A jury of ears may explain surprising Marine verdicts – Los Angeles Times

The story of Hamandiya has been reduced to,

Angry Marines went looking one night for a suspected insurgent. They failed to find him, so they snatched the man next door from his bed. He was shot to death, and the Marines planted phony evidence.

The man they “snatched,” described as “a retired policeman and doting grandfather.” That makes for great copy but flies in the face of what we know about reality. The simple, clean explanation is seldom the truth. Life is complex. Few things in life are simple. Absolutely nothing in a combat zone is simple. This article eludes to the fact that there is more to the story that what is captured in this short quote. There is always more to someone’s life than retired policeman/doting grandfather.

I doubt that the verdicts of the three Marines surprises anyone who has served a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. The only thing that surprises me about the verdicts is the way in which the jury managed to deliver something relatively close to fair given the rules that they had to work with. I think the juries might have actually managed to deliver justice in spite of the system.

We would like to believe that the killing of an unarmed man is always wrong, always a crime. It is true in most people’s experience. However, most people have not lived in Iraq. Most people have not been out on patrol in a combat zone where the enemy flagrantly defies all of the accepted rules of war. Most people have not held their dying buddy in their arms, angry at the fact that they were unable to prevent it.

Yet, for the men on trial and most of the men sitting in the jury box, all of these things are a part of the reality of their lives. They understand the incredible complexities of trying to complete a mission and survive in a modern day combat zone. It’s not like the war movies where the enemy is clearly identifiable by their uniform and their military bearing. Civilians are the ones cowering in the corner, huddling their children and crying in fear. In today’s war, those civilians cowering in fear may very well be the folks who triggered the IED that killed your buddies two hours ago. And it might have been his child that was playing in the street so that you would have to stop, rather than run her over, which is when they triggered the IED. Yes, it does happen that way.

Life in Iraq is not simple. There are no simple solutions. Every option in Iraq has a myriad of complicated ramifications, some of which only become evident after the fact. I believe an innocent man died at the hands of that squad of Marines. I believe it was wrong. I believe that our system is working in that the men of that squad were arrested, tried, and convicted. I believe that the men of the jury delivered, as best their were able, a fair and just sentence. I believe that everyone involved, the men in that squad and the juries made the best choices they could in the situations they faced.


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[posted with ecto]

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