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thedrifter
05-06-09, 07:49 AM
Last modified Wednesday, May 6, 2009 12:07 AM PDT
EDITORIAL: Marine's trial for Iraq death only real option

By the North County Times Opinion staff

The decision to go ahead with the prosecution of the third and final defendant in a battlefield killing in Iraq represents one of those "no-win" situations for the U.S. Marine Corps. But it is the only path to take.

For it is only right to allow the military judicial process to continue, even though two others have been absolved of legal responsibility. We are a nation of laws and there is reason to believe a crime occurred.

The decision to go forward, as Camp Pendleton's Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland decided late last month, may result in little; indeed it appears to many that Sgt. Jermaine Nelson has good chances of being acquitted.

The prosecutors seem to have a weak murder case against Nelson for the death of one of four Iraqi detainees more than four years ago in Fallujah.

Moreover, the prosecutors' case is further weakened by the fact both of the other two Marines were acquitted of homicide in the other three deaths ---- one tried by a military court and acquitted in early April and the other, in a rarity, tried by a civilian court in Riverside with the same result a year ago.

And there can be little doubt the prosecutors' case against Nelson is undercut by the awareness in the nation and the military services that the early years of the U.S. presence in Iraq were severely mismanaged from the top down.

The upcoming trial of Nelson in military court may shed no new light on what happened between the three Marines and the four Iraqis.

Nonetheless, not prosecuting Nelson was not an option for Helland or the Corps. To have walked away from pressing the matter would have left the impression that Helland, the Corps and the nation were ignoring their honor and a potential war crime.

Ellie