Some war stories are wrong, all wrong

By: JOHN VAN DOORN - Staff Writer

You know, when Marines are involved in something big, even something ugly, it is natural to pull for the Marines. Doesn't matter what side of the war you're on. They're our boys, our men, our guys.

There's probably also an element in there of our determination to hang on to some shred of our own innocence, such as the everlasting glory of the Corps.

That all fell away last week with some testimony in the Haditha case at Camp Pendleton. A rather important witness ---- that is to say, he was there ---- testified that five men among the 24 civilians killed by Marines that awful day were men standing with their arms in the air.

They were surrendering. No weapons. Defenseless. Arms in the air. The witness said he himself did some of the shooting.

If the testimony turns out to be true, it's a dark, dark day. It's terrible for the Corps, which has traditions of honorable behavior second to no other service; the notion of crumbling Marine honor makes strong men weep.

It's bad for all who watch the Marines these days, or who have read the books and watched the movies and believed in the mystique.

It is worst, clearly, for the families of the Iraqi people shot down. If these numbing accusations are true, they saw some Marines cut not from heroic cloth but from bloody threads of the coward's coat.

The trial is not over. This was only the fifth witness, testifying on Wednesday. There are about 20 witnesses and many days to go.

Escondido on the move

It's not been an easy road for the Marriott Hotel people and the city of Escondido ---- they certainly took the one less traveled ---- but now it appears that all the bumps and potholes are behind them and that a hotel will be built.

It's going in right next to City Hall. Construction may start by the end of this year and the building's completion is expected by the middle of 2009.

A spanking new Marriott will add a certain luster to the heart of Escondido, and the mystique of architecture, even the hotel division, cannot be taken lightly. Fewer people would head for Egypt were it not for the pyramids at Giza.

City Hall and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, occupy a good chunk of the southern side of an enormous block along Second Avenue. City Hall also faces Broadway on the east, and the center faces Escondido Boulevard on the west.

Between them is a parking lot, and that's where the hotel will go. Grape Day Park, with its odd but storied past, will remain untouched, although there is no doubt it will get dirty for a while under the churnings of construction.

It is not, one hopes, out of line to wonder where the occupants of the hotel will come from. Escondido, which one loves and admires, is not exactly the Las Vegas Strip. It is not the French Quarter or Fifth Avenue. It walks to a lesser drummer. Thus it is not, on its surface, a powerful draw.

Conventions are apparently the answer. They are at least the expressed hope of the various officials involved in this intricate deal. Marriott has dibs on booking the convention hall that is part of the arts center. Fair enough; they worked the deal out. And maybe they're right, and maybe doubters should keep their pessimism to themselves.

We look eagerly to the skies, roadways and rail line (Sprinter is coming) for signs of the conventioneering funsters, resplendent in cute hats and large tummies, boisterous in the streets. What happens in Escondido stays in Escondido.

We wish them well and hope they come in numbers. We trust they will remember such inland safaris fondly. Our Medal of Perseverance goes to the Marriott people, arts center folks and officials of the welcoming city.

-- Contact columnist John Van Doorn at (760) 739-6647 or