Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Saying More

Between my morning post and this evening, the blogosphere has ramped up the conversation about Haditha considerably. As is becoming somewhat predictable, we can leave it to bloggers to fill in the blanks that Big Media is unable or unwilling to address.

MKH compiled a great rundown earlier in the day. For my money the ones that mattered most are these from this CNN reporter and comments from former Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, Uncle Jimbo.

CNN reporter Arwa Damon knows the unit in question: I don't know why it didn't register with me until now. It was only after scrolling through the tapes that we shot in Haditha last fall, and I found footage of some of the officers that had been relieved of their command, that it hit me.

I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I've seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target. (Watch a Marine's anguish over deaths -- 2:12)

I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded -- remarkably no one was killed.

I was with them in Husayba as they went house to house in an area where insurgents would booby-trap doors, or lie in wait behind closed doors with an AK-47, basically on suicide missions, just waiting for the Marines to come through and open fire. There were civilians in the city as well, and the Marines were always keenly aware of that fact. How they didn't fire at shadows, not knowing what was waiting in each house, I don't know. But they didn't.

And I was with them in Haditha, a month before the alleged killings last November of some 24 Iraqi civilians.

Damon's report reminds us that these men have faces, histories and families.

Uncle Jimbo is a member of the growing chorus of People-in-the-know who bring years of expertise and Military experience to bear on issues like this. He insists that there is really only one standard to apply in this instance:

Disclosure: I have never been to Iraq and have no direct knowledge of this incident or anyone involved. I do have extensive experience training teams in hostage rescue and close quarters battle (CQB) and have been on countless training and multiple live operations kicking doors in.

There is one and only one relevant standard for this whole incident and that is the reasonable belief that your life or the life of others is in danger. If that is reasonably believed then deadly force may be employed, absent that belief it may not. There are other factors that would impact this, like rules of engagement, but in this case the Marines ROE obviously included the right to return fire. The question is was there any, and if not why did they fire? If the Marines killed people without reasonable belief they were in danger, then they committed murder. If they had a reasonable belief in their danger, they did not.

I have been discussing the belief or perception of the Marines because that is the only thing that determines whether this was a tragedy in the fog of war or a criminal act. No amount of moralizing prejudgment by disgraced ex-Marines makes them guilty and no rationalizing about lost buddies can change the truth if it was revenge.

The worst of Murtha's vile acts is that he has helped create an environment where anything less than hangings will be seen as a whitewash. Especially in the eyes of the world, where since an honorable US Congressman has declared their guilt only the corrupt military could free them. Now the best outcome we can have, if this was a justified action, is for the world to believe it was rigged if they are not charged or are freed after trial. And regardless a gold-plated invitation to pile on for the anti-America brigades in our media and overseas has been given.

Liberal Democrats and anti-war folks raised conclusion-jumping to new levels after news of Abu Ghraib broke two years ago and they seem intent on repeating, if not surpassing their previous effort. Most egregiously, the esteemed Congressman from Pennsylvania appears convinced that the Marine Corps has covered up the events at Haditha and that said cover up potentially goes all the way "up the chain of command." Simply disgusting.

Their are only two ways he can make that comment. First off, he knows something that the rest of us don't (as I said this morning) despite the fact that the investigation(s) are ongoing. Seems highly unlikely given what has dribbled out since Murtha's first comments about drone video, radio traffic and other contrarian evidence.

As I said, unlikely but still possible I suppose. If in fact he does know some super-secret something, he needs to come clean or shut it and wait for things to unfold.

The second option is simply that Murtha is talking out of his...hat? ear? (fill in the blank)? I'm running with this one.

Murtha, like far too many Democrats, liberals and their fellow-travelers is stuck in some sort of Everything-is-Vietnam time machine where it is 1972 in perpetuity and any misconduct on the part of the US military is a My Lai redux. I've said it before, and I tried to be nice about it but at this point I don't think I can keep it up.

We'll be better off when the Everything-is-Vietnam crowd fades from influence in this country.

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