Friday, November 17, 2006 

One day, two different faces of American justice.

You may well have heard yesterday that Specialist James Barker, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and killing her and her family, the so-called Mahmudiyah incident (different to the on-going investigation of the alleged revenge attack at Haditha) was sentenced to life in prison, and has the heartening news that he won't have to serve longer than 90 years. He was spared the death penalty for agreeing to testify against the other soldiers involved.

What you probably won't have heard about was the sentencing of a US marine, which also happened yesterday. John Jodka III, who admitted to killing an unarmed, crippled Iraqi man, justified his actions by saying that it was "dark", then by mentioning that all those Iraqis look the same to me, guv. All right, I made that last bit up. You might question whether Jodka was telling the truth however, when you learn the full details of what actually happened. According to the account given by Iraqis from the village of Hamdania, and later confirmed by congressman John P. Murtha, Hashim Ibrahim Awad was abducted from his house, taken to where an IED had formerly been planted, shot at least once and then left there with a shovel and the spent cartridges.

What was Jodka's punishment, then? Well, like Barker, Jodka had also made a plea-bargaining deal and had agreed to testify against his former comrades. Unlike Barker, he was sentenced to just 18 months' in prison.

It's difficult to see the worthiness of either punishment. While Barker's crime was a vile and cold-blooded pre-planned rape and murder, sentencing someone to spend the rest of their life in prison for what is a first offence and in a war zone, with all the stresses associated with being inside one, is just as morally dubious. 10-15 years would surely be more appropriate. Jodka's punishment on the other hand is a complete insult to the Iraqi's memory and his family. The above sentence would again be justice served far better.

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