In March of 2007, three American soldiers detained four suspects in Iraq. They were supposed to take them to a detainee housing area. But instead, the first sergeant in the group approached another soldier in the group, Pfc Josh Hartson, and asked him whether he would have a problem "if we take care of them" instead. Following this exchange, the soldiers took the detainees to a canal and executed detainees.
The three sergeants who killed the detainees were rightly convicted of premeditated murder in a military courtroom in Germany and are serving long prison term sentences in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In a CNN report by the company's "Special Investigation Unit," reporter Abbie Boudreau delves deep into the story. The report could have been an eye opening account of the details of this gruesome murder or its impact on how such incidents impact Iraqis' opinion of American soldiers, the vast majority of whom are trying to do the right thing and serve as best as they know how.
But instead, most of the report focused on tough rules and regulations regarding the gathering of evidence that soldiers must follow in order to keep the detainees imprisoned. This was the reason that the soldiers gave to justify their ugly act. But instead of challenging those claims, the CNN reporter seemed to take these excuses at their face value, delving into the army policy manual, which instructed the soldiers to gather a few pieces of evidence that could help keep the detainee.
She then grilled Brig. Gen. David Quantock, who now oversees detainee operations about the policy that required soldiers to offer some evidence for guilt every time they bring in a detainee. The last half an hour of the slanted report included lengthy and overly sympathetic interviews with the wives of the three convicted soldiers as they praised their husbands, calling them "heroes," and explaining how wonderful they were. The report showed the footage of three of one of the soldier's children and their ages. The reporter then read one of the soldier's letters from prison to his family out loud with the camera zooming in on the signature at the end of the letter, "Daddy."
The obvious problem with this report -- and most reports about the war, army, military and soldiers' conduct abroad -- is that it is heavily slanted toward the military. The report did not even mention the names of the captured detainees, and the reporter most certainly had no interest in the families of those detainees who were executed at the hand of these American soldiers without being charged with a crime and getting the chance to defend themselves before the rule of law. It was the most dehumanizing report I have seen in a long time that may as well have been made by the convicted murderers' defense teams.
Now compare this report with that of the recent murders of Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood a few weeks ago. Here was a soldier who -- while committed reprehensible and unjustifiable murders -- had long felt alienated in the military, expressed frustrations about being forced to go to Afghanistan and was mortified about the idea of having to kill fellow Muslims. He was also constantly discriminated against, isolated and treated not at a comrade and brother that he deserved to be treated. Once he found the following words written on his car: "Camel jockey! Get out of here!"
Based on the Sunday night report, one would think CNN may also be interested in learning about the deep causes of these murders committed by an American soldier. But of course, the cable news station has shown no such interest. Instead, they have brought up various experts to discuss semantics; should we call this an act of "terrorism" or just bloody murders committed by an extremist Muslim who wore white arab clothes, prayed five times a day, talked to an extremist mullah a lot, and oh by the way, his name was Hasan?
Of course the soldiers who killed the Iraqi detainees would come up with justifications for their premeditated murders. That's what murderers do! There is absolutely no reason for "the most trusted name in news" to give legitimacy to those excuses by spending a whole report to try to manufacture sympathy for convicted murderers without adequately explaining the consequences of such murders in the larger context of America's effort to get Iraqis on our side. The reality is the rules and regulations were put in place in 2005 after the pictures of pyramids made of naked Iraqi prisoners in Abu Gharib were leaked out. Our society must be clear in sending our soldiers the message that they are absolutely in no position to walk around in a country that we invaded in direct violation of international law and capture and execute people without turning them in with evidence on why they captured those individuals.
Perhaps the problem is deeper and hard to solve. After all, should the so called independent media call the soldiers on one side of the conflict "heroes" as CNN reporters often do any chance they get, especially on Veterans' and Memorial Days? How independent can we really expect any mainstream media reports to be on any story that relates to the military if it has already decided who is good and who is evil and often voluntarily acts as the privately funded public relations arm of the military?