Last week, prosecutors in a Camp Pendleton called for the maximum sentence for Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the Marine who gave the command, back in 2005, to slaughter 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq. That sentence was 90 days.
Yes, that's right, thanks to a plea deal, the maximum sentence for giving a command that resulted in the execution-style murder of two dozen innocent Iraqis was three months. The judge commuted that sentence, so Staff Sergeant Wuterich will serve no time in a military brig for his actions.
In the months immediately following the massacre in a small farming village in Iraq, I'd heard about the story, and wrote a piece, "The Road to Haditha," that appeared in The Huffington Post. The follow-up piece, "Haditha Revisited," in which I note that four of the Marines who participated in the killing spree were charged with murder, was published a few months later in December, 2006. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayne-lyn-stahl/haditha-revisited_b_36933....
Regrettably, not one Marine in this incident has served any time for the murder of unarmed men, women, and children in Haditha.
As my 2006 article mentions, "One woman was described, in a New York Times article, as bending down, and begging for mercy as she was shot "in cold blood," and at close range, by a marine."
Wuterich reportedly ordered his men to "shoot first and ask questions later sending them into nearby homes was, as U.S. News, MSNBC reports, as a knee-jerk reaction when confronted with the unknown. As was later revealed, this massacre by Marines was their way to avenge the loss of one of their own to a road side bomb earlier that week. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/24/10226885-marine-to-serve-no...
Whatever the cause, what kind of message does it send about our men and women in uniform that their default position is to rifle through a village, and essentially fire at anyone that moves? What does it say about the military justice system that not one of these men, including their commanding officer, was held accountable for what he did?
In a statement to the court after his sentencing, Staff Sergeant Wuterich said, "The truth is: I never fired any weapon at any women or children that day." Did Charles Manson himself murder any of his victims, and where is Manson today? This argument alone is an outrage. As an officer, Wuterich is responsible for the actions of his subordinates, and he knows that. But, is it enough to allow him to plead to the charge dereliction of duty, and not criminal charges?
Just ask relatives and residents of Haditha about the Wuterich's sentencing. They are reportedly shocked, as well as outraged, and plan to continue pursuing this case. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/9037595/Hadith...
Oh, and there it is again that insidious word "derelict." Wuterich's military prosecutors in this case insisted that the killing spree was the "horrific result from that derelict order of shooting first, ask questions later." The word derelict suggests that if Wuterich had ask questions first, and then shot the actions would be any less criminal, but that's doubtful.
Was Staff Sergeant Wuterich derelict when he allegedly falsified an offical document, and attempted to get another Marine to participate in a cover-up? Is that what we call it now, derelict?
And how did the presiding judge respond to being faced with a man who would order his squad to rifle through a village killing men, women, and children randomly? The judge affirmed Wuterich's sentence from the plea deal, hence Frank Wuterich won't spend one minute behind bars. He will remain in the military, and lose rank.
But, even if Wuterich were sent to the brig, it was not he and he alone who is liable for what happened in Haditha in 2005. It was the cowboy mantra to "shoot first, ask questions later," the same cowboy ethos ushered in under George W. Bush, and reinforced by Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, a mindset that makes it possible to label anyone, even those not wearing a uniform, an "unlawful enemy combatant" thereby justifying a wanton act of cold blooded murder.
Yes, cold blooded murder it is, plain and simple. Alas, allowing Staff Sergeant to walk out of that Camp Pendleton courtroom and not be remanded to a military brig just goes to show that the George W. Bush, Dick Cheney mindset lives on.
Many, including myself, waited for the day that Frank Wuterich heard his sentence. Many, including those who prosecuted him, wanted to see him "in the brig," but he escaped the fate that he and all those who participated in the horror of Haditha that day in 2005 deserved.
But, the buck doesn't stop there. The world is watching, and waiting for the American courts to hold those responsible who gave the command to invade, plunder, and occupy Baghdad on the false claims of weapons of mass destruction. Courts in Spain, Italy, and the U.K. are trying to compensate for this administration's failure to investigate, and indict war crimes.
But, of course, this will never happen because the Obama administration has the Bush administration's back. Is it any wonder then that, according to The New York Times, Iraqis "remain deeply skeptical of the United States, feelings that were reinforced last week when the Marine who was the so-called ringleader of the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqis in the village of Haditha avoided prison time and was sentenced to a reduction in rank." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/world/middleeast/iraq-is-angered-by-us...
And who can blame them? Frank Wuterich isn't the only one who walked scot-free.
Causes Jayne Stahl Supports
Free Speech, human rights, and abolition of the death penalty.