Or maybe not so much now that we hardly have any left.
Rules of American justice: a tale of three cases
Laws are used to shield egregious crimes while severely punishing those who publicly discuss them
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 4:23 AM Eastern Standard Time
(I)n American justice yesterday, the conclusion came to the criminal process arising from a horrific 2005 incident in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were slaughtered in the town of Haditha during American raids conducted in the aftermath of an explosion of a roadside bomb. The Marine Staff Sgt. who ordered his soldiers to “shoot first, ask questions later,” Frank Wuterich, was in the midst of a manslaughter trial that could have sent him to prison for life (first-degree murder charges were previously withdrawn by the Government). Instead, prosecutors “offered Wuterich a deal that stopped the proceedings and could mean little to no jail time.” Instead, he “pleaded guilty Monday to negligent dereliction of duty” and “now faces no more than three months in confinement.” Lest you think that’s too lenient: “he could also lose two-thirds of his pay and see his rank demoted to private when he’s sentenced.”
The Rules of American Justice are quite clear:
(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.
(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.
(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.
(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime – you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.
Just to be clear, let’s remind ourselves of just what these “soldiers”, “this generation of heroes (that) has made the United States safer and more respected around the world” did-
What happened at Haditha?
By Martin Asser, BBC News
Monday, 10 March 2008
Eyewitness accounts suggest that comrades of TJ Terrazas, far from coming under enemy fire, went on the rampage in Haditha after his death.
Twelve-year-old Safa Younis appears on video saying she was in one of three houses where troops came in and indiscriminately killed family members.
“They knocked at our front door and my father went to open it. They shot him dead from behind the door and then they shot him again,” she says in the video.
“Then one American soldier came in and shot at us all. I pretended to be dead and he didn’t notice me.”
There were eight bodies in the house, including Safa’s five siblings, aged between two and 14.
In another house seven people including a child and his 70-year-old grandfather were killed. Four brothers aged 41 to 24 died in a third house. Eyewitnesses said they were forced into a wardrobe and shot.
In the street, US troops gunned down four students and a taxi driver they had stopped at a roadblock set up after the bombing.
According to a witness, they were shot by the side of the road, as they stood with their hands on their heads.
Gee- do you think they could be angry about that?
Marine gets no jail time in killing of 24 Iraqi civilians
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
January 25, 2012
Jones said he had planned to recommend 90 days in the brig – the maximum as requested by the prosecution – but that the plea bargain approved by Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser had called for no jail time.
“It’s difficult for the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts in this case,” Jones told Wuterich.
A Marine Corps spokesman said Waldhauser would offer no public explanation of his decision to accept the plea bargain and stipulate that Wuterich receive no jail time.
No jail for marine? Haditha massacre verdict stuns Iraqis.
By Whitney Eulich, Staff writer, The Christian Science Monitor
January 25, 2012
However, the military court’s decision to demote Wuterich’s rank to private in lieu of jail time is one more blow to the idea of US justice system being a source of guidance or authority in Iraq, according to the Washington Post.
“I was expecting that the American judiciary would sentence this person to life in prison and that he would appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair,” survivor Awis Fahmi Hussein told the Washington Post, showing his scars from a bullet wound to the back.
The Telegraph reports that the ruling is viewed as “…an insult to all Iraqis,” while the Associated Press reports that it reopened old wounds – both with the US and the Iraqi government. The predominantly Sunni region has been unable to convince its Shiite-led government to condemn the murders or push to bring those responsible to trial.
In Iraq, Haditha deal another case of injustice
By Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
January 25, 2012 at 6:20 AM
“The Americans killed children who were hiding inside the cupboards or under the beds,” said Rafid Abdul Majeed Hadithi, 43, a teacher who says he witnessed the 2005 assault by Marines that took the lives of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians. “Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn’t kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?”
“That soldier would be sent to prison for more than three months if he had thrown trash on the streets in America,” said Khalid Salman, 45, whose cousin was killed. “This is not new, and it’s not new for the American courts that already did little about Abu Ghraib and other crimes in Iraq.”
Assim Omar al-Hadithi, 40, a relative of another victim, said such a light sentence “shows the lies of the Americans, whether they are judges or members of the military.”
Thair Thabit Hadithi, 41, a photographer who says he came upon the scene shortly after the killings, on Tuesday recalled the unrelenting crackle of gunfire, an injured victim bleeding to death outside his house, the black nylon body bags in which Marines placed the corpses.
The Marine Corps initially said 15 Iraqis had been killed in a roadside bombing and that the others perished in a subsequent firefight. None of that was true. Hadithi said he had grisly photos showing the devastation and bloodshed in a poor residential quarter.
Anger in Iraq After Plea Bargain Over 2005 Massacre
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, The New York Times
Published: January 24, 2012
Assim Omar al-Hadithi, 40, a relative of another victim, said that such a light sentence “shows the lies of the Americans, whether they are judges or members of the military.”
He continued: “All the world knew that the American soldiers committed crimes in Iraq. We were extensively surprised when we heard the news, and it has made our minds even worse. It is no consolation for the victims’ families.”
The shadows cast by the Haditha massacre, the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison and the killing of civilians by contractors for Blackwater at a square in Baghdad helped turn Iraqi public opinion against the American presence. An agreement to keep American troops here past 2011 collapsed when Iraqi officials would not agree to extend their immunity from Iraqi prosecution.
A number of Americans in high-profile cases have received what many Iraqis regarded as token sentences. In August, the supposed ringleader in the Abu Ghraib abuses, Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., was released early from prison because of good behavior. He had been sentenced to 10 years but served just 6 1/2.
In 2009 charges were dropped against four American military contractors in the killings of the 17 civilians at the square in Baghdad. While a federal court ruling in Washington reopened manslaughter charges against the four, many Iraqis continue to believe that the contractors will never be punished.
Iraqis received Tuesday’s plea deal with the same cynicism and anger. “I am not satisfied with the court decision against those killers – they need to be tortured and executed because they killed innocent people,” said Tariq Abas al-Najar, 43, a taxi driver in Basra. “If Marines killed a sheep in Europe, the judge would punish them much harsher than for the killing of those innocent Iraqis.”