Haditha: The Cold-Blooded Killers That Weren't

"Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

Ray Donovan, Secretary of Labor under President Ronald Reagan, spoke those famous words after he was acquitted of corruption charges in 1987.

I suspect that same question was on the minds of two United States Marines on Thursday of last week after charges against them for their alleged role in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha (Iraq) were dropped.

The "Haditha Massacre" as it was termed by anti-war Democrats like Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha was quite the hot topic of discussion during the last election cycle.

In fact, six months before the 2006 election, Rep. Murtha, doing his best Truman Capote impersonation, conclusively declared that U.S. Marines had murdered "in cold blood".

But that was way back when the Democrats were focused on winning control of Congress and Jack Murtha had his sights set on being House Majority Leader. Playing judge, jury, and executioner to a handful of marines was but a small price to pay for the magnificence that is Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

I know what you’re thinking: the same crew pitching a fit at President Bush about habeas corpus for suspected terrorists treated due process as no obstacle to declaring eight U.S. Marines murderers? That irony may not be lost on you, but it is on them.

And here’s the real kicker: it turns out that what happened in Haditha on that fateful day in November 2005 is considerably more complicated if not completely at odds with what Rep. Murtha routinely bellowed on the campaign trail. Thus, the dismissal of charges against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt and Captain Randy Stone last week.

There are still five marines facing charges in connection with the killings at Haditha. My read of the accounts, including those of the accused, leaves me with more questions than answers. I suppose that is why we have trials in this country, Rep. Murtha.

The only thing truly clear from Haditha is that sometimes the casualties of war come home alive.