Haditha’s Denouement

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Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich walks into court Jan. 9

The Marines’ 2005 “massacre” of 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha began with a bang but ended with a whimper Monday. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich pled guilty to a single count of negligent dereliction of duty in connection with the case. He faces a maximum of three months in jail; the original charges against him, including murder, could have sent him to Leavenworth for more than 150 years.

The seven other Marines charged in the case have all been acquitted or had the charges against them dismissed. Critics will argue that military justice is an oxymoron, like military music. But Marines hailed the decision as the proper end to a painful case. They’re just sorry that Rep. John Murtha – the late Pennsylvania congressman and former Marine who said the killings had been committed “in cold blood” – isn’t alive to witness the rest of the story.