Who else should be indicted? From a BBC article on the trial of seven Marines for actions in Hamdaniya. “A Navy medic has told his court-martial in California how US marines seized an Iraqi civilian, threw him into a hole and shot him in the head 10 times. … [the medic] Petty Officer Bacos said he was on patrol with the marine squad who were looking for an insurgent - Saleh Gowad - who had been captured three times but released. Petty Officer Bacos said the marines were angry the insurgent had been freed and, frustrated at not finding him, instead seized civilian Hashim Awad from his home.” (BBC)
One might facetiously suggest that for complete justice to be served, the seven Marines should be imprisoned in Iraq and allowed to escape as many times as is normal in that country. It makes about as much sense as anything else. And while a murder is a murder, not in the least because it is a violation of the laws under which the Marines operate, there is something hideous about a process in which an innocent Iraqi civilian and seven young American men wind up dead or imprisoned while Saleh Gowad tip-toes through the tulips and the antiwar crowd laps it up.
A commenter writes to say that my dig at the antiwar crowd above was unfair.
I think that's amazingly unfair.
I'm not aware of any people who oppose the war in Iraq "lapping up" these tragedies. I'm not aware of any anti-war people setting policies in Iraq. If there was anyone setting policies in Iraq I'd assume you'd have to first look to the Bush administration, civilian appointees at the Pentagon, various State Department figures, and finally the Iraqi government.
In defense, I copied out a cartoon which I think expresses the widely held view in antiwar circles that a secret policy of brutality exists for which low ranking officers or enlisted men will be blamed. According to this view, the impetus for War Crimes really comes from on high, except that only lowly enlisted Marine will be held to account for it. Isn't that a fair statement of the antiwar point of view?
But the reality Petty Officer Bacos described is different. Here we have the hooded man being released — not chained — as depicted in the cartoon above. Released to kill and plant IEDs again. It is not the policy of excessive cruelty but the policy of excessive leniency which, according to Petty Officer Bacos, drove those men to perform the acts he described. I think it is fair to say that a lot of that leniency has been implemented precisely to mollify the antiwar crowd, the crowd which holds that America is too cruel. And because the accused Marines felt they could not defend themselves under the Politically Correct regime they resorted to their version of Rule 303. That does not justify the act; it does not exculpate the Administration for the responsibility of its policies or the breakdown in discipline but I think it is useless to pretend that the Left did not have some share in this tragedy.
Nor will this be the end. Have we not heard the argument that we should implement the Geneva Conventions to the letter, but trust that some intelligence officer will "throw himself under a bus" and "do the right thing" if he must interrogate a terrorist for information which might save a large number of lives? There is a price to be paid for fighting a politically correct war. Society might conciously be willing to pay that price but it cannot pretend that releasing a terrorist thrice will have no consequences.
Note: Those who are intrigued by the reference might want to visit the Wikipedia article the Court Martial of Breaker Morant which illustrates the ambiguities of men who must win a war and yet conform to public expectations. Here's an actual exchange between Morant and the prosecutor.
When asked by the President whether his court had been constituted like the court-martial, and whether he had observed certain of the King's Regulations, Morant responded defiantly. His reply, as recorded by Witton, is legendary: "Was it like this?" fiercely answered Morant. "No; it was not quite so handsome. As to rules and regulations, we had no Red Book, and knew nothing about them. We were out fighting the Boers, not sitting comfortably behind barb-wire entanglements; we got them and shot them under Rule 303," referring to the Lee-Enfield .303 caliber rifles the Carbineers carried.