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June 12, 2006

Comments

"Unlike John Murtha, I haven’t judged those Marines guilty"

I think you want a different formulation than "judged guilty".

Chas,
I appreciate the effort that went into this, but I and I think others will have a hard time determining what is your opinion and what is what you are quoting. I am loathe to ask you to do more work, but might I suggest some blockquoting in various places?

Also, you may want to think about writing your post up in a full featured text editor (I'm assuming you use window, but if you are using Mac, BBedit (which I think has a parallel freeware version) and SubEthaEdit (which is free) are quite powerful and could assure that your message isn't lost in trying to sort out precisely who is saying what.

Also, note that a central part of Murtha's argument is the payments made to the dead civilians' families. Unless I missed it above, you don't address that. For that matter, you might cite Murtha's claim that top officers in the Marines agree with him and the lack (unless I'm wrong) of any pushback from the Marines on the subject.

"Did the Marines take fire from any of the four houses where they shot its occupants?"

Thought I had seen reports indicating shots inside the houses but not into them.

Also note there were reportedly four (I think) men killed execution-style outside - having been pulled from a cab.


What lj said about the difficulty of following the formatting - "on

Nov. 19, 2005
," for example.

I appreciate the effort that went into this, but I and I think others will have a hard time determining what is your opinion and what is what you are quoting.

My opinion follows the bolded "Comments", LJ. I wrote this on Word and copied it over, which I may not do again. I may do a little re-editing.

Unless I missed it above, you don't address that.

I don't think the payments are admissions of guilt, rilke, which is why I didn't bring it up. In one or more of the links above, the Marines didn't compensate the families of those they thought were combatants.

Crap, rilke, I see what you mean. Typepad isn't letting me get into "edit HTML" mode.

"I don't think the payments are admissions of guilt, rilke, which is why I didn't bring it up."

Well, if it's the case that we routinely pay the families of civilians killed collaterally, not in alleged contravention of the RoE and so forth, then perhaps it would be worth pointing that out as a reason to be cautious about Murtha's position.

Sorry about the unsolicited advice here, but you should avoid word if you are writing than cutting and pasting. I have no idea what is best in the windows world, but this page lists both the pay and free text editors. As I said, I use bbedit, which has a palette so you can simply click a button and it puts the html code into the document and color codes it.

The formatting should OK now. Maybe next time I'll give bbedit a shot. It almost wasn't worth going back and reformatting this longwinded epic.

Before you try bbedit, use text wrangler, which is the same basic program as bbedit, but is free. BBedit has all the bells and whistles, but if you are just dealing with marking up blog posts, textwrangler should be more than enough.

Thanks for doing this, Charles.

"Thanks for doing this, Charles."

And Farber. Gratitude and admiration for both of you.

This is, indeed, a very solid rundown from what I can see. Thanks, Charles.

Left unsaid in all these events is the tactics used by insurgents, firing from homes of non-combatants and putting civilians’ lives in peril. The American mainstream press seldom if ever places responsibility on the insurgents for how they conduct themselves, which are obvious violations of the rules of war.

That goes without saying -- it's one of the many reasons counterinsurgency is difficult. As you pointed out above, the cases where we have demonstrated remarkable successes have involved deliberate decisions to take a different approach. If the insurgents are fighting with different tactics, the solution is to adapt, not cry 'no fair.'

As always, let us not overlook the Earth 2 post and comments thereto.

I've been keeping up with this story pretty well, and, actually, i find this attempt more confusing than reading the other links that are being posted separately -- they are much more precise about the different angles they are approaching the event from. In this case, i think leaving each angle as it is will serve the cause of "the whole picture" better than attempting to shove it all into a linear description, especially since some of what was originally written by TIME has been retracted

Thanks, Charles -- this is very helpful.

Comment: I do not think that when a reporter goes somewhere and finds convincing evidence that children have been killed by gunshots at close range, using the word 'massacre' is evidence of bias. Merriam-Websterdefines 'massacre' as "the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty." This would seem to be an accurate description of what the reporter found evidence of.

Likewise, had I shot the video al-Hadithi shot, I too might have "taken sides", if this means 'concluding that something awful had happened, and that the Marines had done it'. It's hard to imagine videotaping the bodies of women and children shot in their nightclothes and not reaching that conclusion.

About the delay: it's worth asking whether he knew who to give it to -- if one assumed that the Marines would cover it up (which, true or false, would not be a nutty assumption for someone to make), it's not clear who one would give it to. In any case, if the video has time stamps and can be determined not to have been edited, etc., then why he waited is less important.

Merriam-Websterdefines 'massacre' as "the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty."

The "under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty" is what's being determined by the Marine and NCIS investigations, Hil. Time and Murtha already made their judgments, before the bodies were even exhumed.

It's hard to imagine videotaping the bodies of women and children shot in their nightclothes and not reaching that conclusion.

Agreed, which means al-Hadithi was misleading in his putting up pretenses as a journalist.

Charles: "al-Hadithi was misleading in his putting up pretenses as a journalist."

I don't agree. I think that anyone, journalist or not, who shot that footage might easily have come to the same conclusion. And having concluded that the Marines had done something dreadful does not impugn one's objectivity, if one draws that conclusion on the basis of evidence.

Time and Murtha already made their judgments, before the bodies were even exhumed.

You seemed to have no trouble labelling the deaths of Shias and Kurds at the hands of Saddam massacres and genocide without a proper investigation, Charles.

Murtha made his remarks after having been briefed by Gen. Hagee. It's abundantly clear to anyone not in denial that he was not "prejudging" but preparing Congress and the public for what is to come.

The fact that it took five months to begin an NCIS investigation is damning by itself. The military stuck by the 'IED killed the 15' lie for months, replacing it with a second 'firefight' lie after photo evidence became available to people outside the unit.

This compilation is "useful" only to denialists; it's particularly unhelpful in its inclusion of many points retracted or proven incorrect since publication.

For instance, there were 24 civilian non-combatants killed: the five men in the taxi and the four brothers in a house (with one pistol between them, which no one has claimed was fired). Until recently, the military line was that they were insurgents, because they were non-elderly males. They are not now considered to be so, as a less selective clipping of recent articles would show.

Jeez, Charles....you act as if Marines never do things "terrorist" do.

Welcome to war.

What sucks is you want pretend that when Americans do it, its "spreading freedom and liberty" while everybody else is spreading terror.

Bin Laden wanted the US to reveal itself as another typical warmongering power, and you fell for it.

I think Nell hit on the main issue - the Marines lied about the IED killing them all at first. When the FIRST story is found to be a lie, or at best, completely inaccurate, it is hard to believe good of any subsequent story not independently verified.

It's the same problem Bush has, isn't it?

Jake

This compilation is "useful" only to denialists

And only then in the context of domestic U.S. politics. To an international audience, particularily in the M.E., such talk as this only compounds the perception of bad faith. Exponentially.

And just for the record, you were right to use the terms "genocide" and "massacre" in regards to Saddam prior to 2003, because the evidence in the public domain was compelling. As it is in this case.

The citation from The American Thinker undercuts your argument, because they're blatantly opposed to anyone who doesn't toe their preferred version of the right-wing party line.

I noticed a lack of commentary on the story told by Lance Corporal Ryan Briones:

Briones said he took pictures of at least 15 bodies before his camera batteries died. He said he then helped other Marines remove the bodies and place them in body bags. He said his worst moment, and one that haunts him to this day, was picking up the body of a young girl who was shot in the head.
"I held her out like this," he said, demonstrating with his arms extended, "but her head was bobbing up and down and the insides fell on my legs."

That doesn't sound as if the 'young girl' was killed by shrapnel from a grenade. She was shot in the head.

You seemed to have no trouble labelling the deaths of Shias and Kurds at the hands of Saddam massacres and genocide without a proper investigation, Charles.

I don't remember ever using the term "genocide" when it came "labelling" Saddam and what he did to Shiites and Kurds, sparti, but it's an historical fact that Saddam was responsible for massacres, with the only question being how many. Halabja is but one example. Saddam would never have acceded to investigations into his crimes while he was in office, so it's terribly meaningful to make such comparisons.

It's abundantly clear to anyone not in denial that he was not "prejudging" but preparing Congress and the public for what is to come.

Nell, Murtha said this on national television: "I will not excuse murder and that what's happened." If that's not prejudging before the indictments are even made, I don't know what is. The notion that he spoke out to prepare Congress and the public requires ESP. He brought up Haditha in a press conference--that he initiated--comemmorating the six-month anniversary of his cut-and-run proposal.

This compilation is "useful" only to denialists; it's particularly unhelpful in its inclusion of many points retracted or proven incorrect since publication.

It sounds like you're calling me a "denialist", Nell. Where have I denied anything? Why would a denialist--such as me, apparently--fully excerpt the statements of Eman Waleed AND Safa Younis AND Yousif Ahmed AND a handful of other Iraqis who were there?

For instance, there were 24 civilian non-combatants killed: the five men in the taxi and the four brothers in a house (with one pistol between them, which no one has claimed was fired).

It looks to be the case (see my update). Which other points were retracted or proven incorrect, Nell? I'd like to know. In any event, the main thrust of the post was to put together the statements of those who were there, fully excerpted and without selectivity.

Is the problem you have with Murtha's statement that a high-ranking government offical said that murder had taken place, or that anyone says it before all the evidence is in?

Charles:

Which other points were retracted or proven incorrect, Nell?
Aside from the one about all those civilians being killed by an IED, you mean?

Jeez, Charles....you act as if Marines never do things "terrorist" do.

Why would you think that, SOD? Marines are as capable, more so, than "terrorist".

What sucks is you want pretend that when Americans do it, its "spreading freedom and liberty" while everybody else is spreading terror.

Karnak Award. Congrats.

Bin Laden wanted the US to reveal itself as another typical warmongering power, and you fell for it.

Was that bin Laden or Chomsky? Bin Laden said lots of things, but the only words that really matter are the ones that will help us Zarqawi him.

Aside from the one about all those civilians being killed by an IED, you mean?

Where, exactly, did I ever support that claim, Prodigal?

I don't remember ever using the term "genocide" when it came "labelling" Saddam and what he did to Shiites and Kurds

Talking about besides the point, I suppose you said he gave them all ice cream. What about the other word? You know, massacre? Did you ever once use that term in relation to Saddam? No? Not once?

but it's an historical fact that Saddam was responsible for massacres

No kidding, like I pointed out. And funnily enough, that was obvious to the world without a "formal investigation".

You're not helping the United States by ignoring pertinent facts, here. See Nell, Prodigal et al.

Is the problem you have with Murtha's statement that a high-ranking government offical said that murder had taken place, or that anyone says it before all the evidence is in?

More so the former, w/d. Murtha may end up being completely right about everything, but to me it is galling that an elected representative of the U.S. government already decided the guilt of fellow Americans on national television. He swore an oath, and he has a higher responsibility.

You're not helping the United States by ignoring pertinent facts, here. See Nell, Prodigal et al.

Please point out which facts in a 9,773-word post were ignored.

Murtha may end up being completely right about everything, but to me it is galling that an elected representative of the U.S. government already decided the guilt of fellow Americans on national television.

You know, he's seen details of the investigation you haven't. Imagine that all the details of the investigation come out, and they satisfy you that Marines intentionally killed non-combatant civilians. (Like the little girl that Briones saw shot in the head, which, you know, convinces me. I don't know why that doesn't convince you.) And that the evidence that convinces you is evidence that Murtha has already seen, and that forms the basis of his current statements.

Would you still be angry at him? That is, are you pissed off because you think he's making statements that he doesn't have knowledge to support, or is it because he's making statements based on evidence that isn't totally public yet?

If it's the latter, I think ou're being silly. If it's the former, I don't see what your basis is.

He swore an oath

apparently, he disagrees with you about how best to uphold the Constitution. big deal.

he has a higher responsibility

sitting in the corner and nodding along with the President ?

Charles:

Aside from the one about all those civilians being killed by an IED, you mean?

Where, exactly, did I ever support that claim, Prodigal?

I thought you were referring to points about Haditha in general, rather than your own personal comments specifically. My apologies for the error.

What the hell is the media supposed to do to "place responsibility on the insurgents for how they conduct themselves?" Write a sternly-worded editorial that the insurgents aren't very nice guys? Wow, they'd pay a lot of attention to that. Predicate coverage of a possible massacre with "but remember, our enemies do bad things, too."

Bogus. Show me the MSM editorial that says "why can't we play nice, like the insurgents do?"

The post has significantly changed since I first read it (Note: I'm not calling foul, just pointing that out)

Here's a beef:

Dr. Walid said that none of the victims died from shrapnel wounds from the IED

There are two Doctor Walid's mentioned: Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, and Dr. Walid Abdel Khaliq. Neither mention frag grenades. The only evidence of the use of frag grenades is the testimony of one indirect witness and the accused. Yet you make a medical diagnosis here:

but it seems likely that the victims had shrapnel wounds from "frag" grenades.

Per Prodigal, you do mention the IED story should be officially corrected by the Corps.

I call your approach denialism because of the way in which you distribute the benefit of the doubt. It's an overstatement; I'll call it 'minimizing' instead.

You're willing to accept that statements made by the U.S. military are true and made in good faith unless they are contradicted by photographic or forensic evidence (or outweighed by first-hand testimony of other members of the military). At the same time you automatically raise skeptical points about the testimony and visual evidence of Iraqis, and readily raise the question of hostile motives.

I'm intimately familiar with the dynamics of human rights violations and those who work to address them in a counterinsurgency war. My experience causes me to approach the claims of the U.S. military _and_ of Iraqis with some skepticism. It also allows me to put myself imaginatively in the place of a resident of Haditha (a dangerously anti-American exercise to some).

When I learned of Thaer Thabet al-Hadithi's videotape, I assumed he was connected with Hammurabi Human Rights. I had and have no question whatsoever that his sympathies are with his own Sunni community, which wants the foreign occupation forces out of Haditha and out of the country. The difference between me and Clarice Feldman is that that does not produce in me the immediate conviction that he must be lying and manufacturing evidence.

The members of the Salvadoran Committee for Human Rights were FMLN sympathizers, and in many cases members. Despite that, their charges of human rights violations against the Salvadoran military were true, and the documentation they gathered was not padded or falsified. After the war ended, the investigations of the truth and reconciliation commisssion overwhelmingly vindicated their claims. The FMLN committed violations, as well, though dwarfed by the Salvadoran military and death squads in number and scale. During the war, the CDHES dealt only in the most superficial and grudging way with FMLN violations. Their bias, however, did not cause them to inflate or falsify the cases of government atrocities.

On the question of Thabet al-Hadithi's tape: my understanding is that he made it available to Arab media shortly after producing it, and that's how it came to the attention of the Time staffers. He didn't 'withhold' it, as Feldman states. He may not have delivered copies to the media bureaus in Baghdad, perhaps assuming that they would respond to the tape the way Capt. Jeffrey Pool did. I cannot this minute document when the tape was made available outside Haditha, but nor does Feldman back up the assertion that it was withheld for four months. I believe that further research will back up my impression and undermine Feldman's assertion.

The killing of nine men is not a small fact omitted in your original post. Leaving it out is of a piece with other attempts to minimize the crime.

The post has significantly changed since I first read it

No, it hasn't, sparti. Within an hour after hitting the "post" button at 1:32am, I made some HTML changes, added the Greyhawk link, and fixed some grammar in a couple of spots. This morning, I added a one-sentence update. That's it. Nothing was taken out, and no other changes were made.

The only evidence of the use of frag grenades is the testimony of one indirect witness and the accused.

The autopsies will sort that out. I found Eman Waleed's comments compelling, and two of the soldiers (through their attorneys) corroborate her statements. To me, it was enough to raise questions, which is why I put it in the question section of the post. The May 29 TIME link above: "The bullet holes have been filled, the scorch marks from FRAG grenades painted over and walls repaired."

At the same time you automatically raise skeptical points about the testimony and visual evidence of Iraqis, and readily raise the question of hostile motives.

Wrong, Nell. I took each Iraqi case-by-case. I wrote that Eman Waleed's statements were compelling, example. For Dr. Walid, I did raise the question of hostile motives, but I also said that he could be right. Ali al-Mashhadani made a brief statement about bodies lying in the streets, which Claire Feldman questioned, but Iraqi stringers have been caught before, working for rejectionists. In his case, I think it's OK to be a bit skeptical. Also, al-Mashhadani's statements directly conflict with Briones'. I don't know who is right.

I also had some reservations about al-Hadithi, but part of that had to do with how he was portrayed by MSM reporters. There is also a legitimate discrepancy in the story of Aws Fahmi. The rest of the Iraqis' statements were cut-and-pasted without editorial comment. Because of this, I reject your assertion that I "automatically raise skeptical points", etc. I made no editorial comments about the American witnesses except for inserting the Feldman comment re Briones, but to me it doesn't undercut what he saw.

As for 15 versus 24, there are plenty of links in this post that refer to 24 killed. I added my update just to be clear on the facts, and please note that I had already linked to that NYT article downthread. So again, I reject your assertions that I am denialist about Haditha.

Charles, my point is that you don't show any skepticism about statements by U.S. servicemembers -- except when, as in the case of Ryan Briones, they contradict your desired narrative.

And I modified my characterization of your approach to "minimizing" rather than 'denialist', which was overstating the case. I apologize for that overstatement.

But you're clearly minimizing.

Am I the only one hoping that Michael Moore comes out with another movie soon, or Chomsky with another book, so that Charles can find another fetish object besides John Murtha to toy around with? I mean, the former two can at least be accepted or dismissed on their own merits, but I'm a little uncomfortable with Charles' continual belittlement of a man who, whatever his failings, has done something Charles would never do in a million years: Defend his country.

Phil: Am I the only one hoping that Michael Moore comes out with another movie soon, or Chomsky with another book ...?

Nope.

I find this spectacle grotesque. Rather than stick around to hear Charles muse over the massacre's telltale lack of prussian blue dye, I'll quit while I'm ahead and head for saner pastures.

I just want to point out, about Time:
1) as far as we can tell they are the only reason there's an investigation
2) they waited two months from when they informed the military to publish their first story

As far as why Iraqis seem less upset than the US left, I would guess it's primarily:
1) they do not have as good an image of the US military as we do, so this is less surprising
2) much more to the point: there are massacres going there every day of every week, many closer to home for many Iraqis than this one.

Kind of related: there's a very interesting and (to me, at least) very convincing article on flaws in the military justice system in Slate today:

As it stands, there is no independent prosecutor's office in the military. There's nothing like the Department of Justice or an attorney general. Prosecutions only happen when a commander decides to have them. If an officer believes somebody under his command might have done wrong, then the commander can go after him and bring charges. Or not. It's all up to his discretion....

What we need is an independent prosecutor's office, a place where a Patrick Fitzgerald-type can hang his hat and go after wrongdoing wherever it may be in the chain of command.

One of the problems with leaving the punishment of soldiers to the whim of their commanders is that investigations always look downward. By military law, investigations can only pursue officers lower in rank than the commander who initiated it. Somehow, as in case after case of detainee abuse, it's not officers a grade or two below that get caught, it's those lowest in rank. After all, what are the chances investigations started and overseen by a commander are going to point up the ladder—potentially implicating, directly or indirectly, the commander?

this is not a threadjack, but it does go far afield for a while.

Over at Crooked Timber, Henry excerpts an article from the NYTimes discussing the hearing in federal court on the ACLU case on NSA wiretapping. A commenter points out that the govt classified its brief, and invited the judge to review it in the Justice Department offices in DC.

think about that for a second. It's not the EVIDENCE that's secret, it's the ARGUMENT.

Our government is taking the position that its own interpretation of existing law is secret.

wow. secret law. just ... wow.

If this is not stopped, this is, quite literally, the end of our republic. We are a country built on the Rule Of Law. Our founding document is a legal document. This country has done more in the last 200 years to spread the idea of Due Process than any nation since Hammurabi first sketched his codes in clay.

And this administration now wants secret law. What would happen, for example, if the judge wanted to use a portion of the government's brief in his opinion? Would that portion of the opinion be classified? Would the opinion essentially read "The governments wins, and we can't say why"?

As a lawyer, I find the government's conduct so outrageous, so contemptible, so vile, so inconsistent with the most fundamental american values -- like truth, honor, dignity and fair play -- that I honestly have no idea what to do. I am paralyzed in the face of this ... evil.

yes. Evil. For these men, who have sworn an oath to uphold our Constitution, are doing their utmost to destroy it.

[bringing this back on point.]

so frankly, cb, this administration is fresh out of credibility. If General George Marshall himself came back to life and told me that the americans acted reasonably in haditha, i'd still want a second opinion.

CB - Thanks for assembling these - I hadn't read many of them, and it was very useful.

I don't think that you are "minimizing" these events - I think Nell, et al, may be overstating the case somewhat. For example, I read that hideous story about the little girl for the first time right here in your post, for example, and someone seeking to make Haditha seem like a run-of-the-mill, ROE firefight would probably not highlight that gruesome account. However, there is one point that I think is fair, and needs making. Nell is right when she notes that in your post you do your best to trick out the various motives the Iraqi eyewitnesses may have for distorting or spinning their accounts of the events at Haditha, without addressing, acknowledging, or even mentioning the profound and undeniable reason the US servicemen might spin as well - they are accused of a war atrocity; the murder of innocents, including children.

I am not, am not stating that this potential bias means that the soldiers are lying. But in a post that takes pains to point out why one side's loyalty to the truth might be tested by the circumstance, a mention is perhaps warranted. Or maybe you found that point too obvious to mention. If so, mea culpa.

Regarding the Haditha massacre, we have been told by the Pentagon that 99.9 percent of soldiers perform their jobs magnificently. Let’s hope not. What is their job? It is to kill people and break things. The job of U.S. soldiers is to bring death and destruction to people in a country that was no threat to the United States. Some job. It would be better if it was only .1 percent that were doing their job.

Saturday, June 10th in News by Laurence Vance

Sorry to be late. Those who want to hate on this post are invited to do so over at the designated spot.

Charles, in my mainpage post, I've questioned some of the claims you've martialled to question al-Hadithi's evidence. What it comes down to, basically, is, whether al-Hadithi is a propagandist, a hustler, or an entrepreneur, his evidence has been taken very seriously by very serious American people. The story is beyond al-Hadithi now--well beyond--and I really don't see the point of stirring up doubts about his possible motivations.

On the piecing-together front, there's pretty good evidence to suggest the recent tragic incident at the beach in Gaza was caused by Hamas.

There might or might not be pretty good evidence. It's the IDF clearing the IDF at this stage. Someone completely independent is needed (i.e., not the Palestinians or the Israeli government . If B'Tselem has some explosives experts it can rely on, I'd settle for them.)

The reference to Jenin in rilkefan's link was irritating in its one-sidedness. There was no massacre of hundreds of civilians--the number of civilians killed (some of them murdered in the strict sense, not simply killed in crossfire) was "only" about 20 or so, according to Human Rights Watch. There was an IDF general, by the way, who early on expressed the belief that "hundreds" had died in Jenin, which helped fuel the exaggerated stories of what were in fact real war crimes on a smaller scale.

Getting back to Iraq, my paper copy of the NYT has an opinion piece by Sarah Sewall (former Clinton Pentagon official and now human rights director at Harvard) about the need to keep an account of US-inflicted civilian casualties, and not simply focus on Haditha, which is presumably an aberration.

The NYT also has a story about Zarqawi where US military actions in the last two days are summarized--32 insurgents killed, 178 captured. If 32 were killed there were some firefights, presumably. How many civilians died? Two. Statistics supplied entirely by the military, as the NYT makes clear.

Thanks for the heads-up on those stories, Donald. Friendly reminder: my short course on doing links is here.

Or, if you're working from a paper edition of the NYT, the author or title will help those interested to find the story (as you've done by mentioning Sarah Sewall; I'm assuming that's an op-ed).

Charles:

At the same time you automatically raise skeptical points about the testimony and visual evidence of Iraqis, and readily raise the question of hostile motives.

Wrong, Nell.

Actually, Charles, in at least one case Nell was absolutely correct - namely, your citation from the American Thinker's hatchet job on Ryan Briones.

Thanks, Nell. I might practice the art of linking sometime soon, on some dead thread where it won't be too obnoxious. At some point I'd like to learn it.

I usually do provide reporter names. I don't have the NYT with me at the moment--the bodycount statistics above were in an article mostly about Zarqawi and the reporters were John Burns and Dexter Filkins, I think.

The statistics, needless to say, seem implausible. I suspect that if reporters could go to the scenes where these military actions took place they'd find the locals had quite a different story to tell.

Donald, "A good example is the now discredited claim that Israel massacred Palestinians in Jenin in April 2002" is hardly one-sided - it's just how it is.

And note that "There might or might not be pretty good evidence. It's the IDF clearing the IDF at this stage. Someone completely independent is needed" is quite like CB's attitude towards Murtha's claims.

FWIW, The Guardian has a story that suggests the IDF is lying.

i take no side on this one. just sharing a link.

Actually, Charles, in at least one case Nell was absolutely correct - namely, your citation from the American Thinker's hatchet job on Ryan Briones.

I saw no hatchet job of Briones by Feldman. The fact is that Briones did not see what the Marines actually did, but was there in the aftermath. There remains a discrepancy between the stories of Ali al-Mashhadani and Briones, but thinking a little more about it, I lean more toward Briones' take because the more detailed LA Times account has more beef to it. I did not "readily raise the question of hostile motives" with James Crossen, who said some harsh things. I don't know if Briones had "hostile motives" but I doubt that he did. He sounded like a guy who was genuinely traumatized by the experience, and was a little messed up when he got stateside.

Rilkefan, I don't think any country (not the US, not anyone) does a good job policing its own war crimes. It happens on occasion, but it's not something I'd want to count on very much. Israel might be innocent in this case, for all I know. But it is common sense to want something more than an investigation conducted by the IDF about the IDF. Let it be the Israeli human rights organization I mentioned before--they have a straightforward honest attitude about the atrocities and human rights violations committed by both sides of that conflict. Or if it can't be them, then I'd like to see the job handled by some other organization with equal credibility and relevant expertise. But nobody in the Middle East ever listens to me.

As for Jenin, there were Israeli war crimes committed there which were greatly exaggerated in scale--those inflated numbers were quickly discredited. But it's misleading to report only half the story.

Charles:

I saw no hatchet job of Briones by Feldman.
Everything in the section you quoted except for the first and last sentences was clearly meant to undermine his credibility. "Hatchet job" is the kindest term I could come up with for what Feldman was doing, especially after visiting the American Thinker's main page and getting a good look at the ideological bent of the publication and its writers.

Well, fine - but again, by that standard you should agree not to believe Murtha.

"As for Jenin, there were Israeli war crimes committed there"

That might or might not be so - I don't think by your standards you can make that statement, though.

My last in response to the previous comment by Donald.

Thanks for the link, cleek.

Anybody familiar with shells enough to say whether an 8-minute discrepancy is dispositive? That is, could it have landed and then gone off later? I thought that wasn't how they worked, but I don't blow up macroscopic stuff.

Donald: I don't think any country (not the US, not anyone) does a good job policing its own war crimes.

Rilkefan: Well, fine - but again, by that standard you should agree not to believe Murtha.

Now you're just being silly.

Anybody familiar with shells enough to say whether an 8-minute discrepancy is dispositive? That is, could it have landed and then gone off later?

Not physically impossible but extremely unlikely.

I see there's three camps on the Haditha incident: those that want it to be false, those that want it to be true, and those who actually want the evidence to come in before passing judgement. Count me in the latter camp.

Truth is, we don't have good enough access to the claimed evidence, the available evidence, or the undisclosed evidence to be calling the play. There is no doubt that those who commit actual war crimes and even those who just make tragic mistakes within the Rules of Engagement have motivation to cover up such actions. There is likewise no doubt that there are those in Sunni Iraq who would not hesitate for an instant to kill children and stage "evidence" if they thought it would give them an advantage. We've seen similar things happen on several occasions. And both things can happen at the same time--actual events being embellished and exaggerated by one side while being minimized or discounted by the other. There's tons of conflicting motives, and a noticeable lack of reliable psychics.

Investigate--but don't pre-judge, one way or another, until the evidence is in.

Jes, I don't see that - it seems to me that to be consistent Donald should admit that Murtha is an opponent of the president's party and insist we wait for an agreed-upon neutral group to investigate before reaching any conclusions. Perhaps I'm overreading his position, or underreading CB's, or just silly.

I happen to be convinced by the evidence that has come out regarding Haditha. I'm not competent to judge the details about the Gaza incident. That's why I used "pretty good" and "to suggest" above. I still think that statement should have been unobjectionable to Donald.

Here's my take on the shell thing:

If it were to have dudded out only to explode minutes later instead of exploded aboveground, the shrapnel wounds, crater, etc would be consistent with that of a rather deeply buried shell. I'm assuming we're talking sand, here.

Hard to say how many duds explode randomly, minutes later. I'd guess that most duds explode only when disturbed, but that's not the same as saying all duds do that.

All of that said, why IDF was shelling this particular part of the countryside is a decent question. Here, we'd not normally be shelling a beach that's ever used by humans for recreation, but things tend to be much different in Israel. Also, having a shell fall a couple of hundred meters from the center of the pattern seems excessive. Even a pattern that's got a spread of over 100m from the target coordinates seems excessive, unless they're gunning from 25km away or so. Anyway, all interesting and still unanswered questions.

Which is not to say I take one side or another, mind you.

In general, Rilkefan, it doesn't seem like a good idea to trust organizations which deliver reports that clear themselves of wrongdoing. In the Haditha situation the military is not clearing itself, probably because in this case there there is too much evidence to deny what happened.
.
I could see the relevance of your Murtha analogy if the Marines had officially concluded that the insurgents had killed the people at Haditha and if Murtha backed them up on it.

Anyway, it just seems like common sense to get an objective third party to investigate something like the Gaza beach incident. Ideally, we'd be doing this for all allegations of civilian killings.

My opinion on Jenin is based on a report that I read on the Human Rights Watch website a couple of years ago, so there we had an objective third party investigating it. Roughly 20 civilians died and some of them died as a result of what anyone would call war crimes.

Good wikipedia overview of the Jenin incident. Note that by my scan HRW said there had been what "appear"ed to be war crimes, and called for an UN investigation - I think by your standard you're getting ahead of the story.

rilkefan,

I still think that statement should have been unobjectionable to Donald.
I can't speak for Donald, but the statement wasn't unobjectionable to me. Your http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/726162.html>link contained exactly zero evidence. Amos Harel neither presents the new "findings" as evidence seen and evaluated by him (using his professional expertise - and maybe substantiating his credentials), nor sources an iota of his article to anyone. He simply presents a list of three new "findings" that are now Known Facts, minus any substantiation.

It is certainly not unheard of for Palestinian bullets, bombs and rockets to kill other Palestinians, including unintentionally. The possibility that a land mine did so is worthy of consideration, particularly if there is substantiating evidence. Since he (and you) presented none, it seems a stretch to claim that an assertion of "pretty good evidence" shouldn't be at all objectionable.

I started to write that last night and refrained because I wasn't sure of your level of committment to the assertion. It even seemed possible (though unlikely) that you could be scorning the article - for reasons mentioned above, or because at the time there were a relatively few related stories and it wasn't hard to find the oldest related story (from about 8 hours prior to that one, according to http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&tab=wn&ie=UTF-8&q=israel+gaza+beach+mine&scoring=d&sa=N&start=510>Google News - which now contains a couple older links from Arutz Sheva which weren't listed last night). It was (then) http://www.cnsnews.com/news/viewstory.asp?Page=%5CForeignBureaus%5Carchive%5C200606%5CINT20060612b.html>this one from CNS news' (a Brent Bozell/Rush Limbaugh propaganda organ) Jerusalem Bureau - which did at least manage to source most of its story. Still, at the time it looked like it could be the originator of the story, and from CNS that always deserves to be taken well salted.

Again, it could certainly turn out to be true. But your link didn't move the ball down the field at all, so I find your exasperation with Donald unwarranted, at least on this count. Mild apologies if you are familiar with Amos Harel's work and find him highly credible - but then you should have mentioned it and appealed to that authority.

Rilkefan, the HRW report talks of unlawful and willful killings, which to my layperson's ear sounds like war crimes. But nobody (to my knowledge but I haven't checked) was actually convicted of war crimes at Jenin. That's probably the case with most war crimes in most wars.

it seems to me that to be consistent Donald should admit that Murtha is an opponent of the president's party and insist we wait for an agreed-upon neutral group to investigate before reaching any conclusions.

If it were the President's party that were accused of murdering civilians in Haditha, you'd have a point.

Since it's the US Marines that are so accused (and the Marines, though two cover-ups were attempted, are not now denying that the civilians in Haditha were in fact killed) I can't see how Murtha's position (that US Marines killed civilians and that this ought to be investigated properly) contradictions Donald's position "I don't think any country (not the US, not anyone) does a good job policing its own war crimes."

Jes, note that you chose the sentence to which I was supposed to be responding - as it happens I wasn't. The argument as I see it is 0) Murtha is a partisan publicly in favor of getting out of Iraq and rising to prominence based on that 1) his claims about Haditha suggest it's time to get out 2) we shouldn't trust interested sources, just independent inquiries 3) we shouldn't trust Murtha. CB is at 0 (and maybe 1), I'm at 1, Donald is at 2 (and I assume 1); I was claiming that if CB believes 2 he should believe 3.


CMatt, I guess we're likely to disagree with what's evidence. I consider Haaretz to be a good source of info, and the article seems balanced. Note the following: "The importance of the committee's findings are obviously mitigated by the fact that ultimately, the IDF is being cleared by an IDF investigation. This is not an international inquiry, or even an external, civilian inquiry. Thus the next step will be leveraging these findings to affect public opinion - Israeli (where the battle is already largely won; even human rights organizations cast doubt on the Palestinian claims on Monday), international and even Palestinian." [Em. added] Also note the difference in approach here wrt Haditha - an immediate expression of regret, followed by an investigation leading to public conclusions which will make the top IDF brass look bad if they don't pan out.

Anyway, time to sit back and await further evidence one way or the other.

I note that you chose the sentence to which I was supposed to be responding - as it happens I wasn't.

That was far from clear from your comment.

A fresh, if more sporadic, less comprehensive than earlier, round-up on Haditha.

"I might practice the art of linking sometime soon, on some dead thread where it won't be too obnoxious. At some point I'd like to learn it."

It's not like it's complicated. I always point here. Go to "Link Something."

Put the words in between the brackets, and the URL in between the quotes.

<A HREF="URL"></A>
The end. Now you've learned. Now all you have to do is do it, as you please. Cut and paste to your heart's content.

Charles: "Al-Hadithi’s credibility as a 'journalist' is a bit shaky."

It's about the same as yours or mine. I realize that Fox News has been hammering this point for a while, but what it means is obscure to me; he provided videotape. (An ABC use here and an ITV use here. What journalism degree he didn't or didn't get, or what the relevance of a degree is to reporting, or what the objectivity of someone passing along a videotape is, I don't know. As I've only skimmed this thread as yet, perhaps that's been elaborated on, and you can point me to such comments.

LB: "(Like the little girl that Briones saw shot in the head, which, you know, convinces me. I don't know why that doesn't convince you.)"

On the flip side, I don't know how you can deduce intent and circumstances from a gunshot wound to the head. If the defense version that they tossed in flashbangs and went in shooting (possibly essentially blindly) is true (I'm certainly not saying it is; I'm offering the alternative scenario), then certainly she could have wound up shot in the head without specific intent to massacre a child.

The question of whether our soldiers should be protecting themselves with such tactics is a different, and entirely valid, question to debate, of course, but I don't see how you can be "convinced" of intent from that detail in isolation; could you unpack that, please?

Nell: "I cannot this minute document when the tape was made available outside Haditha, but nor does Feldman back up the assertion that it was withheld for four months."

Me, me, I can! [waves hand] Well, I can quote Time and the timeline I reposted:

January 2006: TIME's Tim McGirk obtains a copy of Thabet's videotape from the Hammurabi human-rights group

"Am I the only one hoping that Michael Moore comes out with another movie soon, or Chomsky with another book, so that Charles can find another fetish object besides John Murtha to toy around with?"

I meant to point out that Charles doesn't seem to have once here called Murtha either a "loser" or a "defeatist."

For Charles, that seems to be a significant step, so I congratulate him on that (provisional to his reverting to those usages in future. Cookie, Charles! (Kidding.)

Charles: "The notion that he spoke out to prepare Congress and the public requires ESP."

If you've dropped it, I'll try not to bring it up again in future save where relevant, but it's worth noting that you've used ESP on Murtha countless times already, yourself, as well as having made fairer arguments with him based on just his statements.

Donald Johnson, the NY Times piece by Sarah Sewall you wanted is here.

Slart: "I see there's three camps on the Haditha incident: those that want it to be false, those that want it to be true, and those who actually want the evidence to come in before passing judgement. Count me in the latter camp."

I'm in the last camp there, but laying aside that you can't have a latter and two formers, I'd disagree with your characterization of most people as "wanting" to believe one version or another so much as that a lot of people are pre-disposed, for a variety of reasons, to be inclined to suspect one version is true rather than the other. A slight distinction, but mine doesn't imply so much willful intent as "wanting" does.

"All of that said, why IDF was shelling this particular part of the countryside is a decent question."

I've not yet looked closely into this particular incident, but it's utterly common for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and splinter groups to launch rockets from the beaches. Good flat territory and not so close to dwellings.

There aren't, as a rule, a lot of swimmers or vacationers on Gaza beaches for this reason. But they're not unknown, either. (I take no position on this incident at this time.)

rilkefan,

I wasn't suggesting the Haaretz article was unbalanced. Nor do I have anything in particular against Haaretz (as opposed to some other publications). I was just pointing out that that particular article contained no evidence one way or the other - just unsourced and unsubstantiated statements about what is Known and what shall become Known. Sans all the footnoted links, it would be similarly difficult to consider a Wikipedia page as providing "evidence", for example.

I agree that we just wait and see what evidence does come out.

Apologies to Tully for responding and labeling my response as to Slart.

LB: "(Like the little girl that Briones saw shot in the head, which, you know, convinces me. I don't know why that doesn't convince you.)"

On the flip side, I don't know how you can deduce intent and circumstances from a gunshot wound to the head. If the defense version that they tossed in flashbangs and went in shooting (possibly essentially blindly) is true (I'm certainly not saying it is; I'm offering the alternative scenario), then certainly she could have wound up shot in the head without specific intent to massacre a child.

The question of whether our soldiers should be protecting themselves with such tactics is a different, and entirely valid, question to debate, of course, but I don't see how you can be "convinced" of intent from that detail in isolation; could you unpack that, please?

Small target. It is certainly possible to kill someone with a shot to the head when you're spraying bullets randomly. It is not (to the best of my limited knowledge) particularly likely. The description in the story didn't sound as if she were torn to shreds by dozens of bullet wounds -- the impression given was that she was largely intact beyond the head wound. That sounds like aimed fire, and if you can aim at a child's head, you can see she's a child.

"Small target."

This seems like a great deal of supposition in the face of the statement that it "convinces" you, rather than it is suggestive to you.

I realize you're not speaking as, say, a juror, but I certainly wouldn't want any juror taking such leaps of imagination and faith based on such supposition alone, were I being prosecuted.

Try and stay out of trouble then -- under similar circumstances, I don't think the 'It was just a lucky shot' defense is a strong one.

And of course there's other evidence -- the initial lie about all the deaths being due to the IED, the Iraqi doctor saying that all the deaths were from gunshots at close range. Briones' story is just a strong piece of confirming evidence that comes directly from an American military source.

A clarification. Though I didn't see Feldman as hatchet-jobbing Briones, doesn't didn't she wasn't flinging the hatchet around elsewhere in her piece.

I'll try not to bring it up again in future save where relevant, but it's worth noting that you've used ESP on Murtha countless times already, yourself, as well as having made fairer arguments with him based on just his statements.

And it's worth responding (again) that I disagree with you, Gary. If anyone's using ESP, it's Murtha when he divined the mental states of those Marines on 11-19-05.

"And it's worth responding (again) that I disagree with you, Gary."

About?

You're denying you've ever used ESP to make claims about Murtha's thinking and motivations?

Here, say?

Murtha's Loser-Defeatist Policy

[...]

What I am questioning is his judgment. More specifically, his political judgment.

[...]

Instead of employing the sustained will necessary for victory, Murtha embodies the sustained wilt that leads to failure.

[...]

More emboldened terrorists means we will be at more risk of facing terrorist attacks, not less risk as Murtha believes.

[...]

Murtha is betraying the American soldiers who have been there. By most accounts, the soldiers in-country have seen noticeable and significant progress. While it's commendable that Murtha goes to Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals "almost every week", he should spend more time in Iraq, talking to the soldiers on the ground, getting firsthand accounts of what's taking place.

[...]

Murtha is ignoring the political progress.

[...]

Murtha's problem is the mainstream media's problem: They observe and report the truth they see, but what they see is a slice.

[...]

Murtha has drunk the Daily Kos Kool Aid. He is a loser-defeatist whose own ideas must be defeated, decisively and mercilessly.

How do you know what he judges, what he believes, what he embodies, what the state of his will is, what he sees, what his ideas are?

You could have simply disagreed with what he said.

But you didn't.

Instead, you stated you know what he judges, what he believes, what he embodies, what the state of his will is, what he sees, and what his ideas are.

(You never have, incidentally, responded to me when I've previously pointed out the absolute absurdity of your criticizing Murtha for not having the basis of your considerable experience in visiting the troops in Iraq; I'd still like to hear your justification for that, please, given, that, you know, I'm unaware that you've actually done what you claim is necessary and made such trips.)

"If anyone's using ESP, it's Murtha when he divined the mental states of those Marines on 11-19-05."

To some degree, yes, but if you can divine all the above I just quoted, I don't think it's remotely unreasonable to understand him to be trying to defend his beloved Marines, as well. I don't see how you can object to the latter, but defend the former, and be consistent.

But I'm still glad that you've not gone back to throwing around "loser" and "defeatist."

Gary,

I acknowledge the distinction between "presdisposed to" and "want to." And I caught the "latter" thing about a millisecond after hitting POST. Well, blog in haste, be parsed at leisure. :-)

Thank you for getting the point, though. Namely, that when accusing people of capital crimes the concepts of fair trial, reasonable doubt, and presumption of innocence should actually mean something. The "evidence" offered to date is inflammatory, out of context, unvetted, incomplete, and even dubious. Much of it is conflicting, some even self contradictory. There is a strong possibility that some of it may be manufactured, embellished, and/or exaggerated.

Meaning that it's a bit early to be tossing the nooses over the branch.

I realize you're not speaking as, say, a juror, but I certainly wouldn't want any juror taking such leaps of imagination and faith based on such supposition alone, were I being prosecuted.

Quite true. However, something else the judge charges juries (at least the ones i was on) is that if you find out that anyone lied on anything you should feel free to ignore all of their testimony. The Marines are in that category for me.

"However, something else the judge charges juries (at least the ones i was on) is that if you find out that anyone lied on anything you should feel free to ignore all of their testimony. The Marines are in that category for me."

Y'know, I have to consistently object to all the pro-war folks who think there's something objectionable about reporting on charges and investigations, and/or to people casually conversing about them, and discussing our present state of tentative knowledge, which clearly indicates a considerable likelihood of wrongdoing.

But I have to equally object to people stating as fact that which is only possibly suggestive, and from a set of fragmentary advance reports.

You're free to do that, but I can't hold a lot of respect for people who leap to conclusions with inadequate knowledge of actual fact.

And in this case, I'd like to suggest that it's not as if I've not been paying attention to what we know about the facts.

May you never be judged by others as you are here judging.

I'm pretty sure that never before in the history of my life have I ever, anywhere, linked to anything by John Derbyshire, but I'm rather curious as to what Charles might have to say about this.

Key bit:

Since the Iraq war was obviously a gross blunder, is it time for those of us who cheered on the war to offer some kind of apology? Here we are—we, the United States—in our fourth year of occupying that sinkhole, and it looks pretty much like the third year, or the second. Will the eighth year of our occupation, or our twelfth, look any better? I know people who will say yes, but I no longer know any who will say it with real conviction. It’s a tough thing, to admit you were wrong. It’s way tough if you’re a big-name pundit with a reputation to preserve. For those of us down at the bottom of the pundit pecking order, the stakes aren’t so high. I, at any rate, am willing to eat some crow and say: I wish I had never given any support to this fool war.

Crucial new information on Haditha.

It appears you were right, Lizardbreath.

The wounds of the dead Iraqis, as seen in photographs and viewed by the morgue director, were not consistent with attacks by fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate rifle fire, Colonel Watt found. The civilian survivors said the victims were shot at close range, some while trying to protect their children or praying for their lives. The death certificates Colonel Watt examined were chillingly succinct: well-aimed shots to the head and chest.
I'm still waiting for Charles to pay his weekly visit to the blog to continue this discussion.

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