In the aftermath of the Civil War, General John Logan, commander in chief of the Army of the Republic, proclaimed a day for memorializing the slain. "Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor," he wrote. "It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith."
So how does the "public press" celebrate Memorial Day this year? By plastering stories across the front pages featuring alleged atrocities by our troops in Haditha, Iraq. "The Shame of Kilo Company," banners Time magazine, which originally reported the story. "Bloody Scenes Haunt a Marine," blares the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times proclaims, "Iraqis' Accounts Link Marines to the Mass Killing of Civilians." On the day before Memorial Day, anti-war Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., appeared on ABC's "This Week," demanding to know "Who covered it up, why did they cover it up, why did they wait so long? … We don't know how far it goes. It goes right up the chain of command … I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened."
Against the war, but for the troops? It's hard to maintain that hairsbreadth distinction when you're publicizing alleged misconduct by American troops before the facts are in, while American soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq. The military is already engaged in an ongoing investigation into the killings and will likely bring up Marines on charges that may carry the death penalty.
War is ugly. Horrible things happen. Those Americans responsible for reprehensible acts will be punished by the military itself. Why is this news?
Why the need for the press to trumpet this news as though civilians had never been slain in the history of modern combat? Why the constant reminders of Abu Ghraib? Why the continuous focus on what Americans have done wrong, rather than what we're doing right?