Army Sgt Tracy Perkins, 33, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators and could receive up to 29 years in prison if convicted. It is alleged that he and another soldier, 1st Lt Jack Saville, forced Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun and Marwan Fadel Hassoun into the River Tigris at Sammara on 3rd January 2004, at gunpoint, resulting in the death by drowning of Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun.
Zaydoun, it may be recalled, was a cousin of Zeyad, author of the Healing Iraq blog. Zeyad first wrote about this here, with follow-ups here and here. At the time, some American bloggers (of whom this, followed up by this even more weasel obfuscation, is an example) had difficulty accepting the theoretical possibility that an Amercian military personnel could have committed such an act. This was before the revelations about what had been going on at Abu Ghraib, for which incontrovertible photographic proof was (amazingly) provided by the perpetrators, which gradually filtered into the public domain. But not, of course, before the similarly grtoesque revelations about the My Lai massacre, many years before in Viet Nam.
None of this is to suggest that the US military is any worse than any other military in the world, indeed it probably has as good or a better record than most others. What it does show, though, is that the US is inhabited by fallible human beings, no different in essence from any other nationality. It generally manages to 'clean up after itself', in a strictly legal sense, when required. Whether this will ever happen in the case of the detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is not yet certain - indeed some recent indications are that, if the current US administration gets its way, the detainees at Guantanamo will be left to rot in the modern equivalent of a mediaeval dungeon, without having been charged or tried, forever. I have a sinking feeling that in 40 or 50 years time, a future US President will be called upon to issue a formal apology for this travesty of justice currently being perpetrated, just as the US governement in 1988 apologised for the wholesale detention of Japanese-Americans during WWII. I still hope that the US will eventually live up to its best ideals, not down to its worst paranoia.