January 11, 2005



"The Panel reaches no definitive conclusion as to whether the Killian documents are authentic. Given that the Killian documents are copies and not originals, that the author is deceased, that the Panel has not found any individual who knew about them when they were created, and that there is no clear chain of custody, it may never be possible for anyone to authenticate or discredit the documents."


Posted by BruceR at 06:03 PM

Court-martial verdict: Jeff Jarvis ends silence

(See previous entry.)

The verdict has come in for the first Samarra bridge-pushing trial: six months for assault, acquittal on the manslaughter charge... the military court evidently inferred reasonable doubt about the existence of a body. But Sgt Tracy Perkins gets to keep his job. And Jeff Jarvis ends his year-long dignified silence on the subject, saying that it "doesn't smell great."

I must say, as an occasional participant in the military justice system here in Canada, and an observer of its work elsewhere, I don't have a lot of patience any argument that court martials are in any way fairer or more just than civilian trials. They may move somewhat more rapidly, but I'd say they're just as prone to bad decisions, and unfair verdicts, in either direction.

That speed of execution can also weigh against justice. In this case, I have to wonder why there was no stay of proceedings pending the anticipated exhumation of the body in question. If that was the material fact that the whole trial hinged upon, to leave it undetermined going into the final hearing seems negligent, at the least. (I would presume double jeopardy will disallow any revisiting of the manslaughter acquittal in future.)

Now that he's finally talking about it, if he's reading this Jarvis may also want to comment on the previous dropping of all charges for all of Sgt Perkins' and LT Saville's superiors (including the rather Kurtzish figure of Nate Sassaman), and the soldiers who actually did the pushing, as well (in the latter case, also due to reasonable doubt about whether there was a corpse).

This case is a real little nexus of a number of Iraq-related issues, if you read into it. Sassaman was reportedly one of the military commanders who were sending truckloads of people to Abu Ghraib on suspicion alone... the military investigation was stymied for a year largely in part due to a lack of basic security in the "quiet" city of Samarra (and military stonewalling)... it was an Iraq blogger who pushed the military justice system to at least take notice and was savaged by several jingo-bloggers for doing so, etc. There's a whole lot more that could be written about this case than has been thus far.

Posted by BruceR at 11:46 AM