WASHINGTON – Seven Marines and a sailor were charged with murder yesterday in the alleged planned killing of a disabled Iraqi civilian whose shooting death was staged to look like a foiled roadside bombing. In a separate case, a fourth soldier from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division was charged with premeditated murder in the shooting deaths of three prisoners north of Baghdad.
The new cases bring to 12 the number of servicemen facing the death penalty for actions on the battlefield. Military law experts could not recall a previous time when so many troops faced capital punishment, suggesting the heightened awareness of commanders to the impact of atrocity allegations on the Iraq war effort. Charges also are expected to be filed soon against several more Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 unarmed civilians in the western town of Haditha on Nov.19. At Camp Pendleton, Calif., Col. Stewart Navarre said the Marine Corps “prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions” as he announced the charges against the seven enlisted Marines and a Navy corpsman or medic. The next step in the case will be an Article 32 investigation, the military equivalent of a grand jury probe, of the charges that the troops dragged disabled Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, from his home in the town of Hamdaniyah near Baghdad on April 26 and shot him at least four times in the face. The accused then allegedly took a shovel from Awad’s home and put it next to his body, along with an AK-47 rifle commonly used by insurgents, to make it appear that he was shot while planting a bomb by the side of the road.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on the above story today. Get the rest here.
The Pentagon yesterday announced the names of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman charged with the April 26 kidnapping and murder of a 52-year-old Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania. The accusations are grave and, if proved, will almost certainly lead to severe sentences. We suspect no parallel process is taking place among Iraqi insurgents for the weekend murders near Yusufiya of U.S. soldiers Thomas L. Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. That’s a distinction worth pondering the next time you hear Iraq war critics carp at the U.S. refusal to apply Geneva Convention privileges to enemy combatants. The Convention extends those privileges to combatants who abide by the laws it sets for war, including the treatment of prisoners.Combatants who fail to obey those laws–by not wearing distinctive military insignia or targeting civilians–are not entitled to its privileges. If they were, the very purpose of the Convention would be rendered a nonsense. And this is why the U.S. has refused Geneva privileges to the enemy combatants at Guantanamo, which we hope is an argument heeded by the Supreme Court as it decides the Hamdan case.
We’ll see. We’ll keep up with the case at Camp Pendleton.
Semper Fi, Marines, the American public is with you.