Thursday, May 18, 2006

Murtha Says Pentagon Report Shows Marines in Haditha Killed Civilians

From Knight-Ridder:

A Pentagon report on an incident in which U.S. Marines shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians last November will show that those killings were deliberate and worse than initially reported, a Pennsylvania congressman said Wednesday.

"There was no firefight. There was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed those innocent people," Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said during a news conference on Iraq. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

The usual apologists for the war on the right are incensed at Murtha's comments. The consensus seems to be that the Marines accused of having committed this atrocity should have the benefit of being presumed innocent at least until the investigation is complete.

I can't really argue with that, but one of the problems here is that the outcry over prejudging the investigation seems to be more about a thinly veiled outrage that anyone would suggest the charges might be true. In fact, sometimes the veil drops completely:

Rep. John Murtha appeared on Hardball this evening and made an obscene claim, he said that our Marines "killed civilians" in Iraq. This remark was followed by yet another reprehensible statement; Chris Matthews questioned if what Murtha was talking about like My Lai, to which the Congressman said that was "exactly it."

In Haditha, from what we know now, 15 unarmed civilians were killed by Marines after a roadside bomb killed the Marines' buddies. In My Lai, over 500 Vietnamese civilians -- women, children, infants, and old men -- were systematically murdered. Scores of villagers were herded into a ditch and summarily executed. Many of the people killed were tortured and raped first.

Unarguably, if U.S. Marines killed 15 unarmed civilians after a roadside bombing in which those civilians had no part, that is a war crime. But I would hesitate to compare it to My Lai.

That said, I find it insufferably hypocritical of this Ian fellow to call such comparisons "reprehensible," since at the time war supporters just like him screamed just as loudly about the vileness of suggesting American soldiers could possibly have massacred hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. Now, at the safe distance of almost 40 years, war supporters like Ian can agree that My Lai was an atrocity, while they continue to deny that Americans could ever be associated with war crimes in the present -- even if not every single one is in the same league of barbarity as My Lai was.

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