Monday, June 12, 2006

Haditha Marines Defense: Lucky Shots

The Marines accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha have offered up their defense: they were just following procedure.
But the attorneys, speaking this weekend to several news outlets, said the Marines were following established rules of engagement by tossing fragmentation grenades into homes where insurgents were suspected of hiding, and then following up with blasts of M-16 fire.

Insofar as such a defense will force the examination of a potentially faulty procedure that is more likely to lead to the deaths of civilians, that is a good thing.

But the defense really boils down to an incredible claim: lucky shots. No one was killed by explosives and the victims - cowering, stunned, and obscured by the smoke of grenades - were shot in the head and chest nearly every time.

And so far, another explanation is lacking. Why did they think insurgents were in those houses?

Also when weighing whether or not to believe this defense, it's worth taking into consideration that the Marines failed to "follow procedure" immediately after the incident. A faulty report on the killings of the Iraqis was filed (claiming they had been killed by bomb rather than gunshot), and the Marine Corps failed to do an investigation into the killings, a routine procedure, especially when there is a high death count. Particularly when taken together it looks like consciousness of guilt by hiding after the fact.

To be fair, the Marines claim they didn't file the false report, and it is their superiors who failed to investigate. But the evidence suggests these two occurrences happened because there was something unusual about the killings of these particular civilians. The Marines' "lucky shots" defense confirms that.

And lest I be accused of being a civilian with no battle experience passing judgment on something I know nothing about, this is not civilian vs. the military, this is military vs. military. Civilians get killed all the time in war, a regrettable fact (which is why war should be a last resort and not desired). But this time a false report was filed, no routine investigation was performed, several commanders have been relieved of duty, and the Marines have offered a questionable defense. Those are very strong indications that procedure was not being followed, from beginning to end.

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