Haditha blah blah blah

Front page of yesterday’s “Issues and Opinions” section (page C1) of the Grand Rapids Press:

This is the sort of crap we have come to expect from openly anti-military news outlets like CNN and media organizations so blinded by Bush-hate that they cannot see straight like the New York Times or Newsweek. But the Grand Rapids Press? Shameful.

The Newshouse News Service article itself waffles back and forth between saying things like “While the specifics have yet to emerge in the alleged murder of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines last fall” and “The chilling suggestion is that a phrase heard commonly among combat troops — “Kill them all and let God sort them out later” — came to ugly fruition in Haditha.

The basic premise of the article runs something like this:

  1. It’s not certain if US Marines slaughtered civilians in Haditha
  2. But Marines under constant pressure might commit atrocities
  3. Like they did in Haditha

I find two things particularly interesting about the choice to run this story so prominently in today’s paper.

  • The picture of the shocked Marine is from April. Of 2004.
  • The article itself is from June 5th, nearly two weeks ago.

Since I cannot seem to find a link to the GR Press version, here’s the original:

Sleep Deprivation, Stress Compromise Moral Judgments in Combat

c.2006 Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON — While the specifics have yet to emerge in the alleged murder of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines last fall, it is clear that troops in Iraq are laboring under enormous stress that can intensify feelings of helplessness and rage and sap their ability to make moral judgments, military psychiatrists say.

Typically, there are too few Marines for the enormous job of providing security, meaning they endure long bouts of extremely high-risk operations with insufficient sleep. They often lose buddies in ambushes or bombings by unseen insurgents, leaving them no one to fight back. And in contrast to past conflicts, they suffer casualties in unpredictable clusters: a sniper’s bullet or suicide bomber can as suddenly strike a seasoned and alert sergeant or colonel as a greenhorn private.

At least the original story has the good sense to put the accusations into the body of the article instead of spelling them out in the headlines.

The Haditha story has taken quite a few blows to the body since June 5th. It seems to me that the chance to openly declare our troops guilty of these crimes has passed, at least until the findings of the investigation are delivered and the following trials (if required) are complete. (Now is apparently the time to just quietly hope that the Marines killed 24 innocent civilians. If only America-haters could be so lucky.)

Shortly after the Haditha story broke, I was asked what I thought about it by a co-worker. I said that, based upon what little was known at the time and taking previous claims of US atrocities into consideration, I figured about a 75% chance that one or more of the following was true:

  • The civilians who were killed were caught in the crossfire of a gun battle with insurgents, not murdered in cold blood as publicly claimed by the ex-Marine Rep. John Murtha (D-PA)
  • The civilians were not killed by Marines but by insurgents or terrorists
  • No civilians had been killed at all

I’ve not written about Haditha before now, in part because it’s being so beaten to death by a lot of folks who don’t have many facts to play with. But I must admit that I’m appalled by the people calling themselves Americans who are so eager to believe that the Marines did this.

The number of US citizens who will be truly and honestly disappointed if the Haditha allegations turn out to be unfounded or untrue is not small. As pathetic as that is, you know that it’s a fact.