Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Convictions for Alleged War Crimes

(Required for POLI 337 Students)
In November 2005, Marine commanders in Iraq reported that one Marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by an insurgent bomb and small-arms fire in Haditha. According to their report, the Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one. In March 2006, Time reported that the Marines responded to the bomb by killing 24 Iraqi civilians including women and children. According to Time, in part of the Marines response they "began firing, killing eight residents—including the owner, his wife, the owner's sister, a 2-year-old son and three young daughters." Since the military began investigating the incident only four Marines have been charged with the killings and none, to date, have convicted. Consider this NY Times report in light of our discussion of judicial independence, judicial review and judicial oversight of war powers. For more see this Human Rights Watch video report or this Democracy Now investigation.

6 comments:

Matt Fisher said...

These articles are difficult to comment on...War is hell, and people, I'm sure do things in war that they would not normally do (given the circumstances). However, there are somethings that are just inexcusable. The intentional targeting of civilians cannot be tolerated. I am torn after reading the article, my pride and nationalism and support for the military and family that is active duty, and then my intelligent, analytical senses that know that crimes like these cannot go unpunished. Obviously though, I know what the right thing is in this situation.

Professor Davis said...

Thoughtful comment Matt. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really care much about the war when it started. I do remember that the first bombs were dropped at around 9 pm on March 19th. I remember because I was at the time trying to locate the grave of a friend who was killed and I was so consumed by my own grief that I didn't care about what was going on on the other side of the world.
I care now. If half of that story from Haditha is true, the United States marines have a great deal of explaining to do. Nothing justifies murdering children. Nothing. The worst part is that a member of my family will be deployed soon and I fear for her safety. I also fear what she might have to do in the line of duty.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's a problem of Judicial Independence, but more of "do we really want to do this?" issue. Will the military court want to go ahead and prosecute its own or will it be easier to say that this was brought before the court and then allowed to be drowned out eventually? If today they are to convict, these marines could be possibly put to death, would it then be easier to prosecute other mairnes for similar crimes that may have unavoidable casualties? If there is an issue of J.I., then it may come from the court's willingness to accept a case in which they could walk into a slippery slope of endless investigations and trials. The people of the US are tired of the war, but for those directly involved in some way, poiliticians or military personel, they are even more fatigued by it. Yes a crime was commited, and there needs to be a result, but I think ultimately, J.I. will be tested by public and political opinions.

Josh Michael said...

Judicial independence in the context of the military raises a unique discussion and some interesting concerns. Last class, Professor Davis threw out the idea of broadening independence of military courts by having retired military run and serve in that role. I was intrigued by this suggestion, but struck by some obvious concerns (tenure of service, experience, continued inherent conflict of interest, etc.). I would be interested in exploring an independent judicial arm (similar to the executive side) for the military. Judicial personnel would specialize in military proceedings but would either report more directly to the civilian Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, or a whole new position that would head military proceedings. These individuals would not work for the military, but more would be judges that specialize in military proceedings. This atrocity is simply a horrible byproduct of a faltering military effort. It is to be expected that our current system would respond in the manner that it did because of the lack of judicial independence of the military courts. Nevertheless, justice must be preserved for national and international law, and our judicial system must execute it in such a manner.

Professor Davis said...

Excellent comments from 2 anonymous posters and Josh - thanks.