Saturday, June 10, 2006

Possible Reasonable Doubt In The Haditha Case -- UPDATED

I have hesitated to write about Haditha because it appeared to be a matter best left to people with military backgrounds and better legal experience than I. But it appears more and more to be a case of agenda driven reporters actively working with anti-American Iraqis to achieve distinct but concurrent ends.

First, at American Thinker, Clarice Feldman summarizes what is known about all the participants in the Haditha story, including the Time reporter, Tim McGirk, and the Iraqi "informant". (Most of her report comes from material collected at Sweetness & Light.) Her conclusion, in light of the cited evidence, is quite reasonable:

The sum and substance of this thumbnail sketch on the Haditha claims is that it follows so closely the template for the TANG and Plame stories. Take a reporter with an anti-Administration agenda, an interested group (think of the Mashhadanis as the VIPS in the Plame case or Burkett and Lucy Ramirez in the TANG case) and a story too good to be checked and circumstances where the people attacked are limited in what they can quickly respond to and you get a story which smells to me like it will soon be unraveled.

It will still be the province of the military to determine what occurred at Haditha, but we ought begin to gird ourselves for yet another propaganda war with Arab and Muslim activists. Should the accusations in this case, now known throughout the world as the "massacre at Haditha", prove to be false, then no end of angry denunciations will flow from the Arab world; a refutation of their claims against the Marines will only prove to them the depth of the conspiracy they face.

UPDATE: Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette has additional details and comments. It begins by discussing American reporters disingenuously setting up military spokesmen to make it seem as though a coverup is taking place. In that the military cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, it has hardly evidence of a coverup that they do not, in fact, wish to comment on the accuracy of statements made before the investigation was initiated. The reports Greyhawk cites can both be found at the Washington Post, here and here (second page).

He also develops some points that Clarice Feldman made at American Thinker, also citing this post at Sweetness & Light. Namely, he investigates the rather peculiar history of the Iraqi who supposedly provided new evidence of a massacre and his odd relationship with Time reporter Tim McGirk. The "informant" is Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi, and in Time's reporting he metamorphoses from a "Iraqi journalism student" from Baghdad who videotaped evidence of the Haditha incident while visiting his "grown siblings' families" to a "budding Iraqi journalist and human-rights activist" to simply a "Haditha resident." Hadithi is in fact a 43-year-old man who is one of two members of a human rights group formed 16 months ago, and a person who once worked for the Iraqi doctor who has claimed that the Haditha victims had been shot at close range.

It is this behavior that lends credence to the statement I made above, that this case appears more and more to be one of agenda driven reporters actively working with anti-American Iraqis to achieve distinct but concurrent ends.

UPDATE 2: There is also this post at Hawaii Reporter, via Power Line. This is the important part:
Marine Captain James Kimber commanded Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The troops involved in the incident were from Kilo Company. He tells interviewers that he first learned about the shootings in February when he heard that a Time magazine reporter was asking questions about civilian deaths. Notably, Kimber says he heard nothing about a civilian massacre during weekly meetings with the Haditha City Council and talks with local leaders. "It would have been huge, there would have been no question it would have filtered down to us," he said. "We reported no significant atmospheric change as a result of that day."

(I recall seeing this elsewhere earlier in the week, but cannot recall where.)

UPDATE 3: At Riehl World View, a breakdown of inconsitencies in the reporting of the Haditha story. It is additional damning evidence against the people covering this story. Of just some of the inconcsistencies, he writes:

Time did a ten week investigation of this story and if you search it, none of these witnesses existed. Not Al-Hadithi, Safa Younis, or the lawyer Khaled Salem Rsayef. Now, not only are they bringing out videos, they are claiming to have lived next door. And the MSM is splashing their stories all over the place. This is obscene.

Also, at the Washington Post, an Army major has written a banal column that does not bemoan the fact that American Marines have been presumed guilty by the press and much of the public without the benefit of a trial. Instead, the author acknowledges that the Marines have yet to be tried, then proceeds to make an argument that presumes them guilty without trial.

The column establishes a false dilemma between those "see only the bad things soldiers do" in Iraq and those "so convinced of the rightness of our cause that they refuse to acknowledge that our soldiers sometimes make choices that are clearly wrong and for which they should be held accountable." To make his point that we should "all reject such simplistic approaches to judging soldiers' actions in war" it is necessary that the author imply the Marines are guilty.

War is "stressful," he tells us. It is "complex" he tells us, and soldiers have to play so many roles in the course of a day that it can be difficult to know which operational rules apply. But there is good news, he assures us: war crimes are preventable with well-trained, well-led soldiers. He also repeatedly reminds us that soldiers who commit a crime, even when in a war zone, must be held accountable, a point that no one on the right side of the blogosphere has ever disputed.

The most unseemly part of this display is in the final paragraph:
All Americans should resist the calls of those who seek to condemn all soldiers based on the actions of a few, just as we should reject any claims that soldiers are immune from judgment.

It is impossible not to infer, given the context of the article, that the "few" he refers to are the Haditha Marines.

The issue before us with Haditha is not nearly so grandiose as this; the issue is not, to many of us, those who "condemn all soliers." The issue is simply that we must protect the rights of a group of Marines from the depridations of an overzealous and less than credible press corps. That the author dismisses this issue in favor of a general defense of the military suggests he doesn't care about the fate of these Marines at all.

It is not a refusal to acknowledge "that our soldiers sometimes make choices that are clearly wrong and for which they should be held accountable" that causes me to reach this conclusion. It is rather that I refuse to accept an article in Time magazine, by a biased reporter utilizing shady foreign sources, as justification for throwing out the Constitutional rights of American soldiers.

Technorati tags: | | | | | |


Anonymous said...

I found most of your comments regarding the rush to judement in Haditha to be on target. But I have strongly disagree with your interpretation of Major Peter Kilner's commentary in the Washington Post. Kilner offered a cogent and thoughtful analysis of the moral questions our military on the ground face every day in Iraq. His point, and one well worth taking, is that Iraq is no different than any other war: the exercise of violence will result in both honorable and dishonorable, intentional and accidental, execusable and inexcusable, moral and immoral acts. (You can probably combine any of two of the words above and find a case that fits that characterization.) Kilner did not conclude that the Marines at Haditha were guilty, nor did he say they were innocent. He left that decision to those who are investigating the case.

However, he did conclude that there will be those who will use the case, and the discussions in the media about it (using even his very thoughtful piece) to justify their own pre-conceived positions. In your case, he was right.

I would recommend the commentary to anyone who would like to hear the thoughtful perspective of a U.S. military professional.

McKreck said...

Your comment is greatly appreciated.

You make a fair point about the strengths of the column. I hesitated to mention the column at all, but I ultimately decided that its faults outweighed its virtues. I agree to a point that it is a thoughtful discussion, but it is predicated on a tiresome false dilemma and it fails to sufficiently establish for the reader that the Haditha Marines have not only not been convicted of anything, they have not even been charged. At this point, we only know that the Hadiha investigation was launched under extremely suspicious circumstances. To use it as the launching point for a discussion of how to treat a soldier's crimes in a warzone is, as I said above, unseemly.

Also, as I said at the beginning of my post, I did not originally have strong ideas of what happened at Haditha. Further, the impression I got from every milblogger I read was that they were willing to acccept the possibility of the charges being true, pending an investigation. I was and am willing to defer to them. I do not think it fair to claim that I have evidenced, as the column would put it, a "refusal to acknowledge" that soldiers can commit horrible wrongs. What I refuse to do is patiently accept the suggestion that these soldiers committed any wrong, when there has been no formal charge and the basis of the investigation is the rather tenuous credibility of Tim McGirk's reporting.