Wednesday, June 21, 2006

8 U.S. troops face murder charges - Conflict in Iraq -

These are the same eight that have been held without formal charges against them, in solitary confinement, and even in shackles, ever since the incident in question. Sean Hannity and others have basically served notice on the Navy and the Marine Corps: Charge these eight, or let them go, and in no event continue their maltreatment. The maltreatment stopped--and now the charges have come through.

Charges mean that they are entitled to representation by JAG officers (military lawyers; JAG stands for "Judge Advociate General") free of charge, or by civilian attorneys at their own expense. Charges also mean that investigations will continue by both sides, not just one.

The allegation is that some or all of these men pulled an Iraqi civilian out of his bed, shot him multiple times without provocation, and then left what are known in the law-enforcement trade as "throw-down weapons" to make their victim look like an insurgent when he was not.

To paraphrase Actor James Stewart in Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, a good lawyer can defend that in four ways:

  1. Their acts were excusable under the circumstances, which would have to be extraordinary.
  2. They didn't do the deed.
  3. It wasn't murder anyway--the guy shot himself, and those eight discovered him.
  4. The putative victim really was an insurgent after all, or else behaved toward them in a manifestly threatening manner, and therefore those eight were absolutely in the right in what they did.
In the light of the brutal murders of two US servicemen (set upon by thirty insurgents--it took thirty of them to take down two of ours)--the details of which are too gruesome to relate--I am not ready to assume that those eight men have no defense. Bear in mind that the government would surely have to establish motive--and "generalized hatred" doesn't strike me as motive enough for this act. Because those men were either justified in what they did, or else they are total Section Eights.