Six years after a squad of US Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha, the legal chapter in the case has been closed by military prosecutors.
But justice has not been done. Nor has it been seen to be done.
The last of the eight prosecutions pressed by military authorities ended like the previous seven — there was no court martial or public trial.
Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich had faced 152 years in prison. Under the plea bargain deal worked out between his lawyers and prosecutors, Wuterich will serve no more than 90 days. Putting it in perspective, Wuterich will spend just three days in jail for killing each of the 24 Haditha victims — unarmed men, women and children. The Haditha victims included a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, three women and seven children, including a toddler.
When American footballer Michael Vick was convicted of killing dogs in 2007, he spent 21 months behind bars in the US.
Evidence at the scene showed that some of the Haditha victims were essentially executed — they were shot at such close quarters that they had gunpowder burns on their bodies. Some of the Marines also urinated on the dead and dying victims. If the verdict in this case is supposed to represent justice, it is a perverse and twisted notion of jurisprudence.
Through the actions of the men and women in uniform — whether in the cells of Abu Ghraib prison or the alleys and homes of Haditha, the reputation of the US military is soiled beyond redemption.
US politicians may talk of values such as honour, freedom and democracy. Those words ring hollow when the concept of justice is besmirched by the trivial punishments handed down to these Marines.
Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha.