Hell, I don’t know what happened there. Neither do you. Nor does “former Marine” John Murtha – and I use the expression “former” advisedly, with a very specific meaning in mind.
What we do know is that the city was considered hostile in every sense of the word by Marines sent to patrol its streets. We do know that sometime in November of last year, one Marine died in an IED explosion, and that a number of local nationals died in the aftermath. We do know that allegations have been made which – if proven to be true – amount to war crimes.
And there’s the pinch – we have allegations of fact from two different sides. There is an ongoing investigation. That investigation may result in charges being filed against Marines on the scene, perhaps even on Marines in the rear. And once those charges are made?
The burden will be on the government to prove their case. The defendants will have access to the same information, the right to challenge witnesses, to rebut testimony. That will be the trial of fact, if in fact a trial is called for.
Not this that we see every day in the papers. I’m not excusing war crimes in general, not by any means. John Donovan posts an excellent letter from the Commandant that discusses just how important hewing to the laws of armed conflict are for our servicemen, even – maybe even especially – when the enemy acknowledges no restraints on their beastiality. I’m just saying that the place to try serious allegations of fact are in courtrooms – after charges are filed.
You don’t lose the presumption of innocence just because you take the oath, and the critical work that Marines, soldiers and others are doing in Iraq will not be any less necessary, or even noble, just because some very few among them were found to have acted wrongly – if in fact that is what is found.
This rush to judgement in the press, it is – unseemly. Hollywood must be slavering.