If you watched the evening news a week ago, you may recall the sensational story of a distraught Marine who died in a murderous shootout with police. Anti-war writers and Latino activists have turned the cop-killer, Lance Cpl. Andres Raya, into a martyr. Don't believe the hype.
Network and cable TV shows repeatedly broadcast video and photo stills of Raya's Jan. 9 bloody gun battle in a Ceres, Calif., liquor store. Mental health experts immediately blamed post-traumatic stress disorder. Ignoring the cold-blooded murder of one of the ambushed police officers who was lured to his death, international headlines instead trumpeted the supposedly traumatized Raya:
Teenage War Veteran Committed Suicide 'By Cop'
Marine 'Committed Suicide by Cop to Avoid Iraq Return'
Kin of Marine Who Shot Policemen Ask if He Is a Casualty of War
Young Camp Pendleton Marine who shot officers did not want to go back to Iraq.
A far Left Web site, San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia.org, posted a complaint that the California legislature -- which lowered its flags to honor slain cop Sgt. Howard Stevenson -- was showing "no consideration [for the] young man whose life was ruined by military service."
La Voz de Aztlan, a radical fringe publication by Mexican nationalists, lionized Raya and demonized police:
"One can only speculate what horrors Andres Raya experienced in Fallujah. The slaughter by U.S. occupation forces of Iraqi civilians in Fallujah has been compared to the slaughter in Guernica by Nazi forces in 1937. Many U.S. Marines with a conscious (sic) have found it very difficult to reconcile the Iraqi civilian murders in their minds and have committed suicide. U.S. Marine Andres Raya decided to take some cops with him. Most probably he was harassed by them while growing up Mexican in this small northern California town." The paper also lambasted Raya's hometown, Ceres, as "a redneck town notorious for its mistreatment of his people."
Writing in the anti-war publication CounterPunch, Jack Random lamented Raya's death as "symbolic of the untold story of war. Hundreds of thousands of trained killers survive combat only to come home to a life for which they are no longer prepared. They have seen what men and women should never see. They have engaged in operations that brought them face to face with the death of innocent civilians, women and children."
The only elements missing in the bleeding-heart coverage of Raya's story were the soundtrack to "Platoon" and a bulk order of Kleenex. There's just one thing wrong with the sympathetic spin about the anti-war Marine. It's all dead wrong.
This much is true about Raya: The 19-year-old man did in fact serve with the Marines' 1st Intelligence Battalion's motor transport unit as a driver in Iraq.
But contrary to the impression left by initial media reports, Raya had never seen combat. And he was not headed back to Iraq. He had been transferred to a new unit scheduled for deployment to Okinawa. "During our investigation, we found he wasn't due to go back to Iraq, never faced combat situations and never even fired his gun," Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Woodman said.
Raya was high on cocaine at the time of the ambush, according to police reports. He was reportedly affiliated with the prison gang Nuestra Familia. Investigators found photos of Raya wearing gang colors and a shopping list in his bedroom safe that included body armor, assault rifles and ammunition. Authorities also discovered a video showing Raya smoking what appears to be marijuana and making gang sign gestures. The tape showed desecrated pieces of the American flag laid on a gymnasium floor to spell out expletives directed at President Bush.
Family members deny Raya's gang ties and blame the military. Meanwhile, Raya's neighborhood was decorated with anti-cop graffiti such as "Kill the Pigs" in his memory. And militant Hispanic residents celebrate Raya. Ceres resident Hilda Mercado told The New York Times that Raya "died like a true Mexican: He died standing on his feet."
The question isn't what got into Raya when he entered the military. The question is why and how Raya -- who police say had a propensity for violence well before he joined the Marines -- got into our military in the first place.
And now you know the rest of the story.