In a column posted at Real Clear Politics, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin offers some valuable thoughts on the growing media frenzy over Haditha, and its long-erm consequences for our military.
As Mr. Babbin reminds us, we still don't officially know what happened in that day in Haditha, despite the rush to judgment by anti-war politicians (paging Jack Murtha) and the MSM. Moreover, it is completely inappropriate for senior U.S. officials to speculate on the investigation and its potential outcome; if they offer their thoughts or opinions on the matter, they could be accused of exerting "command influence" on the case, and provide possible legal grounds for dismissal of charges against anyone implicated in the incident. Unfortunately, that legal requirement won't satisfy the media, which is already talking about a Pentagon "cover-up."
Ham-strung by a slow military investigative and judicial process, the Bush Administration has been forced to cede the field to the anti-war left, which (as Babbin notes) will attempt to make Haditha the defining moment of the Iraq War. Think "Abu Ghraib times 10" and you'll get some idea of the media and political firestorm that is now erupting. Never mind the fact that U.S. atrocities in Iraq have been few and far between (even Abu Ghraib was ultimately revealed as the misdeeds of a small band of poorly trained military prison guards); or that our military routinely investigates even minor allegations of misconduct on the battlefield--while our enemies celebrate and revere the killing of innocents.
Ultimately, as Babbin reminds us, all of our military personnel will be affected--to some degree--by the events at Haditha. But there is also a responsibility to minimize that damage, to avoid tarring those men (and women) who serve bravely and honorably.
"Just as the few disgraced the many at Abu Ghraib, the very few who may have committed murder in Haditha will place a burden on the shoulders of every soldier, sailor, airman, marine and coast guardsman fighting terrorism. Each of us has a duty to not add to that burden, and to help relieve it as well. If those few Marines killed innocents in Haditha, their conduct is an aberration, not the norm. It is up to each one of us to ensure that the events of Haditha do not tarnish the brave and selfless service of the many who came before, or any who come after. Except for the aberrant few, the Marines are always faithful to America. In times such as this, we cannot fail to be faithful to them."
Sadly, such lessons are completely lost on members of the Murtha caucus and their allies in the press.