Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Benefit of the Doubt?

While I was in Libya, there were a lot of "stories" in the news about the "massacre" in Haditha, Iraq. For those of you who have spent the last six months in a cave, Haditha is a city in the al Anbar province in eastern Iraq. U.S. Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in an apparent reprisal for the killing of a Marine by a roadside IED.

As I read these stories, and the related stories about the torture and killings of Privates Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker. A rather obvious question occurred to me. In fact, it was so obvious that I wondered that I hadn't asked it before.

Why does our media give the terrorists the benefit of the doubt?

Think about it: the overwhelming majority of our men and women in uniform behave with admirable restraint and are good ambassadors of our country. On those rare occasions when members of our armed services commit crimes it's our own military that uncovers the abuse and prosecutes the offenders. (Think Abu Ghraib.) Either that, or the press uncovers the wrongdoing and the military then prosecutes the accused. (Think My Lai.)

The terrorists on the other hand can be - and are - characterized by their lack of restraint. They target civilians. They use hospitals, schools and mosques to hide fighters and store weapons, essentially turning their populace into human shields. Rather than treat captives humanely, they torture and murder them. In short, they inflict terror.

It seems pretty obvious to me that our fighting forces are the mirror image of theirs. Let's face it: if we wanted to go in and murder, rape and pillage, we could. But we haven't. Part of the credit for that goes to the restraining influence of the Fourth Estate. Part, but not all. A large part of the credit goes to the culture of the services themselves.

And in the Abu Ghraib and Haditha cases there seems to be an almost "Gotcha!" attitude. As if the reporters couldn't wait to pounce on the accusations of malfeasance by our military.

Oh, and lest we forget, even soldiers and Marines are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

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