Haditha and the Warbloggers

Blue Texan, guesting at Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory, notes a strange silence on certain conservative blogs about the Haditha massacre trial:

Yesterday, the Haditha tragedy was again in the news, as 8 Marines face now criminal charges in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians — including women and children — killed in the Iraqi town on November 19, 2005.

Predictably, this has been totally ignored thus far by Bush followers, including Mobius Dick, Michelle Malkin, Powerline and RedState. It’s a given, had the Marines not been charged, that their sites would be lighting up like Christmas trees, attacking the media over its rush to judgement, how it hates our troops, how it was trying to hurt Bush and undermine the war, etc.

I can’t speak for those sites (indeed, I’ve never heard of “Mobius Dick”) but I haven’t mentioned this trial recently for the same reason I haven’t mentioned the planes that didn’t crash, celebrities that didn’t die, or other flat line trends: they aren’t news.

I had numerous posts on Haditha in April, May, and June when the facts were emerging. Unlike many on the right, I defended John Murtha on his early statements on the matter. It has long been clear, though, that Marines committed atrocities and filed false reports. Unless something emerges from the trial that captures my interest, though, I doubt I’ll post about it again.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Iraq War, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    A trial is news to people who have something personally invested in it.

    A verdict is news to everyone else.

  2. Tano says:

    Why so defensive James? Clearly he wasnt trying to criticize you, but rather those rightwing nuts who were loudly trashing Murtha.

    I disagree with you that the filing of formal charges of murder against Marines somehow isnt news. But I agree that you are not in any sense required to post about it.

    But if you had gone out of your way to trash Murtha and others (as the nutty sites did), then I think there would be some requirement to acknowledge that he was right and you (they) were wrong. You know, the accountability thing….that those sites love to apply to everyone else but themselves.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Tano: Not being defensive, although I’m included as a Bush supporter who didn’t mention the news yesterday. As a general rule, I find the “you have an obligation to mention this story” attitude annoying.

  4. Steven Plunk says:

    Murtha was trashed for passing judgement on these Marines before trial and I believe before formal charges were even filed. That is a fair criticism. It has nothing to do with being a right wing nut. Murtha is just a goof.

    I am uneasy with the coverage of this incident. Throughout wars there have been atrocities such as alleged and they are awful. We must, however, remember that we send in troops who are being shot at, bombed, and killed on a daily basis. People will snap and people will die. The military will deal with these incidents and punishment will be given. But how much does this feed the insurgency? How much does it create hostility toward Americans? And by contrast how much does it help prevent further incidents by trying the case in the press?

    Weighing all of these factors I would prefer a more internal handling of military trials of war crimes such as those alleged. Proper oversight would be necessary but not that hard to provide. By keeping these more within the confines of the military we serve ourselves on the battlefield of the press where we generally aren’t being given a fair shake and generally lose. Make no mistake the war in the press is hurting us in the battlefield of Iraq.

  5. Anderson says:

    As a general rule, I find the “you have an obligation to mention this story” attitude annoying.

    Seconded. Take that American fellow, Vance, who was incarcerated for months in Iraq. Normally the kind of thing I’d be all over, but between work & Xmas, I’m a bit jaded: “denial of basic rights of citizens … yup … nothing new here.”

    As for Mr. Plunk, sure, soldiers snap sometimes. So do civilians. We don’t exonerate the latter on that basis. And for the officers to cover up the incident, as some of them are charged with doing, is inexcusable even on that basis.

    And I confess, I find it utterly mysterious how we hurt ourselves by publicizing our determination to bring murderers to justice. Like the Iraqi people didn’t know about the Haditha massacre when it happened?

    The people Mr. Plunk wants to keep in the dark, apparently, are U.S. citizens. No, thanks — there are plenty of other countries we could live in, if that’s how we cared to be treated. I like this one.

  6. Steve says:

    Mobius Dick is Glenn Reynolds aka Instapundit.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Mobius Dick is Glenn Reynolds aka Instapundit.

    First I’ve heard of that. From the link at UT, it would seem he’s someone named Tristram Shandy.

  8. vnjagvet says:

    I am afraid that memories are short, Tano. The criticism of Murtha was focused on his assertions that the marines participated in killing “innocent civilians in cold blood”.

    That is lay term shorthand for participating in premeditated murder.

    The charges in this case are for “unpremeditated murder”.

    Apparently, the evidence did not support charges for premeditated murder, or they surely would have been filed.

    Murtha prejudged the case and was wrong. For that he deserved the censure to which he was subjected.

  9. Triumph says:

    James can cover whatever the hell he wants on his own blog. However, I think many objective observers understand the significance of the Haditha massacre:

    It was one of many war crimes committed by US troops within the context of the war and is further evidence of the criminal neglegence that has been the legacy of Bush’s foolish decision making. The Massacre at Haditha would never had happened had Bush not made such an idiotic decision to invade Iraq and Younis Salim Khafif (44) ,Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali (76), Khamisa Tuma Ali (66), Abdullah Ali (4), Iman Ali (8), Adul Rahman Ali (5), Asia Ali (2 months), Adea Yasin Ahmed (41), Ahmed Kafif (8), Marwan Ahmed, Qahtan Ahmed, Chasib Ahmed, Jamal Ahmed, Khalid Ayada al-Zawi, Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi, Mohammed Battal Mahmoud and Akram Hamid Flayeh, and Ahmed Khidher would likely still be alive.

    War cheerleaders like James certainly don’t have to post about efforts to bring war criminals to justice on their own blogs; but I am sure they understand that support for misguided policies have tragic consequences.

  10. James Joyner says:


    Had the Iraq War been the Just War to End All Just Wars, Haditha might well have happened. It’s horrific and the perpetrators should be punished but atrocities sometimes happen in war.

  11. vnjagvet says:


    In war, bad things happen and some innocent lives are lost. In Iraq today, most of the deaths we are reading about are in fact cold blooded premeditated murder perpetrated by Iraqis on other Iraqis. These are under any reasonable definition “war crimes”. They are not now being apprehended and prosecuted so far as we know by Iraqi government forces in any great numbers.

    If indeed these troops are found guilty as charged of unpremeditated murder in Haditha, they will not be guilty of any “war crime”.

    If the evidence supported a charged “war crime”, Article 118a of the UCMJ would have been charged, given the publicity which is shining on this case. Your overwrought discription of this incident is not supported by the facts thus far developed. Why not wait until the testimony is taken before making your pronouncements of guilt.

  12. So Murtha got one sort of right and that is supposed to excuse all the other nonsense he has spouted?

    Also, I get sick and tired of those who hold the military (and our efforts to help) to utopian standards no one else has to meet. Yes, these were crimes, but, oh my, look, we are prosecuting them as crimes. How utterly bizarre and yet still non-exculpating of our intentions and worthiness! We’ve had 150,00 young men and women under a great deal of stress for several years and this is as bad as it gets? Folks like Triumph apparently haven’t a frickin’ clue when it comes to what is generally called “the human condition.” What other group of people could accomplish so much and endure so long with so few actual atrocities?

    By all means we should set high standards and do our best to adhere to them. What I’d ask Blue Texan is why he never trumpets any of the good things that happens in Iraq from the rooftops on occasion, instead of imagining that only bad news can flow from the American liberation of Iraq, or is consistency and intellectual honesty only something required of the Right? The tired trope he’s hawking is long past its sell by date.

    Where have all the honest brokers gone?

  13. htom says:

    The charges were filed yesterday. Murtha, et all, jumped the gun by a couple of months, and appear to have gotten it mostly wrong.