Official: Marines could be charged with murder
Pentagon has no comment on case involving alleged Iraqi civilian killings

According to a congressional aide, lawmakers were told in a briefing Thursday that it appears as many as two dozen civilians were killed. And they were told that the investigation will find that â??it will be clear that this was not the result of an accident or a normal combat situation.â?

Another congressional official said lawmakers were told it would be about 30 days before a report would be issued by the investigating agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Friday he believes the investigation is winding down, but he would not comment on what the evidence shows.

First, this does not absolve John Murtha for what he did and how he did it. Obviously this is being investigated and those responsible will be held to account. The issue with Murtha has never been related to whether or not the story turns out to be true. It is that he went public before the investigation was complete and convicted these guys on national TV (sort of, after all it was Chris Matthews) before even a report was issued, let alone a hearing. And he did it to advance a political agenda. It had nothing to do with this incident, in my opinion.

Secondwho gave the info so early to Murtha? And notice the sources on this story? Two unnamed “congressional aides“. Is it any wonder why the Bush administration shared NSA terrorist surveillance info with only key members of Congress and not the entire body? Despite Democrat protests to the contrary, fifteen Democrats were fully briefed. Given the leaking record of both parties (GOP’s Richard Shelby comes to mind), anything more would have been irresponsible.

Third, people who wear the uniform and step out of line are held to a higher degree of accountability than any other group in our society. These guys were investigated, and if guilty, they will be punished. The same is true for some 100+ soldiers who were implicated in torture and other inappropriate treatment of detainees. Taken in total, the conduct of our troops has been nothing short of incredible. Those who have strayed, have been punished. We should all feel good about that. We are sadden by these incidents but know that they are the exception that prove the rule.

Values and accountability. That is what seperates us from them.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has an appropriately outraged reaction,

This makes me physically ill. We can say it happens in every war, and that would be accurate, but it doesn’t excuse it in the least. Our military has the reputation of high discipline and morale, and 99.9% of our troops live up to that standard. As with Abu Ghraib, only on a much less serious scale, the actions of one undisciplined unit will reflect horribly on those who have done their best to protect Iraqi civilians, especially the children. Those 99.9% of our troops provide the best possible security for the United States. If these men turn out to be war criminals of the most despicable variety, they will have damaged the work done by our armed forces immeasurably.

I keep hoping that this report will say something different when it gets publicly released, but I know it won’t.

Needless to say, every Marine involved in this atrocity must face court-martial, and their command has to answer for the brutal murders of people that we took under our protection. Those court-martials must be public and thorough. Nothing should be held back. The men charged should receive the best defense possible in order to ensure that justice is done. If the report turns out to be accurate and the men involved are found guilty, they need to get the full punishment due them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

We need to demonstrate that we stand for something better than Haditha, and we need to show the world that we will hold all those responsible accountable for their crimes. Justice will provide cold comfort to those who have died and those who mourn them, but we owe the victims and the Iraqi people as much justice as we can provide.