45 months…

…is the recommended sentence for this American soldier who murdered the Iraqi police officer he was working with.

Can you imagine the kind of sentence he’d receive if he ‘d murdered a beautiful white woman? 45 months — less than twofour years –would look like a holiday. Scott Peterson is up for execution!

My heart really does go out to all Americans serving in Iraq under unimaginable pressures. But at a time when we are kidnapping people in foreign countries just because maybe their name appears on some list and effectively ending their lives, this sure seems like a mighty gentle punishment for premeditated murder. Let’s all face it: white lives are worth a lot more than brown one (or yellow or black ones). It sounds like a gross miscarriage of justice.

The Discussion: 22 Comments

Actually just under four years, but still laughable. Iraqi lives don’t figure into the equation. Not really. They never have.

On the other hand, it’s hard to see from the article exactly what happened here. It doesn’t sound like premeditated murder so much as a paranoid freakout. Not that this shouldn’t be punished, but it throws some gray into the situation.

July 25, 2005 @ 6:49 pm | Comment


I think you are pandering to someone here. To say:

Let’s all face it: white lives are worth a lot more than brown one (or yellow or black ones).

That’s just complete nonsense. I’ve seen other people convicted of manslaughter given similar sentences in the States.

July 25, 2005 @ 6:52 pm | Comment

No, I’m really not pandering. I believe any American who murders an Iraqi will get a lesser sentence than if he murdered a white. This is nothing new. I was just thuinderstruck when I saw what he did and saw the probable sentence. Shocked. But not surprised.

July 25, 2005 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

Thanks will, sorry for the bad math – will correct!!

I’m posting and cooking dinner at the same time. Not good for accuracy.

July 25, 2005 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

Hmm, but what was that Iraqi cop doing pointing his rifle at him ? Is there an explanation on that ?

July 25, 2005 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

Also : “premeditated murder” ? The account didn’t sound like that to me …

July 25, 2005 @ 10:34 pm | Comment

A trainee pilot of a Marine jet clipped a ski-lift cable in the Alps during a training flight in 2000 and killed 20 people inside a gondola (presumably at least one was white, if not more). The pilot was acquitted of manslaughter.

July 25, 2005 @ 11:14 pm | Comment

Was that pilot tried by the US or by Italy?

A big question would be how the event occurred as to what sentence was given. Even though he was convicted of premeditated murder there could have been circmstances that would mitigate. I don’t know, so I can only surmise. This is not to say that the system will treat “whites” or Americans differently than outsiders.

July 25, 2005 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

He wasn’t convicted of “murder” at all much less “premeditated murder”. The judge dismissed murder charges on the grounds that the evidence did not support them. The soldier pleaded guilty to negligent homicide — i.e., he thought he was acting in self defence but was wrong — and was sentenced to 18 months in prison not 45 months. 45 months was the sentence requested by the military prosecutor.

The story is here: http://tinyurl.com/aw9c3

July 26, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

could a kind soul copy and paste it here for the poor people locked in China ?

premeditated murder *did* seem a bit extreme a description for a guy who flipped out when the cop pointed a rifle at him, but more details would be nice.

July 26, 2005 @ 12:44 am | Comment

BBC — A US corporal who served in Iraq has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after admitting to negligent homicide in the killing of an Iraqi policeman.
Cpl Dustin Berg said during his court martial that he had shot himself to try to cover up the killing.

The judge also gave him a bad conduct discharge but threw out murder charges.

At least eight US soldiers have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the deaths of Iraqi citizens.

The killing took place on 23 November 2003, while the two men were out on patrol.

Berg said he was wrong to consider the Iraqi policeman a threat.

He shot himself in the stomach to give the impression a gunfight had taken place, and was awarded a Purple Heart for the wound. He was later stripped of the award.

July 26, 2005 @ 12:55 am | Comment

Richard, your paradigm is flawed. It is time to relook some of the preconceptions that you have been carrying for a long time. I do not have full confidence in the military justice system in that I think it can at times be skewed to serve a commander’s interest, and at time unfairly skewed to a military defendent’s interest. I suppose we should adopt the “Breaker Morant” approach. We have to show these people we are even handed, so let’s shoot a few colonial soldiers to establish that point. Where’s Lord Kitchener when you need him? And yes, four years does seem light, but I was not on the jury and did not hear all the evidence.

July 26, 2005 @ 1:49 am | Comment

I’m going to leap to Richard’s defense here. Yes, it’s impossible to pass judgment unless you were there and heard the evidence. Under the circumstances, 18 months (thanks, Conrad) might be fair. It might be too much. Who knows, perhaps the Iraqi was going to plug him. And there were stories today about infiltration of the Iraqi national defense forces by insurgents.

But the US has not demonsrated overwhelming value of Iraqi lives during the occupation. There are way, way too many stories of abuse, torture, random arrests and detainments, and paranoid shootings. Add that to our national racial bias in imprisonment and death penalites, and you can begin to see why many of us have been trained to expect the worst.

Unfair, perhaps, but the way it is.

July 26, 2005 @ 5:18 am | Comment

I will take the blame for being sloppy with this post and chalk it up to being in a horrifically bad mood yesterday. What bothered me is the poiint Will raises, the cheapness of non-American (and often non-White American) life. It brought to mind a comment I wrote a long time ago about how we react to the death of non-whites, which I’ll repeat here.

The ethnic phenomenon dictates that by our very nature, we have a different level of sympathy and empathy with people of our own ethnicity than we do those of other ethnicities. This is clearly manifested all the time. The average American, for example, will have much more of an emotional reaction to news of a train derailment in England that kills 30 than they would to news of a ferry in Bangladesh sinking and killing 300. (These ferry tragedies always appear in the back of the paper in a very short story; the European accidents often go on page one.) No matter how atrocious the Nazis were, I do not believe the US would ever have considered dropping a nuclear weapon on Germany. The horrific firebombing of Dresden is still looked at as one of the most terrible thing the Allies did in the war — a tragic mistake. And more American have empathy for those German families who were incincerated that night than they do for the Japanese families who perished in numbers far greater in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Due to this single fact, that they were Asians who were butchered in Nanjing, the sympathy and interest level among most non-Asians plunges. Of course, this is not a Western sickness. It applies to most ethnicities I believe.

For anyone skeptical, just think about how the most powerful nations have reacted to AIDS in Africa and genocide in Rwanda. They express their deep concern, of course, but they haven’t been moved to do very much about it. When crises involving even a tiny fraction of those numbers occur in a country of the same ethnicity, the reaction is altogether different. Sad but true, this is just a part of human nature; we tend to watch out for our own.

If Iraqis had done to Americans what we did to them in Abu Ghraib and received the light sentences meted out to our soldiers many of us would be up in arms. We care little about the mandatory high sentences handed out daily to drug traffickers in Singapore and Indonesia and Myanmar, but when such a sentence is handed out to an attractive white Australian woman, the wolrd media go into oversrive. I truly believe there is a mentality that our lives are far more valuable than theirs, and to take one of theirs is far less of a deal than visa-versa.

I shouldn’t have said pre-meditated. Sorry about that; but I stand by my assertion than if he had done this to a middle class attractive white woman there would have been a much different sentence.

July 26, 2005 @ 8:11 am | Comment

Richard, I don’t have time to fisk your entire response, but I will address the insinuation that the decision to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese was racially motivated. Again, hindsight is 20-20, bt if we review the culmination of the war in the pacific, we note the following.
1 – First, there was a psychological element. The “dirty Japs” had started the War by bombing Pearl Harbor in a widely publicized “sneak attack”. These were the same Japs who had sunk the USS Panay in 1937, had committed such widely publicized atrocities in China, and earlier in Korea. (Madame Chiang Kai-shek was a friend of Clare Booth Luce, wife of Henry Luce, of Time magazine). So in that regard, there was an antipathy which could stir up racism among those inclined to feel such. But it was likewise an antipathy which could be backed up with facts and photos. For the great majority of Americans, the fact that Japan had started the war was reason enough to drop the bomb.
2 – Second, in terms of pure ratio, the Japanese inflicted heavier casualties on the Allies than the Germans. This was due to several factors, not the least was the “don’t surrender” ethos among the Japanese, and a tendency to treat those who did surrender as subhuman. Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and more recently, Okinawa, weighed heavily upon both the Roosevelt administration and in war planners minds. Casualties in the invasion of Japan were expected to reach 1 million, with between 10 and 12 percent of those killed, which would have given the invasion of Japan a quarter of all U.S. combat deaths in WWII. To demonstrate how far Roosevelt and Truman were willing to go to lower that number of U.S. deaths, consider this: First, Roosevelt agreed to equip an entire French Amphibious Corps for use in Japan. This was the same Roosevelt who despised De Gaulle and wanted to do everything else in his power to keep the French out of Indochina (which is where the amphibious corps ended up). Second, Roosevelt cut a deal with the Soviets to bring them into the war with Japan. The Soviets and Japanese were then under a Non-Aggression Pact that had held since April 1941. It is instructive to note that even Truman continued to push to ensure that the Soviets entered the war against Japan, which they did in August 1945.
3 – Third – Okinawa had demonstrated that the invasion of Japan would be total war. Civilians would not be passive participants, and mass suicides among the civil population could be expected. Thus, the will of the Japanese population to continue supporting the war had to be broken, which was the rationale behind the firebombing campaign.
4 – Fourth, No one really knew how effective the atomic bomb was going to be. But if it worked, it would end the war and thus spare Allied lives, with the secondary effect (not necessarily on anyone’s priority at that time) of saving Japanese lives. Which, by the way, it did.
So I cannot agree with your assertion that we would not have dropped the bomb on Germany. If we’d had it in June 1944, there is a high probability that we would have used it to help cover the D Day landings. If we’d had it during the Bulge, it would have been a great way to divert German attention from the Ardennes. As it was, it was still in the experimental stage, and thus the Japanese became our first atomic guinea pigs. Not exactly a bright spot in our history, but one that the great majority of Americans at the time would have felt had been justly earned on December 7th, 1941.

As for the alleged trigger-happiness of American soldiers in Iraq, I find the allegations disturbing, most particularly since some of those comments come from British soldiers. But my inclination is to put it down to poor training, discipline, and the cobbled together nature of the force, rather than any inherent racism. Those are problems that we can address, but I fear that they will be ignored as everyone hunkers down for some disengagement plan. If we start firing generals, colonels, and lieutenant colonels, and disciplining senior NCOs, we might get an Army that would be willing to take higher personal risks. But that would raise the casualty count, feed the administration’s enemies, and perhaps force us out before the job is done.

July 26, 2005 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

I disagree Lirelou. There are entire books written about the racial factor in the dropping of the atomic bomb, and I strongly stand by my contention. One such book (out of print, but I was its editor way back) is actually called The Ethnic Phenomenon; its argument is that such decisions always take biology into account, usually above all else. Another very revealing book on this and related subject re. race is War without Mercy — check it out. You will see I am right. 100 percent.

July 26, 2005 @ 6:19 pm | Comment


The Manhattan project was undertaken specifically with the Germans in mind, as there was fear that the Germans would develop the capability first. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that, had the weapon been available highranking US military planners would have called for its use against Germany. Indeed, such leaders were demanding information about the availability of the bomb in advance of the planned Normandy landings.

Furthermore, the bombs were not dropped on Japan because the Japanese were not white. The bombs were dropped because to the fanatical refusal of the Japanese to surrender and the militarists determination to resist invasion to the bitter end.

While the deliberate targeting of civilians raises ethical questions, that line had already long been crossed by everyone involved and there is no serious doubt that Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved more lives than they took.

July 26, 2005 @ 8:30 pm | Comment

Conrad, I don’t doubt it. But I believe — no, I KNOW — we would never have dropped the Bomb on Germany. Never.

July 26, 2005 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

And the Russians, Richard. Are they not also white? You don’t have to reply to that. Let’s just amicably agree to disagree.

July 26, 2005 @ 8:36 pm | Comment

Did we ever drop a bomb on the Russians? Never did, never will, never could. But it’s a deal, Lirelou, I always respect your intellect so let’s call it an amicable disagreement.

July 26, 2005 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

“There are entire books written about the racial factor in the dropping of the atomic bomb”

There are entire books about lots of things, richard ;-). Unfortunately, having a binding and an ISBN number does not transform words into objective universal truth.

Anyhoo, I will largely leap to Richard’s defense in saying that we care about American/white lives much more than Iraqi/nonwhite lives.

I say this as a complete supporter of the war in Iraq (though not much of a fan of the postwar fuckup), and of the actions of the US military, but I do not doubt that it is the tacit policy of everyone, from the White House to the media to everyone in between to care less about people more dissimilar to us. It’s psychology, an evolutionary feature that helped encourage us to act to preserve our closer genetic relatives in danger so that they may further propagate our shared race.

It is an inevitable tragedy, much like war itself.

Though I don’t think racism was the primary motive in dropping the a-bomb on Japan instead of Nazi Germany (the fact that Nazi Germany no longer existed by the time of the Trinity explosion might have been somewhat significant…)

July 27, 2005 @ 11:54 am | Comment

Thanks Johnny I meant, there are entire books that I have read, know and trust on this subject.

July 27, 2005 @ 11:55 am | Comment

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