Patterico's Pontifications


A Turning Point?

Filed under: General,Terrorism,War — Patterico @ 11:39 am

We often hear about “turning points” in the Iraq war. As far as public sentiment goes, this may be one — and in the wrong direction:

Photographs taken by a Marine intelligence team have convinced investigators that a Marine unit killed as many as 24 unarmed Iraqis, some of them “execution-style,” in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha after a roadside bomb killed an American in November, officials close to the investigation said Friday.

The pictures are said to show wounds to the upper bodies of the victims, who included several women and six children. Some were shot in the head and some in the back, congressional and defense officials said.

I tend to agree with Dafydd ab Hugh on this one: I’d like to see the results of the investigation released publicly before we come to any firm conclusions. We’re still relying on reports from anonymous government officials.

But if these reports are substantiated (and you sure get the feeling that they will be), the guilty individuals should be tried, and if convicted, executed. Swiftly. I think there is some merit to Dafydd’s idea that “those convicted should be hanged and the rest of the Corps forced to stand at attention and watch.”

UPDATE: The always indispensable Allah says:

I meant to post about this last week when Murtha was making the rounds but I got caught up in other things. Yeah, it’s awful and par for the course that he’d pronounce the Marines guilty before the investigation is complete; and yeah, no one’s surprised that he’d exploit the incident to promote a pullout. But it rubbed me the wrong way to watch righty bloggers go ballistic on Murtha while dismissing the underlying allegations with a perfunctory “these are serious charges.” I’m not accusing anyone of not caring, mind you; this is Hot Air, not the Daily Dish. I’m just saying that it’s bad form to kill the messenger when serious malfeasance might be afoot. Not unlike how lefties reacted to the Swift Vets, to take a more benign example.

He has his usual thorough round-up of links.

I agree with all this, except that it doesn’t appear to me that Murtha “pronounce[d] the Marines guilty before the investigation is complete.” From a recent L.A. Times article:

[Marine Commandant Gen. Michael] Hagee last week briefed key congressional leaders on the upcoming report. One of those, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a retired Marine colonel, said later that Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

If Murtha was briefed before he made his statements, then righty bloggers who slammed him were wrong to do so. I’m not a fan of his, but I don’t see any fault on his part in this incident.

UPDATE x2: Then again, it is the L.A. Times. Perhaps we should question whether they got this detail right. Here is a story saying the Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed two days ago, on May 25. Yet Murtha made his comments on May 18. Did Hagee brief Murtha before May 18?

UPDATE x3: I can’t find any evidence that Hagee briefed Murtha before Murtha made his accusations. I’ll have to write the Times Readers’ Rep and ask if they’re sure about this.

24 Responses to “A Turning Point?”

  1. My questions:
    Was there an IED attack that killed Marines?
    Was there subsequent fire from the houses in question?
    Was the placement of the IED such as to suggest the occupants had knowledge of it?
    A yes answer to any of the questions made the house occupants legitimate targets.
    You cannot fight a war when you must read the enemy their Miranda rights. You can not send men into combat yet hold them to police department standards. If we can understand how a 500 pound bomb dropped on an enemy position might kill some innocents, then give the same slack to the grunts.
    Civilians who shelter the enemy are the enemy.
    Enemies who fire at our troops from behind women and children are responsible for the deaths of women and children killed by return fire.

    Walter E. Wallis (7ea451)

  2. Danny Deever

    “What are the bugles blowin’ for?” said Files-on-Parade.
    “To turn you out, to turn you out”, the Colour-Sergeant said.
    “What makes you look so white, so white?” said Files-on-Parade.
    “I’m dreadin’ what I’ve got to watch”, the Colour-Sergeant said.
    For they’re hangin’ Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
    The Regiment’s in ‘ollow square — they’re hangin’ him to-day;
    They’ve taken of his buttons off an’ cut his stripes away,
    An’ they’re hangin’ Danny Deever in the mornin’…

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  3. The catalyst for questioning the official storyline of 15 Iraqis & one marine killed by IED blast, was video of the Haditha aftermath given reporters five months after the event. Lots of people knew – or saw to it others others wouldn’t – and kept quiet.

    steve (d3d265)

  4. Yeah, it’s awful and par for the course that he’d pronounce the Marines guilty before the investigation is complete; and yeah, no one’s surprised that he’d exploit the incident to promote a pullout.

    Only judges and juries pronounce people guilty.

    actus (6234ee)

  5. I hope the investigators do a thorough job, and can actually get autopsies done on the reported victims. The fact that the primary evidence mentioned so far is a video purportedly taken after the alleged crime but turned in 5 months later(?!) bothers me. It also seems a bit suspicious that the act was allegedly done by one or two Marines, supposedly over almost two hours, in hostile territory.

    Certain Iraqis and insurgents seem to have had few qualms at killing civilians for their own purposes, or using civilians as shields. Insurgents staging a war crime, in that environment, seems to me to be within the realm of possibilities given the limited info released so far.

    I’m still reserving judgement until factual information replaces what has been reported so far – broad, unsupported speculation.

    Matt (756265)

  6. I agree with almost everything said here, except that the first linked story indicates the investigations have not been concluded and yet Murtha is saying civilians were killed in cold blood. Of course, he also says that this is due to the stress of the situation, which (if Murtha really believes this was cold-blooded killing) makes no sense — except as a pretext to attack the Administration.

    If the charges that seem inevitable are proven, the troops involved will deserve whatever punishment the facts support. But it’s not shooting the messenger to note that Murtha is engaged in a particularly disgusting form of opportunism here — especially to the extent that he’s semi-excusing those who he believes are cold-blooded killers, just to score a political point.

    Karl (7e6018)

  7. …and now I want to make a slight correction. This LAT story says the investigation is now finished. However, it apparently had not been concluded when Murtha made his attack.

    Karl (7e6018)

  8. You need to read my updates, Karl. I have all these links.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  9. […] As I have already said, the truth of the allegations is paramount — and if they are true, someone needs to be executed. But it’s still a valid (if minor) question whether Murtha spouted off before the report was completed. The L.A. Times makes it sound as though it’s clear that the report was done, and Murtha was fully briefed, before he said a word. Maybe he just got ahead of the news cycle, in other words. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Was Murtha Briefed on a Completed Report Before He Spouted Off About Haditha? (421107)

  10. Being a Marine who served in VietNam this story sickens me. I don’t know if the allegations are true or not. If the allegations are proven, those responsible need to pay the ultimate penalty and those that condoned or covered for those responsible need to serve some serious time.

    The problem I see is that there is a rush to prejudge these Marines without a complete investigation and subsequent trial (Court Martial). I will wait for the investigation to be completed and then see if we can get a peek at the evidence that produces the investigative report.

    RLS (0516f0)

  11. What “rush to judgment?” This happened in mid-November. The storyline went unchanged and unchallenged until amateur video showed up and witnesses approached American media.

    The initial Pentagon account had 15 Iraqi’s and one marine all killed by roadside IED. – November 20, 2005

    When Time wrote that medical evidence refuted that, we were told the insurgents had lined up townspeople, who were unavoidably killed in crossfire. The “collateral damage” contrivance. – March 19, 2006

    Finally, it was the “chaos” that ensued as U.S. teams were clearing houses where insurgents used innocents as shields.

    The full-scale investigation apparently began months after Haditha. The first after-action photos taken by the military as part of the routine procedure that follows any such event do not show any bodies.

    That’s a cover-up, not a rush to judgment.

    We need to know who in the chain of command kept the lid on.,9171,1198862-1,00.html

    steve (324853)

  12. Walter E. Wallis, if people lie about what happened, it is reasonable to infer that they did something wrong.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  13. Black Jack, in the poem Danny Dever was hung for shooting a comrade while he was sleeping. If we are going to start executing our soldiers for misconduct I think we should start with the ones who cowardly kill their comrades (there have been at least two such cases in this war).

    [“Misconduct”? Haditha allegedly involves cold-blooded murders. That’s a bit more than “misconduct.” — P]

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  14. Patterico, I think hanging the guilty in front of their fellow Marines is very bad idea. If you want to discourage atrocities you need to encourage soldiers to report atrocities and military juries to convict the guilty. If the average soldier feels the penalties are too harsh few atrocities will be reported and few convictions will be obtained. It is disengenous to call for harsh penalties which you know will never be imposed.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  15. Patterico, Murtha has used the phrase “in cold blood” but I am not convinced it applies. If you read the Sunday Times interview which Allah linked to (which is supposedly with a surviving child from a slaughtered family) at least some of the killings seem to have been done by soldiers in a state of extreme nervous excitement operating with a hair trigger and ready to kill on the slightest pretext. This is bad but not what I would call in cold blood.

    Furthermore to put it bluntly, life is cheap in a war zone. Hundreds or thousands of equally innocent civilians have been killed by American military operations under rules of engagement that place little value on the lives of enemy civilians. Marines are not policemen or social workers, instead they are killers trained to close with the enemy and destroy him. They are fighting a ruthless and elusive enemy which hides within the civilian population. Men operating in such an environment will find killings such as appear to have occurred in this case less horrific than they appear to people living safe civilian lives. I don’t think the average combat Marine would understand why the guilty in this case were hanged while soldiers who kill sleeping comrades are not.

    James B. Shearer (57f86f)

  16. It is disengenous to call for harsh penalties which you know will never be imposed.

    I am not doing that. I expect that, if what we are hearing about this is true, people will be executed.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  17. Patterico, I will be very surprised if anyone is executed. No one was executed for My Lai so why do you expect executions in this case?

    James B. Shearer (57f86f)

  18. One guy was convicted. In my view, he should have been executed.

    My main point is this: to suggest that I “know” there will be no executions here is ridiculous.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  19. “I expect that, if what we are hearing about this is true, people will be executed.” — P

    What hogwash. How disingenuous. Under what special circumstance or military equivalent after what kind of indictment before what kind of jury???

    As to “rush to judgement” arguments, see the changing military explanations over MONTHS. As to “heat of battle” this occurred over several hours with an additional unit called in to cover it up, literally. The passage of time and the so-called investigations only give the military time to concoct new excuses and doubts.

    My prediction: This whole thing will be whitewashed under the Administration’s common demand for secrecy under the guise of national security. A few lower-level soldiers will spend some time in the brig.

    And this stupid exercise in Iraq will continue, because we have to “honor the sacrifices” of our fighting men and women by “fulfilling the mission” and sending more and more of them to their deaths and dismemberments.

    nosh (d8da01)

  20. What hogwash. How disingenuous.


    How’s about simply saying you disagree? Calling me “disingenuous” suggests that you think I am being dishonest. I don’t take kindly to that.

    I’ve noticed that this is a recurring issue with you. You come out of the gate suggesting I am being dishonest.

    Keep a more civil tongue in your head, please. If you ever, ever accuse me of dishonesty, you had better be prepared to back it up.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  21. The last military execution took place in 1961. The same link says that there are six men on Leavenworth’s death row right now, but gives details only about three. I have questioned the rush to judgment elsewhere on this site. I would hate, very much, to see our Marines railroaded in order to placate BDS sufferers such as Murtha (and nosh).

    nk (35ba30)

  22. P — Thanks for the reference and link to Anonymous Lawyer — very funny and observant.

    But c’mon, man. You are a big-time conservative blogger, and have to develop a thicker skin. I called your comment “hogwash” and didn’t even use an exclamation point. I wasn’t the first to characterize it as “disingenuous.” You are smart, articulate, well-informed, and well-read, so your comment that you expect people to hang was either incredibly stupid, naive, or — as I characterized, and I wasn’t alone — disingenous: An argument put forward not for its truth but for other purposes. An argument put forth that was not believed by its spokesperson.

    So you resort to personal putdowns rather than replying to my comment.

    nosh (d8da01)

  23. i wasn’t there, don’t know what happened, but there are bodies of small children riddled with bullet holes; whatever it was, it was bad.
    these things happen in any war that goes on long enough. i expect the soldiers responsible to be punished, but not executed, nobody was executed for my lai, as i recall, only lt. calley was ultimately convicted, and somebody wrote a song about him.
    haditha is a specific anomaly, and it is the nature of us and our media to focus excessively on it, to the detriment of the larger question of whether we belong there. a lot of “support the troops” ribbons in my town, anodyne sheepbleaters distracting us from asking if we support the mission. i can’t decide whether i support the mission until the commander in chief honestly articulates what it is (and the default answer with insufficient knowledge is “no”). originally it was about wmd’s (none found) and 9/11 (no relationship, that was saudi arabia), bush stated expressly that we would not be nation-building, now it looks like we’re doing just that, except it isn’t working. i can predict next week’s headlines: car bomb in baghdad kills 18, 11 more bodies found in the river, 3 american soldiers dead in ied blast…what exactly are we as americans getting in return for a quarter trillion $$/year and several american lives/day? if the mission is to extend american corporate hegemony over the oilfields, won’t someone in the administration have the honesty and forthrightness to tell us, so we can properly evaluate it?
    the only way to prevent more hadithas is to get out of there. we are invaders in a foreign country which had not attacked us first. if a foreign country invaded your town and treated you like this, wouldn’t you be an insurgent? i know i would.

    assistant devil's advocate (8f35fb)

  24. […] This contradicts a passage in an L.A. Times article from May: [Marine Commandant Gen. Michael] Hagee last week briefed key congressional leaders on the upcoming report. One of those, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a retired Marine colonel, said later that Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » I Question the Timing. In Fact, I Already Questioned the Timing . . . (421107)

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