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Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Two cases of murder, two standards

In the news today, a professional quarterback is charged with dogfighting. In the news, we read (and hear) words like "gruesome" and "sick" to describe the deaths of some of the dogs involved, although interestingly, the charges are "competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines," not animal cruelty. I won't repeat any details here, but no doubt "gruesome" and "sick" are very much warranted.

As they are in another case in today's news, the trial of Marines for the murder of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha. In that case, the details are equally "gruesome" and "sick":

Inside, he found a bed with two women and four or five children on it. "They were scared," Mendoza said. He backed out of the room and told Tatum what he found. But Tatum told him to shoot the women and children, Mendoza testified.

"Was he joking?" asked prosecutor Lt. Col. Paul Atterbury. "He was very serious," Mendoza said.

Tatum then entered the room, Mendoza said. Mendoza heard rifle fire and later saw all of the occupants dead, he said.

Another squad member, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, testified under immunity Tuesday that Tatum left a telling signature on a gift to the parents of the Marine killed by the roadside bomb. All the squad members signed a pack the young man had owned, he said. Near Tatum's signature were 24 hatch marks -- the number of civilians killed at Haditha -- and an inscription reading, "This one's for you."
Except for one thing - you'll be hard-pressed to find any media applying the words "gruesome" or "sick" in this case. And if you visit the appropriate right-wing sites (I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader), I suspect you'll find some describing these Marines as having been "defending our freedom."

Of course there are many equally "gruesome" and "sick" murders going on all the time in Iraq, some committed by Iraqis and the occasional "foreign fighter" - those are labeled "terrorism." Others are committed by American pilots flying thousands of feet in the air - those are labeled "air strikes." The results are no less "gruesome" or "sick."

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