Bloggers are ambivalent about murder charges filed yesterday against Marines involved in the deaths of Haditha residents. They also celebrate the loosing of 25-year-old "secret" government documents and wonder about robot rights in the next half century.
Haditha goes to trial: Four U.S. Marines are to be court-martialed for the murder of 24 Iraqi civilians in the northwestern town of Haditha last year. In addition, four senior officers are being indicted for "dereliction" in reporting what many in the press have described as the worst atrocity committed in the Iraq war. Since the prosecution is not suggesting the shootings of the townspeople were premeditated, no death sentences will be sought for any of the Marines.
At Unclaimed Territory, lefty "Blue Texan" takes a shot at the "warbloggers" whom he says have either stayed silent on Haditha, or used it to charge the media with traitorous tactics: They "should remember that the cretins (as Chris Matthews called them earlier this week) who put those guys in that terrible situation are just as responsible for Haditha as the men on the ground. If you put overstressed combat soldiers in an untenable situation, bad things happen. John Murtha, who was a Marine for 37 years, understood that."
Conservative Heidi at Euphoric Reality writes a breathless post about the entire Haditha scandal, and insists the Marines are innocent. Among her many rationales is the following: "The accusations against our Marines have been leveled by Sunni Iraqis, after the media went around begging for stories. These requested anecdotes come from the very same people who, while under Saddam's regime, froze their dead babies so that they could wave them around when the world press showed up to 'document' the Iraqis' 'starvation by sanction.' What bullshit. I'd think twice—no, a helluva lot longer than that—before I gave one shred of credence to the claims of the radical Sunnis. They gave the media exactly what it was looking for, made-to-order."
Righty Uncle Jimbo at military blog Blackfive writes: "Good men pushed too far? That is all this really boils down to, one question. Did they think they were in danger? ... The determinative factor here is the mindset of the Marines involved, and that is the only relevant factor. It is easy to sensationalize this event by focusing on dead children and the press accounts but when it comes time to render a verdict, the only thing that matters is what those Marines thought was coming from those buildings."
At antiwar blog Bring It On!, Charles E. Anderson, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who blames the Bush administration for what he sees as a sequel to the My Lai massacre, speculates that the Marines' "actions were the result of conditioning, on both the training field and the battlefield. Through cadences like this as well as field exercises soldiers and marines are taught to defend ourselves and our comrades at any cost … They likely 'snapped' and went on a rampage and if found guilty may pay with their lives. However, those who are ultimately responsible will never be held to account."
Read more about the Haditha charges.
Out of the haunted wood: Under the Clinton-era Freedom of Information Act, portions of classified government documents, now in the National Archives, are to be made public at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, the instant they turn 25 years old. Who spied for the Soviets? What really happened during the Iran hostage crisis? These are just a couple hoary controversies that might have fresh light shed by the disclosures.
Righty Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard uses the occasion to applaud the president's commitment to freedom of information: "Some people use every excuse to tell the world that the Bush administration is 'the most secretive' ever to exist. Most of this stems from the fact that the administration has stopped governing by leak to a large (but not total) degree. So how do you explain this?"
Mary L. Dudziak at Legal History Blog notes: "[A]s history has become first international, and now transnational … foreign affairs records become a valuable source to track international reactions to domestic developments of various kinds. Diplomatic files often bear classification stamps. So greater access is something that a broad range of legal historians have a stake in … I have often argued that there is much in U.S. diplomatic files at the National Archives for legal historians across fields, since these records can place 'domestic' topics in a global context."
Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News offers a few inconvenient hurdles to a possible New Year's revelation that the moon landing was filmed at Area 54 by Whittaker Chambers: "First, many agencies have sought and received exemptions for one of nine categories of information (war plans, intelligence sources, WMD information, etc.) that need not be declassified … Second, records that involve the interests ("equities") of more than one agency are not subject to this month's deadline … Finally, the processing of hundreds of millions or billions of declassified pages to make them publicly accessible is a logistical challenge that may exceed the capability of the National Archives, which has faced increasing budgetary pressures."
Read more about the declassified docs.
Do androids dream of social security? Give 'em Pentium brains, they start in on rights. A British "futurist" study has suggested that in the next 50 years, provided technology proceeds apace, robots may be entitled to humanoid benefits including "robo-healthcare" and housing.
Anthony Paul Mator at evangelical weekly World Magazine's WorldNews blog snipes: "In a world where personhood depends upon whether a human being is inside or outside the womb, and where consciousness is explained as a mere illusion conjured by a random stew of particles, it comes as no surprise that robots may soon be our equals."
Not to worry, says techie blog Gizmodo UK: "The one good thing about crystal-ball gazing is that when it doesn't come true you also shrug and say: 'nothing's perfect.' So, when I hear that robots—or synthetic beings or whatever—will have the same rights as humans in 50 years time I have to wonder if it's really that big a deal? After all 50 years in science and technology terms is a very, very, long"
Read more about robot rights.