Tuesday, January 18, 2005


If you're not in combat, Iraq's a playground

Stone Court visitors: Thanks for coming! If you're looking for my post on Lawrence Summers, click here. But by all means, check out today's fine post as well:
Malkin's latest column purports to tell the "rest of the story" of Lance Cpl. Andres Raya, a Marine who "died in a murderous shootout with police." According to Malkin,
Anti-war writers and Latino activists have turned the cop-killer, Lance Cpl. Andres Raya, into a martyr...Ignoring the cold-blooded murder of one of the ambushed police officers who was lured to his death, international headlines instead trumpeted the supposedly traumatized Raya:

Teenage War Veteran Committed Suicide 'By Cop'

Marine 'Committed Suicide by Cop to Avoid Iraq Return'
Let's stop right here. In Malkin's estimation, the "suicide by cop" meme is an "international" "anti-war" invention, utterly disrespectful of Sgt. Howard Stevenson, the man Raya shot during the apparent botched robbery.

Where did this "suicide by cop" idea start? Indymedia? La Voz de Aztlan, who Malkin quotes: "U.S. Marine Andres Raya decided to take some cops with him. Most probably he was harassed by them while growing up Mexican in this small northern California town"? Or is the answer in the Modesto Bee?
"It was premeditated, planned, an ambush," Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk said. "It was a suicide by cop."
De Werk said investigators are not ruling out other motives or accomplices, but believe that Raya, a Marine who had served seven months in Iraq, was concerned about the possibility of going back into combat.
Oh, so the idea that Raya was traumatized by his experiences as a Marine started with...those fringe leftists in the Ceres Police Department.

To be fair*, later investigation "...found he wasn't due to go back to Iraq, never faced combat situations and never even fired his gun,' Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Woodman said." And to continue with the fairness, there is absolutely no evidence that there is any stress whatsoever for non-combat troops in Iraq. Especially for drivers. Malkin:
Raya was high on cocaine at the time of the ambush, according to police reports. He was reportedly affiliated with the prison gang Nuestra Familia. Investigators found photos of Raya wearing gang colors and a shopping list in his bedroom safe that included body armor, assault rifles and ammunition. Authorities also discovered a video showing Raya smoking what appears to be marijuana and making gang sign gestures. The tape showed desecrated pieces of the American flag laid on a gymnasium floor to spell out expletives directed at President Bush.
The family, meanwhile, denies that Raya had any gang ties. When it comes to Nuestra Familia, "reportedly affiliated" apparently refers to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times of "a safe in Raya's room containing a book by a member of the prison gang Nuestra Familia." On that particular issue, let me just say that I have a book by a columnist named Michelle Malkin, and I would hate to have it used as evidence of my political leanings. Back to the story...

An e-mail to the Modesto Bee, from a "longtime friend" of Raya, said "Before he joined, he was very motivated. The first time I saw him back (from Iraq), he wasn't so motivated. He cracked negative jokes about people who were serious. … He was negative towards the Marines. He still seemed like the same guy, he just had a hard time." The Sun-Times article says Raya told family and friends "gruesome stories of house-to-house combat and of watching Marines commit suicide."

Malkin doesn't address the vintage of the materials "proving" that Raya was a gang member; the reaction of the family makes it seem likely that they postdate his return from Iraq. Malkin reports that "Raya's neighborhood was decorated with anti-cop graffiti such as "Kill the Pigs" in his memory"; the Bee quotes "the Rev. Dean McFalls, who formerly served at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Ceres and is a friend of the Raya family", who said "the graffiti [was] 'despicable' and said it devastated the family."

So where does this leave us? Well, Malkin thinks the only question left is
why and how Raya -- who police say had a propensity for violence well before he joined the Marines -- got into our military in the first place.
As noted, Malkin did not establish any evidence that the "police say" he had a propensity for violence prior to Iraq. I did not find - but am open to submissions - any sign of the police saying any such thing. Meanwhile, Malkin only scantily addresses the most compelling defense of the "suicide by cop" theory: The apparent facts of that night. Modesto Bee again:
It happened just after 8 p.m. Sunday in front of George's Liquors on Caswell Avenue. Raya had asked liquor store employees to call police, saying someone had shot at him.

Surveillance video shows Raya pacing as he waited for police. He pulled a rifle from under his poncho and shot Ryno [who survived], then fired at Stevenson.
A terrible tragedy - for the families of both Sgt. Stevenson and Raya.

Obviously, Raya committed a terrible act. But covering our ears and impugning his character won't help us understand what changed while he was in Iraq - and how many more Andres Rayas we may be facing by the time this is all over.

Update: Liberal Avenger makes a strong point about Malkin's blog post addressing this column.
This is disingenuous, dangerous "reporting" on her part. Either he was an illegal alien or he wasn't. He was a Marine and from other Malkin rhetoric we should apparently assign godliness to Marines, except, apparently if they are illegal. If he was illegal go ahead and point it out. If he wasn't - and I'll bet you dinner that he wasn't - we'll never see an apology, correction or retraction from Malkin.
One thing I've noticed - and it's not just Malkin, by any means - is that blogging columnists looove to throw the stuff that was just too unsupported to make the column into the blogposts. Those pesky journalistic standards don't apply here, baby!

That said, I'm not altogether impressed with Malkin's journalistic standards in the column proper, either, but what can you do...
*And MalkinWatch is nothing if not fair.