In cold blood

Defend this, warbloggers:

WASHINGTON, May 25 — A military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday.

An image from videotape taken shortly after a fatal raid in Haditha, Iraq. Residents there said several marines carried out unprovoked killings.

Two lawyers involved in discussions about individual marines’ defenses said they thought the investigation could result in charges of murder, a capital offense. That possibility and the emerging details of the killings have raised fears that the incident could be the gravest case involving misconduct by American ground forces in Iraq.

Officials briefed on preliminary results of the inquiry said the civilians killed at Haditha, a lawless, insurgent-plagued city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, did not die from a makeshift bomb, as the military first reported, or in cross-fire between marines and attackers, as was later announced. A separate inquiry has begun to find whether the events were deliberately covered up.

Evidence indicates that the civilians were killed during a sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours and included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said.

And yet, there’s such reluctance in this country to ever criticize any member of the military (unless of course you’re talking about former generals or Marines who speak out against the war — the right wing obviously considers them fair game), that even as he initially broke this story, Jack Murtha made a point of saying, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them.”

Well, sorry — no. Sorry to everyone whose worldview rests precariously on the belief that every single one of Our Brave Troops are beyond reproach or criticism at all times. This one wasn’t the president’s fault, except in the larger sense that this war should have never been started in the first place, but that doesn’t excuse an atrocity like this. And it wasn’t just some momentary war zone version of road rage, a few minutes of crazy shooting and then the remorse settles in.

This was a premeditated massacre.

“A sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours.”

Non-combatants. Women and children.

Three to five hours.

Jesus wept.

These guys make Richard Hickock and Perry Smith look like pikers.