[The US Marines are charged with the death of two dozen Iraqi civilians.]

Soldiers rarely fight for abstract values. Lacking the historically standard inducements of booty and rape, they sublimate their emotions on fellow soldiers. Military friendship is often exceptionally strong. Soldiers depend on comrades to save their lives and go to great lengths to save their comrades’ lives or to avenge their death.

In Sudafend, Palestine, Australian soldiers burned an Arab village after the Bedouins killed an Australian. Both the Allies and the Nazis retaliated against civilians. The carpet-bombing of Dresden avenged Coventry. The US unleashed the mujahedeen to counter the communist invasion of Afghanistan and caused more than a million civilian deaths. The indiscriminate killing of non-combatants is a normal feature of war. Normal procedures should be neither condemned nor prosecuted.

The Marines killed civilians pursuing insurgents who just killed a US corporal. If the Americans were on a rampage as the Iraqi witnesses say, how come only 24 people died? A house-to-house operation would have resulted in many more deaths. What was the option other than to “shoot now, ask questions later”? Ask politely, Are any guerrillas hiding in your house, please?

Thousands of Iraqi civilians die monthly from sectarian violence. To prosecute the US Marines for only 24 deaths is morally wrong, illegal (singling out for prosecution), and harmful to the war effort. The US acknowledges its troops evil, delegitimizes its moral stance in Muslims’ eyes, and discourages military personnel from taking legal risks in urban combat.

The Marines demonstrated high regard for the law when, faced with potentially long sentences, they did not flee the trial. They continued to fight for their country long after the incident. Now the country makes them scapegoats to appease the enemy and media.

Other Marines could save their comrades and stop the witch-hunt by going on strike until the charges are dropped.