Judging from today's headlines, it's pretty clear that the MSM has found its latest template for framing the War in Iraq. This will be the "Summer of Haditha," with wall-to-wall coverage of any "atrocities" (or even suspected atrocities) connected to U.S. troops, no matter how tenuous the relationship might be.
The theme will run something like this: American military personnel have deliberately killed "scores" of Iraqi civilians, and their superiors did nothing to stop it. That presumptionwill, in turn, lead the chattering class back to their standard talking points: the war is a failure, troops are being killed and maimed for nothing, and we need to get out of Iraq now. For affirmation of this assessment, they will turn to the usual suspects, led by Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha and those former generals who staged their anti-Rumsfeld putsch a few months back.
As the Haditha investigation moves toward conclusion, we are being told of "new" atrocities involving U.S. troops. According to the AP, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman are facing murder charges for the slaying of an Iraqi man in April. The men--who could be charged as early as today--served in Iraq as members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. In a seperate case, five other Marines (including a lieutenant) are under investigation for injuring a suspect in their custody.
As of this writing, none of the personnel implicated in these incidents has been formally charged. But, there has already been a rush to judgment, noted by as defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan III, who is representing one of the murder suspects.
"There's concern about the publicity of Haditha having a detrimental impact on the case," he said. "My concern is that the whole politics of this. There's an assumption that these guys are guilty before there's been an opportunity for a thorough, impartial investigation."
I don't envy Mr. Sullivan. As the media feeding frenzy builds, it will be virtually impossible for the military to conduct a fair, impartial courts-martial for any personnel who might be charged in connection with these incidents. Mr. Sullivan may find himself defending a young Marine or Corpsman who has already been convicted in the court of media opinion, even before an Article 32 hearing (military equivalent of a grand jury investigation) is held.
Of course, the presumption of innocent until proven guilty is of little concern to reporters who are anxious to embellish their new theme for Iraq. The BBC is claiming to have obtained evidence suggesting that U.S. troops were responsible for the "deliberate killing" of 11 "innocent" Iraqi civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March. According to the BBC, a video obtained from a hardline Sunni group opposed to coalition forces shows a number of dead adults and children at the site with what the network says were "clearly gunshot wounds."
Let's see...the tape came from a group opposed to the coalition military presence in Iraq. They wouldn't have an axe to grind, now would they? Additionally, the tape provides no clue as to how the Iraqis were shot. Coalition forces had a firefight in Ishaqi that day, so the BBC presumes that the Americans were responsible. But the terrorists were carrying guns as well, and it's entirely possible that the "atrocity" could have been staged by the bad guys. That possibility is being investigated by the U.S. military, along with other theories on what might have happened that day. But those other possibilities are of little interest to the "Beeb," which accepts the "evidence" of an anti-coalition group without question.
Of course, this isn't the first time the BBC and its MSM companions have ignored inconvenient facts. A few days back, the British network reported that U.S. troops had shot a pregnant Iraqi woman on her way to the hospital. Turns out that the car was traveling in a prohibited area, and failed to heed a warning to stop from U.S. soldiers. To its "credit," the BBC provided those amplifying details in the body of its report, but only couching the story in the current frame of reference: babaric American soldiers shoot an innocent Iraqi woman, who was only trying to get to the hospital to deliver her child.
It's all part and parcel of the Summer of Haditha, and a continuing campaign to undermine the war effort. Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger sums it up well; amid the relentless drumbeat of bad news from Iraq--and dark accusations of "widespread atrocities"--the American public may decide it's time to get out, because every time the U.S. goes in, it gets hung out to dry. Never mind that the alleged atrocities represent less than a fraction of a fraction of one percent of U.S. military operations in Iraq. Never mind that the war is actually being won, and the vast majority of our troops have performed magnificently. In the Summer of Haditha, it's the isolated incident that assumes strategic importance, and becomes the standard reference for an entire war.