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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Slow motion collapse

U.S. Military Braces for Flurry of Criminal Cases in Iraq

Published: July 9, 2006

No American serviceman has been executed since 1961. But in the past month, new cases in Iraq have led to charges against 12 American servicemen who may face the death penalty in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians.

Military officials caution against seeing the cases as part of any broader pattern, noting that the incidents in question are isolated and rare. But the new charges represent an extraordinary flurry in a conflict that has had relatively few serious criminal cases so far.

As investigators complete their work, military officials say, the total of American servicemen charged with capital crimes in the new cases could grow substantially, perhaps exceeding the total of at least 16 other marines and soldiers charged with murdering Iraqis throughout the first three years of the war.

Some military officials and experts say the new crop of cases appears to arise from a confluence of two factors: an increasingly chaotic and violent war with no clear end in sight, and a newly vigilant attitude among American commanders about civilian deaths.

At least five separate incidents involving the deaths of Iraqis are under investigation, setting off the greatest outcry against American military actions since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. By far the best known of the cases is the one in Haditha, where marines are being investigated in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in November. No charges have been filed in that case, but some say news of the incident may have helped bring some later cases to light.

"Unusual criminal acts raise the level of concern, whether in the military or among civilians, and with increased concern comes increased reporting," said Gary Solis, a former marine who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.

In April, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the No. 2 American commander in Iraq, issued an order that specified for the first time that American forces must investigate any use of force against Iraqis that resulted in death, injury or property damage greater than $10,000. Maj. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for the American command, said he knew of no clear link between General Chiarelli's order and the recent homicide investigations.

But Major Breasseale said that General Chiarelli, who took over day-to-day military operations in Iraq in January, has made clear to subordinates that he puts a high priority on avoiding and scrupulously reporting civilian casualties. American commanders in Iraq will be scrutinizing civilian deaths more intensely as the United States moves toward transferring authority to Iraqis, Major Breasseale said. Details about the five incidents under investigation are still emerging, and none of those charged have yet had an Article 32 hearing, the military's equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.

The incidents are far from the only ones in which American forces killed Iraqis. But serious criminal charges in such cases have been rare until now. In many earlier cases, the killings have been found to be justifiable, and the soldiers or marines in question have often been handled through administrative or nonjudicial processes.

The last soldier to be executed was John A. Bennett, hanged in 1961 after being convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

In the Iraq war, when soldiers or marines have been charged, convictions — and harsh sentences — have been rare. Of the 16 American servicemen known to have been previously charged with murder, only six were convicted or pleaded guilty to that charge, and none received the death penalty. In all, 14 service members have been convicted of any charge in connection with the deaths of Iraqis and have received sentences as varied as life in prison or dismissal from the service.

Green stands a very good chance of facing a death penalty trial, as do the alleged Haditha killers.

We're watching the Army collapse in front of our faces. Taking 40 year old grunts, people in Cat IV, people who cannot function in a high stress combat environment and shouldn't be asked to. Well, this is what happens Years of combat, untreated PTSD, emotional issues at home caused by deployment.

The whole dirty story will come out, how Rummy ruined the Army out of indifference. But it may be men like Green who pay at the end of a needle

posted by Steve @ 1:22:00 AM

1:22:00 AM

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