Families rally for indicted Marines

More scapegoats are hung out to dry, this time in relation to the Hamdania case. We’re reminded of the famous line from Apocalypse Now: “Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.” One can’t help but feel sorry for the families of these kids who, whatever atrocities they committed, were in way over their heads. From AP, June 22:

Supporters of accused troops scramble to raise funds, awareness
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Friends and family are rallying around the seven Marines and Navy medic charged with killing an Iraqi civilian, setting up Web sites and using the media to draw attention to what they claim is an unfair prosecution.

The troops are charged with premeditated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted. Supporters are scrambling to raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay defense attorneys.

“We are not rich,” said Diann Shumate of Matlock, Wash., mother of 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate Jr. “But we are doing anything we can. We have been collecting cans, we’ve depleted our savings and if we owned our house, we would put it up.”

Shumate does not work; her husband is an electrician. She does not know how much lawyers fees will be, but expects them to be “outrageous.” She raised $100 or so at a yard sale and has a fundraising barbecue planned.

Military prosecutors allege the troops kidnapped an Iraqi man from his home, tied him up, put him in a hole by the side of a road and sprayed him with bullets, then sought to cover up the crime by making it appear the man was armed and attempting to plant explosives. The troops are being held in the brig at Camp Pendleton.

All eight were assigned military defense attorneys, paid for by the Marine Corps. All also have hired civilian lawyers.

Families of the men say their loved ones are good soldiers who would never intentionally kill an innocent person.

Terry Pennington, father of accused Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, has sunk a portion of his family’s savings toward $10,000 in initial attorney’s fees.

Aside from appearing on national news shows to raise awareness of his son’s case, Pennington said he planned to start a Web site through which he hopes to raise more money for his son’s defense.

Several other families already have done this, setting up stars-and-stripes-festooned sites with names like www.innocentmarine.com and www.defensefundformyhero.com.

John Jodka II, father of accused Marine Pfc. John Jodka III, has hired two defense attorneys at an initial cost of $10,000 but expects the final bill to be a “six-figure amount.”

“We’ll do whatever we need to do,” Jodka said.

Like Pennington, Jodka has been campaigning hard to keep his son’s case in the public eye, appearing on a procession of news shows.

Family members believe that by drawing attention to the case they can ratchet up public pressure on the Pentagon and elected officials.

Last week, Camp Pendleton reduced the troops’ level of security from maximum to medium and dropped a requirement that they be shackled whenever out of their cells. Military officials said the decision was made after a routine hearing, but Jodka thinks public pressure played a role.

“I think it was a catalyst, but there are a lot of people that helped,” Jodka said.

For the last two Saturdays, protesters have congregated outside the base’s main gate to protest the detention of the seven Marines and a sailor. Another protest is planned this weekend.

Last year, Marine Lt. Ilario Pantano faced a court martial on charges he murdered two Iraqi civilians. He claimed self-defense and his mother ran a high-profile publicity campaign during his trial. The charges eventually were dismissed.

“I take as my template the case of Illario Pantano,” Jodka said. “I think that the level of support enjoyed in the community had a direct effect at how people looked at the evidence being presented to the prosecution. That sunshine to the prosecution’s case is exactly my intent here.”

Outrageous that these kids were in chains. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be in chains. This June 5 account from Knight Ridder indicates these kids literally didn’t even know where they were when they killed the unarmed Iraqi civilian.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – When U.S. officials announced May 25 that they were investigating accusations that American Marines had wrongly killed an Iraqi man, they said the April 26 death had taken place in “Hamandiyah,” a town they described as west of Baghdad.

But no town by that name exists there or anywhere in Iraq, Iraqi geographers say. The mistake has sown confusion as reporters and others attempt to track the U.S. investigation into the killing, and promises to continue to puzzle if American officials persist in using the incorrect name in referring to the case.

Knight Ridder tracked down the town last week after military officials described what was nearby. Its name is actually al-Hamdania (pronounced hahm-da-NEE-yah).

“There is no area called al Hamandiyah in all Iraq,” said Muthanna Meshaan, a geography professor at al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

At al-Hamdania, the family of Hashim Ibrahim Awad told Knight Ridder that U.S. Marines took him from his home in the middle of night and killed him. The Marines then used an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel taken from another home to make him look like a terrorist, they said.

American officials have provided no official account of what took place, saying the case is under investigation. Eight service members have been jailed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., pending the investigation’s outcome.

U.S. military officials in Iraq say the mistake over the town’s name was probably a typographical error or an incorrect transliteration of an Arabic word into an English spelling. They concede that the name was spelled incorrectly.

Spokesmen at Camp Pendleton didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment about whether they’d change their reference to the town.

Al-Hamdania, named for the al-Hamdani tribe, is a fairly common place name. At one point, the al-Hamdani tribe ruled parts of Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria. A famous stadium in Syria is called al-Hamdania, as is a town in Algeria.

Middle East history is filled with famous Hamdanis. Members of that tribe were among the leaders of Iraq’s 1920 revolt. Seif al-Dawla al-Hamdani, also known as Sword of the Nation, was the tribe’s most noteworthy leader, ruling from A.D. 945 to 967. According to Middle East history, he defended the region against Byzantine invaders and encouraged scientific and literary development.

Mohammed al-Hassan al-Hamdani was a poet, scholar and geographer revered for his works on southern Arabia during the 10th century. Abu Firas al-Hamdani is another celebrated poet.

These days, the name is just as famous in Iraq for cream-filled confections sold at the Hamdani pastry shops throughout Baghdad.

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Cycle of venegeance
    It is impossible for US troops not to get caught up in a cycle of vengeance in the current atmosphere in Iraq. And provoking precisely this reaciton is doubtless part of al-Qaeda’s strategy. From AP, June 20:

    Missing Soldiers May Have Been Beheaded, Tortured

    The bodies of two U.S. soldiers reported captured last week have been recovered, and an Iraqi defense ministry official said Tuesday the men were “killed in a barbaric way.” The U.S. military said the remains were believed to be those of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore.

    Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said U.S. forces – part of a search involving some 8,000 American and Iraqi troops – found the bodies late Monday near Youssifiyah, where they disappeared Friday. The bodies were recovered early Tuesday.

    Caldwell said the cause of death was “undeterminable at this point,” and that the bodies would be taken back to the United States for DNA tests to confirm the identities.

    Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for killing the soldiers, and said the successor to slain terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had “slaughtered” them, according to a Web statement that could not be authenticated. The language in the statement suggested the men had been beheaded.