Glenn Greenwald has an article in his new venue, The Guardian’s US Edition, regarding three episodes of military discipline and what he calls “the perversion of the justice system and rule of law as nothing more than a weapon to legitimize even the most destructive state actions.” I’m usually a big fan of Greenwald, but I think he’s really stretching here.
The cases were the episode of the Marines urinating on corpses of the enemy and “troops” burning copies of the Koran, and in Israel a case where an American protestor threw herself in front of a military bulldozer and was killed. In the American cases, “no criminal charges are being brought,” and the soldiers are being subjected to administrative discipline. The Israeli court found, according to Greenwald, that “despite Corrie's wearing a bright orange vest” the bulldozer operator did not see her and that her death was an accident. Perhaps Greenwald has never operated a bulldozer, but objects in front of the blade are not visible to the operator whether they are bright orange or brown camoflage.
With respect to the two US rulings, I have trouble in regarding the actions
of individual solders as “state actions” which Greenwald thinks are being legitimized by these court rulings, and in any case they were issued by courts martial, not by the US Department of Justice, and so I have difficulty as seeing them as part of the “justice system” per se. Besides which, what “criminal charges” does he think should have been brought? These guys certainly exercised bad judgement, and undoubtedly violated some military codes of conduct, but what actual crimes did they commit?
I don’t know the facts of the Israeli case, but apparently Rachel Corrie was “protesting the demolition of a house in Gaza” when she was killed by a bulldozer. I have operated a bulldozer and I can tell you of my own knowledge that a bulldozer operator cannot see what is in front of him. He guides the machine by using reference points to either side of the machine, and standing in front of the machine in an effort to stop it is an act of utter stupidity amounting to suicide. The operator absolutely will not be able to see you, will run you down, and it will not be his fault. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I’m perfectly comfortable with the judge’s decision that her death was accidental.
I don’t disagree with Greenwald’s oft stated assertion that our system of law protects the wealthy and powerful in this country, and that it legitimizes unlawful action by the powerful, but I think he is using some very silly and trivial episodes to prove his case here, and in so doing I think he weakens his cause. It’s disappointing.