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Lynching the Marines

By Ralph Peters

Let's just hang those Marines accused in the Haditha incident. Get it over with. They don't need a court martial. They're guilty. The media already decided the case.

A few other Marines and soldiers are also accused of murder in Iraq. Save our tax dollars. Just hang them, too.

Forget the stresses of combat. Forget that war really is hell. Whatever you do, don't mention the atrocities committed by the terrorists or insurgents.

Those two young American soldiers tortured to death a few weeks ago? Bury that story fast. The terrorists are the good guys. We're the only torturers.

Don't close Guantanamo. Put our troops in the cells. There's no surer way to quell the media's outrage over Gitmo than freeing the terrorists held there and filling it with our soldiers. Don't worry about individual charges. Collective guilt applies.

Ignore history. Let's pretend that warfare can be waged with absolute sterility, without so much as giving the enemy a broken fingernail. War isn't about fighting. It's about making people happy.

Civilian casualties? The thousands of Iraqis slain by terrorists were legitimate targets. Iraqi civilians are only innocent victims when Americans kill them.

And avoid the true potential parallel with the Vietnam War--after we cut and ran those peace-loving Communists killed at least ten million civilians in cold blood in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Let's all get on-message: America is the real evil empire, American troops are homicidal maniacs, and the world would be a better place if we just surrendered and let a non-partisan committee of Islamists, Chinese, Russians and Europeans run it.

Think of how much better off the world would be without us: If American-imperialist thugs had stayed out of World War II, we wouldn't have that nasty Israel problem. The European Union would've come into being decades earlier (speaking German, but what's not to like?). The Japanese would've solved China's over-population dilemma. And the Soviet Union would still be building the workers' paradise.

As for Iraq, not only should we get out now and let all those flower-child terrorists, insurgents and militias inaugurate the Age of Aquarius, we must get our barbaric troops under control.

That means punishing a young Marine if he so much as writes a playful song about the war that turns into an internet hit. Forget the real lyrics to "Mademoiselle From Armentieres," or that old marching song from the Philippines, "The Monkeys Have No Tails in Zamboanga." Forget all those hilarious "Jody" calls and cadences. Just punish that guy with the guitar and the sense of humor (the WWII cartoonist Bill Mauldin should've stood trial at Nuremberg).

Thank god we have the media to tell the world how rabid we are. And we won't mention what would happen to every journalist in Iraq tomorrow if our troops disappeared overnight. Bad taste to hint that our enemies might not be champions of free speech. And let's not pile on while the press is still mourning Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Okay, now let's be serious: I do not condone criminal acts in wartime. If any of our soldiers or Marines charged with murder or other serious crimes are found guilty, they should be sentenced accordingly under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But let's give them a fair trial first. And let's remember that an act committed in the heat of battle is different from walking into a McDonald's and killing a half-dozen people for meth money.

Isn't it remarkable that, to the media, our troops are guilty until proven innocent, while our enemies are innocent even after they're proven guilty? Compare the media feeding frenzy over Haditha with the utter lack of detailed human-interest reporting on the thousands of victims of terrorist atrocities. And just wait: In no time, we'll hear that those terrorists arrested last Thursday in Miami were unfairly entrapped by the feds.

There is no question: Discipline must be maintained within our military. And discipline is maintained. Anyone who knows anything about wars throughout history has to be astonished at how few criminal incidents our troops have been involved in during their time in Iraq. We have a humane, magnificent military. Given the nature of counter-insurgency operations, we've set a statistical record for good behavior.

Our troops will never be given credit, though. To get the media's attention, an American soldier must die, suffer a crippling wound, or commit a crime.

But the media aren't the worst of it, in the end. Who expects responsible, moral behavior from our media any more? No, the worst of it is the cowardice of our political and even military leaders. Four-star generals may be lions on the battlefield, but turn a camera on them and they're jellyfish. Want to send President Bush into a defensive crouch? Mention Guantanamo.

Our leaders need to stand up for those in uniform. While criminal actions must be investigated, when challenged with media exaggerations or outright lies our leaders need to fight back - and to hammer home that there is no such thing as an immaculate war.

Instead of blubbering that he, too, wants to close Guantanamo, our president should state manfully that, if necessary, we'll keep Gitmo open for the next hundred years.

The United States is history's most virtuous power. Our soldiers are valorous and decent. Our cause is just. Why don't our leaders have the guts to say that? How can they cower while our troops are crucified? Instead of Joshua's trumpets, we get Peter's fretful denials.

At this point, I doubt that any of our accused Marines and soldiers can get a fair trial. I don't want the guilty to go free. But I do think that, if Bill Clinton could pardon his criminal friends, President Bush should consider pardoning any soldiers or Marines convicted of violent crimes under combat conditions.

The hate-America bigots in the media shouldn't get away with lynching our troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, U.S. Army, is a retired intelligence officer and the author of 21 books, including the recent Never Quit the Fight (Stackpole Books).

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