Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Murtha's Murderers

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events." ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Imagine yourself a soldier in Iraq. Every day your life is on the line as you go on patrol. You are continually aware that any man, woman, or even child that you see could possibly have a bomb strapped around them. Your senses are sharpened from months of this daily routine. Every change in the now familiar landscape could mean an IED has been placed nearby. You've seen some death and carnage. You live in a state of constant fear.

The memories of horror are indelibly etched in your mind. You can remember the time, months ago, that seems like yesterday, when you were trading "Yo Mama" jokes with your best friend and he walked away from you just a few yards and an IED went off beside him and reduced him to bits and pieces before your eyes. You can't get the image of his smiling face disentegrating right in front of you out of your mind.

I am sorry.

I was trying to paint a vivid picture of what life must be like for the ordinary foot soldier in one of the more dangerous regions in Iraq, but I cannot. I have never been in combat. I can only imagine and my imagination isn't good enough. No one can possibly know what these brave young men and women are going through.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I watched "Saving Private Ryan" again. The first few minutes of that movie are, as far as I know, probably the most realistic depiction of live combat ever filmed. It is the only frame of reference I can draw from to try to grasp the horror and confusion of war.

It is extremely inadequate.

What I am clumsily trying to say is we don't know the state of mind of the Marines who have been accused of cold blooded murder, but I am reasonably sure that Congressman Murtha made at least one good point. The Marines were very likely under great stress. In addition to that stress, there is testimony that they were under fire from persons unknown. It is natural to assume they reacted accordingly and, as a result, innocent people, among them women and children, died.

I am trying to sympathise because I can't empathise.

One of the sad truths of war is that there will be casualties. No matter how well and efficiently a war is fought, people die. Many times, they are innocent civilian people.

It is called collateral damage. It is, sadly, unavoidable.

While it is possible that the Marines did indeed murder these people in cold blood as Congressman Murtha alledges, it is also possible that these unfortunate victims fall under the category of collateral damage.

I am inclined to back the Marines in this case. If one takes into account the stress of the situation and evidence they were being fired on, it is no stretch to believe that the innocent victims in this case were not murdered intentionally, but were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bullets were flying and bombs were being detonated. Through all that confusion, it is quite understandable that some innocents were caught in the crossfire.

Bullets don't care what they strike.

Conservative talk radio hosts are quick to denounce Murtha for declaring the Marines guilty without benefit of a fair hearing and rightly so. But we cannot ignore the possiblity that he is correct in his assessment.

If the Marines are found guilty of the crimes they are accused of they should be punished. If they are absolved, Congressman Murtha owes them a heartfelt apology.

In the end, though, I believe the Marines should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Let's all reserve judgment until after the investigation is complete.


Old Soldier said...

Mark, I think the best possible course of action, for those of us who do not know unequivocally what took place in Haditha, is to remain silent until the military investigation is completed. Once the investigation is completed, the military will share their findings. Until then, the very best we can hope for is mere speculation. Admittedly, the military is purposefully secretive while investigations are ongoing for a very specific reason; avoid undue pressure to arrive at a fore drawn conclusion. Political pressure is a severe motivator for the military; so is the desire to avoid appearing biased toward their own. These influences can adversely sway investigators. In this case, the military needs the populaces’ and the media’s patience so as to be thorough and fair in discovery all the facts.

All this talk about “combat stress”, “fear”, etc. is not helpful and does not mitigate or explain a thing. Ninety-nine percent of the time soldiers (all serve persons) in chaotic combat situations will respond exactly as they are trained; it is the only reasonable thing they know to do. Yes, there is unbelievable fear; yes the emotions are strained to a point of bursting; but the only disciplined response is to do as trained – that is what will save your and your buddy’s lives. If training discipline was broken in this situation, it will come to light during the investigation.

As for Rep Murtha, I have but one comment: should the investigation reveal no criminal activity, then Rep Murtha owes those Marines a formal letter of apology accompanied by a copy of his letter of resignation from the House of Representatives. Hell, even if they are charged, he owes them a formal apology for acting like a politician rather than a Marine!

Mark said...

Thanks for the soldiers perspective O.S. I cannot even imagine how horrible war is. I don't think I want to.

Dan Trabue said...

"It is called collateral damage. It is, sadly, unavoidable."

And this is the reason why many folk who believe in the notion of Just War Theory think that we can no longer (if we ever could have) prosecute a Just War. One of the tenets of JWT is that you must differentiate between combatants and civilians. Killing civilians is not allowed under JWT and, as Mark points out, they are a certainty in todays' wars and have been for at least a century now.

And so, not only do pacifists stand in opposition to war as it exists, so too must those who truly believe in the notion of Just War as defined by the church all these centuries. As Pope Benedict said:

There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."

Parklife said...

I just worry that these leaks to the press is only to prepare the American public for what is to come. I heard (hows that for a source) on BBC radio testimony by one of the surviving victims. It was awful. When the full investigation report trickles in this could be really really bad.

Never the less, it seems the original post on this topic does not seem to disagree with Murtha very much. The Senator repeatedly calls the military stressed out. That may be at the heart of this whole thing.

Mary said...

What troubles me about Murtha's incessant blabbing on Haditha is that he is exploiting it.

The guy is shamelessly ripping on the Marines without adding qualifiers to his statements, such as:

The investigation is ongoing.

By far, most Marines are serving honorably.

Pamela Reece said...

Mark, Another great post. I have reserved my right to place judgement until the investigation is complete. I trust in the Marines to fully investigate and the truth will be known. Whether or not how others view our Marines, is obvious if it is true. However, those of us true patriots know that 3 bad apples does not mean all the apples on the tree are bad.

Jim said...

Wait a minute. You seem to forget that this incident occurred last November. The Marine Corps did investigate. That the individual Marines did this is horrible and sad. That the Marine Corps attempted to cover it up is outragious but not surprising.

Murtha didn't make this stuff up. Do you think he heard some rumor and blasted it all over the world? No. Somebody with a true sense of honor no doubt informed him of the incident, the investigation, and the cover up.

Once again Murtha has shown himself to be a true American patriot.

Poison Pero said...

If guilty, these Marines should be punished.....If not, they should be cleared.

But either way, Murtha(F'er) shouldn't be stringing them up before they've been tried.

The Libs have been dying waitin for the next My Lai, and will have a group orgasm if this turns out to be it........Gotta love a group of Americans sitting around hoping for things to go bad. Sick SOB's.

Sheila said...


That wasn't necessary. No one would ever want another My Lai and Senator Murtha for the record has weekly visits to the wounded Military at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital. No Other Politician even comes close. I'd say he cares very much and has a right to be harsh with the Joiunt Chiefs of Staff and Congress.

Now can we just look at this rationally and not politically?

The military gets overlooked most of the time until something crazy serious happens. When I was in, I was used to the attitude of, "Don't expect anything from the Powers in Washington." Oh well....we're just here to serve.

The company of Marines were on their 3rd tour of duty. The tour before this one they lost over 30 of their fellow marines. The Marine that was killed was a particularly "Beloved" one. Just setting you up for some understanding folks.

PTSD. Nothing was diagnosed at time. The reason PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome) was not diagnosed is because the military has been under a harrendous strain to maintain troop levels.

Even in peace time, we had a huge loyalty to sacrifise ourselves for the cause. That is the undying mental attutude now. My own son has it today.

On Active Duty, you have of course, mental health facilities to go to, but (as a retired vet) There is a lot of under the counter advice to stay away, because they would drum you out of the corp.

So, these young men get a required questionaire coming of deployment about their mental health and it's been reported that at least 50% is unanswered.

Still there is a 6 month waiting list for PTSD evaluation in the Military and Only at Veterans Centers, not active duty hospitals.

The half recorded cases of young men requesting treatment have to go back into the field without completing the evaluation.

The Veteran's Administration asked for 7 million last year to increase treatment for the physically and mentally wounded coming back from the Iraq war only.

They got 3 million for the elderly vets from other wars and these new ones alike.

I can't say that I'm surprised. We're stretched beyond the limit and borrowing from other countries to keep going.

So, don't take this out on Murtha. He's bleeding for these young men. Don't take it out on the young men. Its much more complicated than just making a judgement.

I'm sorry to say, that mostly likely these Marines are guilty of losing it. BUT! I don't in anyway blame them or gain any satisfaction saying that.

The military does a heck of a job and 99% of the time gets overlooked for the little things that would make their life easier and safer in the long run.

OK! Off the stump Matalin. God Bless them all and nothing is ever black and white.

Switch the channels (like I've beeen doing) and wait for the end.

Trader Rick said...

No one hates war more than than than the soldiers that have to fight them. Murtha is a good man gone bad. We support the Marines 100%. Those who use this incident as a political tool for their own advantage are sick, and need help.

Louise Williams said...

Hi. Just browsing other people's blogs as I keep one of my own and thought I should really see what other people write about.

I don't know exactly what situation you are referring to but I agree that no-one can entirely understand what those soldiers are going through. I am from the UK and I know that a lot of our soldiers have been killed by car bombs and suchlike.

Very interesting subject. I must read more when I have time.


Old Soldier said...

"Once again Murtha has shown himself to be a true American patriot.?"

And Benedict Arnold should be posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General!

Mike's America said...

I'm reading Martin Gilbert's biography of Churchill. In his early Army career Churchill witnessed many atrocities committed by Muslims in the tribal areas of Pakistan (once part of India).

This kind of thing in war is not new.

It is also not new that enemies will often massacre civilians and claim that the good guys did it. This has been seen in the last few years in both Palestine and Iraq.

And of course there was that "wedding party" near the Syrian border a few years ago that turned out to be a terrorist camp.

If we find that Marines are guilty of murder they will be tried and punished.

Too bad we don't also charge and try those in this country who would slander our soldiers when falsely accused and aid our enemies.

P.S. All that garbage about our military being overstretched or broken is nothing more than Murtha defeatism and anyone who utters it has lost any credibility as regards further discussion of the issue.

Jim said...

Rick, just how has Murtha "gone bad"?