War is living hell. Make no bones about it. News accounts the actions of Sergeant Lawrence G. Hutchins' patrol and several of the plea bargained trials of the Pendleton Eight have painted confusing pictures. Moral support of the Pendleton Eight has dwindled as the military members began to plead guilty. To me, It is as if war is on trial itself.
Here is the information as I understand it. On May 24, 2006, Major. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, Commanding General, Multi-National Force - West (MNF-W), requested that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service conduct an investigation into an April 26, 2006 incident in which seven Marines and one Navy corpsman allegedly killed an Iraqi civilian in the area of Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad.
Local Iraqis brought the incident to the attention of Marine leadership at a regularly scheduled meeting on May 1, 2006, that a US military patrol selected an Iraqi man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, shoved him in a hole, then shot him multiple times. The patrol allegedly placed an AK-47 and a shovel in the hole so they could claim he was in the progress of digging a hole for an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). A preliminary investigation conducted by MNF-W found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident.
Additional information was later released that the patrol had originally planned to abduct a local terror suspect and kill him, but, because they could not locate the suspect they picked Awad at random to unleash their fury on.
In past wars this unfortunate incident would have been part of war. However, in the politically correct world we live, the lowest man gets pinned by the empty suits and armchair philosophers. The media, liberals, and leftists would like to relate our current conflict in Iraq with the Vietnam conflict. Peace and antiwar activists like John Kerry, Jane Fonda, and other aging activists from the 1960s have jumped on the bandwagon with Islamists, radicalized Muslims, the al Qaeda network, and others to cry about "President Bush's War." It is like the Kerrys and Fondas are trying to relive the 1960s. Unfortunately, the anti-war left used Abu Ghraib as a rally cry last year. Perhaps, the anti-war left is getting mileage or self satisfaction out of Hamdania.
To date, four of the Pendleton Eight have accepted plea bargains. The other four have not been offered plea bargains.
At this point, I am still not sure exactly what happened, why eight of America's finest decided to murder an innocent Iraqi civilian, or what caused Awad's demise.
Hutchins' patrol may have conspired to kill someone, or, perhaps the patrol did not. There may have been mitigating circumstances as to the how's and why's this event happened.
In going over the available information on Hamdania, one has to wonder, were there mitigating circumstances. Were the Pendleton Eight hooligans and murderers? Had they joined the Marine Corps and Navy as gangbangers and thugs? Was the behavior learned? What really happened that fateful day in April 2006? Was the behavior caused by some other forces? So far, the plea bargains have not delved into the facts beyond the surface and the media is not looking very far into it.
I would like to offer mitigating circumstances that our media has completely ignored or refused to explore, Combat and Operational Stress
“Combat / Operational Stress Reaction” (COSR) is an issue that will likely affect every Marine unit. Left not addressed, the effects of combat and operational stress can lead to long-term psychological injuries. Although not as visible as physical trauma, psychological injuries have been a significant portion of total casualties in any conflict. In the American military, combat stress reactions were noted as early as the Civil War. After the First World War, large numbers of combatants suffering from “shell shock” sought medical attention. Combat stress reactions were observed in more than 20% of US troops in World War II, and in the Korean War, 10% of medical evacuations were attributable to combat stress. Some estimate that as many as 30% of Vietnam veterans suffer from the long-term effects of untreated COSR. Approximately 15% of long term casualties after the Gulf War were psychological in nature. Effectively addressing the psychological effects of such stress both before and after it occurs can greatly improve a unit’s readiness status.
The linked information from the Navy Corpsman, HM3 Melson J. Bacos’ Attorney, Link to Attorney Sullivan’s Website, offers a glimps at mitigating circumstances that have fallen on the deaf ears of the news media and public during the emotionally charged
witch hunts, errr …. “Trials” of the Pendleton Eight. Perhaps the leadership was not tuned into their troops emotional health in the field and did not take every precaution to debrief them after combat action and stressful patrols. Perhaps the leadership contributed to this unfortunate incident. Pay particular attention to the video Interviews of HM3 Melson J. Bacosglimpse that were provided by his attorney.
God bless those whom we send in harms way to protect the freedoms that we take for granted. God bless the Pendleton eight, too.
For the latest courts-martial information of the Pendleton Eight trials, please visit: United States Marine Corps Iraqi Investigations.