Monday, July 23, 2007

Condoning war crimes

On April 26, 2006, a squad of US Marines abducted 52-year old Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his house in the Iraqi village of Al Hamdania. They marched him to a ditch, shot him in the face, and planted an AK-47 and a shovel next to the body so they could claim he was killed while trying to plant a bomb.

Six Marines have so far been charged over their role in the killing. On Wednesday, a military jury convicted one of them, Marine Corporal Trent Thomas, of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder. The charges were serious, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and prosecutors had recommended a 15-year prison sentence - but on Friday, the jury - all of whom had served in Iraq - sentenced Thomas to reduction in rank, a bad conduct discharge, and time served (14 months). But hey, its not like the victim was an American, right?

Once again we see the ugly truth behind America's public position on war crimes. While the Bush administration proclaims it has zero tolerance for US soldiers who engage in "abuse" (a mealy-mouthed term disguising torture, murder, and in this case participating in a death squad), the fact is that military juries consistently acquit soldiers accused of war crimes against Iraqi civilians (that is where they're charged at all) - and on the rare occasions they do convict, they hand out token sentences. Sadisticly threaten helpless prisoners with dogs so you can amuse yourself by making them shit themselves? Six months. Torture a prisoner of war to death? $6,000 fine and confinement to barracks for 60 days. It's difficult to see this as anything other than the US military condoning war crimes. But then, that's hardly surprising given the attitudes of their President and wider society.

(Hat tip: Talk Left)