Sunday, June 25, 2006

Behind the coverage of Haditha

The My Lai Lie Behind the coverage of Haditha.
by Fred Barnes, for the Editors 07/03/2006, Volume 011, Issue 40 Weekly Standard

THE MEDIA COVERAGE of the killing of 24 Iraqis at Haditha has given rich new definition to the phrase "rush to judgment." The coverage, plus the reaction of antiwar politicians like Democratic representative John Murtha, amounts to a public verdict of guilty, rendered against a handful of Marines, before an investigation of the bloody incident is completed or a trial (if there is one) held.

An egregious example was MSNBC host Chris Matthews's interview with Murtha on May 17. Asked to "draw us a picture of what happened in Haditha," the congressman said he'd tell "exactly" what occurred. "One Marine was killed and the Marines just said we're going to take care. They don't know who the enemy is. The pressure was too much on them, so they went into houses and they actually killed civilians."

"Was this My Lai?" Matthews interjected, referring to the slaughter of more than 300 civilians by American soldiers in Vietnam in 1968. "Was this a case of--when you say cold blood, Congressman, a lot of people think you're basically saying you have got some civilians sitting in a room [or] out in a field and they're executed."

"That's exactly what happened," Murtha replied.

Murtha, of course, doesn't really know if the Haditha civilians were killed in cold blood. There's no way he could know. He's been briefed by Marine Commandant Michael Hagee, but so have other key members of Congress. Republican Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, talked to Hagee and did not conclude either
that the case was all but closed or that 24 Iraqis had indeed been executed. Murtha, an ex-Marine, claims to have other Marine sources, but it's doubtful any of them were in Haditha on November 19, 2005, the day of the killings. So Murtha is winging it--and in a particularly shameful way.

But Murtha's accusation is only the worst example of prejudicing the case against the Marines. There are others...

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