This is, of course, very troubling:
Four U.S. Marines were charged with multiple counts of murder yesterday for their alleged roles in the deaths of two dozen civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year. The accusations set up what could be the highest-profile atrocity prosecution to arise from the Iraq war.
In an unusual move, the Marine Corps also charged four officers with crimes related to their alleged failure to investigate and report the Nov. 19, 2005, slayings, which occurred when the Marines conducted a house-to-house sweep and attacked a vehicle after a member of their unit was killed in an ambush.
Something that needs to be remembered and repeated, though, is that the Marines are not charged with premeditated murder.
Let’s say that again.
The Marines are not charged with premeditated murder.
The charging documents indicate that they did not properly identify their targets, did intend to kill the people in the houses and should have known that their actions could lead to the deaths of innocent civilians.
So John Murtha’s (D-PA) very loud public declaration that the Marines killed Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” is officially w-r-o-n-g, by the way. Haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere.
It’s nice to see that, after an initial rush yesterday afternoon, the media has pretty much let this story fall by the wayside. At least for now. My guess, cynic that I am, is that the fact that the “Mindless Marines hell-bent on a murderous rampage for revenge” won’t play is more than a bit disappointing.
Still, the fact that four more US troops have been charged with this sort of crime should not be overlooked. Incidents like this not only tarnish the reputation of the military, they can cause the military’s missions to become much more difficult.
Finally, don’t mistake “charged” with “convicted”. Remember: Three Duke Lacrosse players were charged with rape once upon a time.
Let’s wait until we have the answers before we make up our minds. (Earlier MO post on making up minds too early: Haditha blah blah blah.)