Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hamdaniya

Under U. S. law, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This applies to everyone, including the Marines accused of doing the unspeakable in Hamdaniya. They will be provided with legal counsel, which will do everything in its power under the law to get them acquitted. This is no more than was done for Zacarias Moussaoui, the Lackawanna Seven, the Unabomber, or Timothy McVeigh. Of course, the prosecution will be called upon to present evidence that these men are guilty of a crime and can be expected to dig up every available scrap to that end.

That said, it may be a bit premature to begin theorizing about what happened in Hamdaniya. Of course, as the MSM and some legislators have been jumping at any opportunity to tarnish the administration and (despite everyone's "but we support the troops!" protestation) the U.S. Military, they have been quick to put the worst possible spin on the rumors that have been coming out of that city. A report this morning, however, seemed to have something of substance to it. It is said that some among this group of men have acknowledged an element of premeditation. Allegedly(remember--nothing is yet proven beyond a reasonable doubt) the Marines were looking for the terrorist that had killed one of their own with an IED. Failing to turn him up in a house-by-house search, they may have killed an unarmed civilian instead.

Years ago, an Army-wife girlfriend described the military to me as "society condensed." This, I believe, is an accurate assessment. The U.S. Armed Forces comprises the brilliant, the noble, the honorable--and the dregs of society. I have encountered compassionate military personnel, profoundly religious and ethical military personnel, and (usually, thank goodness, via the newspaper) a rogue's gallery of liars, cheats, thieves, rapists, and cutthroats in uniform. The only excuse for this state of affairs is that the situation reflects society as a whole and that the rogues tend to be quickly weeded out (and often more severely punished than would a similar crop of civilians) when they are exposed.

Ethics training is not new in the U. S. Forces. The purpose of an army may be "to break things and kill people, " but society in general and the military in particular have codes of honor as to which things are not to be broken and which people are not to be killed. Accidents happen, but they shouldn't happen often. Out-of-control actions endanger the individual, the unit, and innocent noncombatants. Warriors may risk losing self-control in the heat of battle, but troop discipline should mitigate this tendency.

So did this small group of Marines go out that day with the intention of killing someone--anyone--in revenge? At this point I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know is that, if they did kill a civilian just because they felt like "getting one of theirs," they are guilty of a sin against God, a crime against humanity, and a grave act of dishonor against the Marine Corps and their country. If they have done what they are accused of having done, they have erased any difference between themselves and the enemy they fight--an enemy that has shown little concern for whom it kills and in fact has repeatedly targeted innocent civilians. If they have killed indiscriminately for revenge, they have disregarded the most fundamental principles of the society that nurtured them--a society that long ago abandoned the blood feud and that has long disdained the concept of guilt by association. The big question will be not, "Why did they do it?" but "Why didn't anyone speak up against it?"

When and only when all the facts have been sifted out, if they are in fact guilty of murder, they should--and I have confidence, will be--punished to the extent the law allows. If so, may God have mercy upon them.

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