Yell provides this correction:

From stories this week, and the story you posted above, the report coming out this week from Maj. Gen Bargewell is an administrative review. That's what's been discussed with Congressional oversight committees.

The NCIS findings are due out in June--late June. That's the criminal probe.

I stand corrected. Thank you.

UPDATE III: Michelle Malkin agrees that this looks very bad, but reminds us of the case of Lt. Ilario Pantano and his being falsely accused. However, Michelle's reporter's instinct picks up on something I noticed earlier, too. There seems to be a number of high-level leaks on this story talking to a number of different outlets. That at least suggests that the Pentagon wants to get the story out ahead of the report. These leaks look too coordinated to be an accident.

If the Pentagon is trying to get the story out early, why? To prepare us for the worst?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2006 4:14 PM

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» Haditha from Blue Crab Boulevard
The New York Times has reported that military, Congressional and Pentagon sources have all confirmed that a report will find that unprovoked killings of civilians by US Marines occurred in Haditha, Iraq. Words cannot describe how that ma... [Read More]

Tracked on May 26, 2006 4:53 PM

» The Haditha Incident from A Blog For All
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» Marines May Face Charges In Unarmed Iraqi Civiliian's Deaths from The Moderate Voice
Military investigators have come to a truly sickening conclusion: a Marine-unit with an excellent reputation killed unarmed Iraqi civilians — big and small — and then tried to cover it up, reports [Read More]

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» Marines May Face Charges In Unarmed Iraqi Civiliian's Deaths from The Moderate Voice
Military investigators have come to a truly sickening conclusion: a Marine-unit with an excellent reputation killed unarmed Iraqi civilians — big and small — and then tried to cover it up, reports [Read More]

Tracked on May 26, 2006 7:51 PM

» Marines May Face Charges In Unarmed Iraqi Civiliian's Deaths from The Moderate Voice
Military investigators have come to a truly sickening conclusion: a Marine-unit with an excellent reputation killed unarmed Iraqi civilians — big and small — and then tried to cover it up, reports [Read More]

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» The Haditha Marines, Update from Flopping Aces
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» Conflicting Reports About Haditha from Iowa Voice
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» The Haditha incident from Sister Toldjah
If the reports comingo out of the media from anonymous sources are true, it looks like the much-discussed Haditha incident in which a small group of US Marines allegedly killed 24 Iraqi civilians is the real deal. Via the the LA Times: SAN DIEGO — M... [Read More]

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» Media Condemation Jumps, Offical Report Due in 30 Days (NCIS) from E L Frederick
I’ve been avoiding posting on the latest “press leak” concerning an alleged atrocity at Haditha, Iraq. However, I need to say something, if for no other reason than to just get it out of my system. SAN DIEGO — Marines from Camp Pend... [Read More]

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» The Perpetrators Need to Get Full Punishment from CARRY ON AMERICA
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Tracked on June 3, 2006 11:46 AM


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