Boston’s interfaith memorial deflection

Obama at the interfaith memorial service in Boston
Obama at the interfaith memorial service in Boston, by CJ Gunther, EPA

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

With Boston’s lock-down over and the city picking up the pieces of its collective psyche, my thoughts return to the interfaith memorial service held there a few days ago.

Private mourning and collective mourning are different. Public memorial services are scripted and function in certain ways. They need to be analyzed.

You may have noticed that the number of these memorials is increasing. They are becoming definitive markers of our political – and religious – culture. What’s spoken and unspoken in these memorials is politically important.

So many “political” realities go unmentioned in our public tributes to the victims of violence. The politics we “rise” above may be at the heart of the very horrific situations being memorialized.

Questions need asking. Are we memorializing the victims of furthering our own interests? Are we reaching out to others or are we feathering our own nest?

Political leaders are liable for such examination. Religious leaders are as well.

If after reading what follows, you think that I’m obsessing about Jews, Israel, Palestinians and Palestine, that’s your prerogative. After all, the memorial service in Boston was for the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. As you will see, I believe that if mourning is to be genuine, we have dig underneath the sentiments expressed. When we unearth the unspoken that should have been spoken, a more genuine mourning can commence.

The interfaith service was held in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Among others, President Obama was in attendance and addressed those gathered. The mood was somber and intense. When the service was held both suspects were still on the loose. More carnage lay ahead.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke of his recent Easter retreat where he and a number of priests visited Galilee, Jerusalem and beyond. The Cardinal intoned the Hebrew words tikkun olam for the healing needed after the bombings.

The Cardinal did not mention that part of his retreat was held in Palestine. He did not use any Arabic words of healing. That would strike the wrong “political” note.

Why Palestine and Arabic is political in our lexicon, therefore divisive, and Israel and Hebrew is typically seen as apolitical, therefore healing, has important ramifications for the cultural and political word we live in. It is reflective of way Jews and Muslims are perceived in America and the imbalance we see on the ground in Israel/Palestine.

The Jewish community had its representative say with words of healing and reconciliation worthy of our attention. Here’s how the Huffington Post reported the Jewish voices:

“In times of crisis, we have to make sure we are together. We felt that we’re not alone,” said Rabbi Matt Soffer of Temple Israel of Boston, who came with a group of clergy from several faiths at 7 a.m. to wait outside the 2,000-seat cathedral. By the time he arrived, the line already stretched for blocks.

Rabbi Ronne Friedman, the senior rabbi at Soffer’s congregation who spoke at the service, cited Psalm 147, addressing God as the “healer of the brokenhearted” who will “empower them with strength and courage and restore to them and to all of us who grieve with them a sense of life’s goodness and purpose.”

Though I agree with the sentiments, I’m curious where the Rabbis stand on Israel – and Palestine. I can’t find much of anything on their views. According to the website of Temple Israel where both are Rabbis, in 2011 the congregation embarked on a three year study of “diverse voices” on Israel. The first speaker was Peter Beinart.

Overall, Temple Israel is a liberal congregation. On immigration, education and racial justice the congregation is quite vocal. The given reason for the congregation’s Israel study is because issues relating to Zionism and Israel are causing tensions within the congregation. More than a year into their study, I wonder where they have arrived.

Jewish voices lack credibility on other issues if they refuse to speak about what’s happening to Palestinians. It’s too easy to evoke beautiful sentiments about suffering in Boston if you’re not working to end the more or less permanent lock-down Palestinians endure. For Temple Israel the question remains if the reason for their study is to keep the congregation from imploding or to fashion action that confronts the state of Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people.

The Christians the Cardinal met and prayed with on his Easter retreat were no doubt mostly international. If there were Palestinians from the Galilee present, I’m sure they were on their best “universal Christian” behavior. As with the memorial service, it wouldn’t look right if they sullied spirituality with politics. God forbid!

If most every religious time is the wrong time, one wonders if there is ever a right time to speak for justice.

Unfortunately, too many Palestinian Christians buy into Christianity’s false universalism. They believe that Christians from America will naturally be attentive to them, if not because they are suffering, then at least because they are Christian.

Palestinians couldn’t be more wrong. The Christian hierarchy in the West has a self-interested investment in Jews. It’s about Christians and their credibility after the Holocaust.

Perhaps, behind the scenes, discussions of the plight of Palestinians did take place. The Cardinal might even know the real score in Israel/Palestine, as more and more Church officials do. But the public airing in Boston was typically Israel and Jewish only. Cardinals know when to keep their mouth shut.

Check out the Cardinal’s blog which recalls the Easter retreat. (http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/) The pictures of ancient Christian art and churches are marvelous. The retreat participants visited a number of Christian holy sites in northern Israel – as noted in the blog. These included the Basilica of the Annunciation, Mount Carmel, the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Transfiguration, Qumran, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Cenacle. The latter are in Jerusalem, part of which international law recognizes as Palestinian.

On one day of the retreat the Cardinal and his priests ended up you-know-where – at the Western Wall. For those on retreat it was an emotional moment. Father Gregory Vozzo relates it:

We concluded our day of pilgrimage at the famous Western Wall of the city, where devout Jews of many places and rabbinic schools were getting ready to begin the Sabbath. This wall is significant because it is part of the very same wall that one enclosed the Temple area. Although the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., we do well to remember, as these Jews do, that God’s dwelling in the Holy of Holies was once on the other side of this wall. Although many people call the Western Wall “the wailing wall”, this name is not accepted here. What we saw and learned today makes plain why this is. Those who come here to pray long for what is to come, not what once was. They long for the Messiah and for God’s everlasting reign in Jerusalem. Their pilgrimage, much like ours, is one of joyful remembrance and hope. May all our tears be dried by the God who comes to save His people.

You can check out the rest of trip on http://www.thegoodcatholiclife.com but be warned, it’s not for the faint or (secular or liberation theology) heart. The Cardinal’s Easter retreat features a world without much reality, political or otherwise. It’s a scandal really. Cardinal Sean, as he likes to be called, should be ashamed.

There was a Muslim speaker at the memorial service. He was on his best behavior, too. No doubt he was glad to be invited and, like Jews decades ago, he functioned as symbolic representative of the broader American Muslim community. It’s important that he looks good on television and speaks in good English. He did.

That’s just the beginning of the story of Muslim angle. The Huffington Post reported this way:

While a suspect has not been named in the Boston attack, speculation has aired in news reports about the race and faith of the culprit. A Muslim who chairs the New England Interfaith Council, Nasser Weddady, who spoke on behalf of the city’s Muslims, shared his story of becoming a United States citizen last week. “Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved all of mankind,” he said, referencing Islamic and Jewish scripture.

The director of civil rights outreach for the American Islamic Congress, Weddady sought asylum from Mauritania in 1999, and though he did not mention it Thursday, was in the media spotlight when he was wrongfully detained by law authorities after Sept. 11 on suspicions of ties to terrorism.

Thank God, Weddady buried his post-September 11th experience! Can you imagine him weaving an American Muslim “political” view of the aftermath of September 11th into his prayerful reflection?

September 11th and its aftermath, that’s a whole other kettle of political worms. And with President Obama sitting right there?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Future of the Prophetic: Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-Presented.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, US Politics | Tagged

{ 25 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Don says:

    This post is genuinely outstanding.

    “Cardinal Sean, as he likes to be called, should be ashamed.”

    Just my opinion, though I have read every one of your posts, but I think you are at your insightful best when discussing interfaith issues…not that insights about Jewish helicopter gunships are unimportant…maybe its because I am Catholic and find your views interesting, provocative, challenging, etc.

  2. American says:

    They are all hypocrites. I avoid listening to these public politico-religo natterings–turns my stomach.
    Hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites

  3. W.Jones says:

    Marc,

    I think your analysis here was excellent and insightful. What about the myriad examples where Palestinian civilians, including Christians, are killed by the settlers or “rogue” Israeli soldiers? Why wouldn’t the bishop and others show sympathy for them?

    One part of what you said is unclear or could go off on the wrong track:

    Unfortunately, too many Palestinian Christians buy into Christianity’s false universalism. They believe that Christians from America will naturally be attentive to them, if not because they are suffering, then at least because they are Christian.

    In one sense this is a very good insight- in Boston you have an enormous Christian society, yet neither the society nor its bishops pay them attention. To the contrary, there is a gross play on stereotypes. And the people’s hope in this regard is dashed on the rocks of displays like this as you brought out well.

    In another sense though the statement is incorrect- society’s failure does not mean that the ideology of Christianity pretends to be universal, but is not. One can legitimately believe he/she should follow a principle and yet fail to do it, without the principle being false.

    Further, when American Christians really are presented with the facts of the abuse of native Christians, they feel it is bad. And it can even change their perception of what is happening- as it did in my case, Marc. The clergy as you pointed out had an opportunity to do this and failed. They could have at least provided “balance”, especially in an interfaith service with Muslims.

    Finally, Mark Braverman pointed out that he was vastly surprised when, after being rejected in his message to his synagogues that taught human rights, he was greatly welcomed by strong numbers of Christians who thought that this was common sense and that we should be on board all along. So in fact it is also true that American Christians are naturally attentive. This dynamic was also played out in the CBS 60 minutes’ show on Christians in the Holy Land, which the Israeli ambassador did not want shown.

    In conclusion, I thought you made a very good and penetrating article, but there is another underlying factor that was not in play that could be brought out- that Christianity’s universalism is real and that Christians could be disposed to be attentive to others’ suffering, but there is an overall political situation and ideology that is very powerful in American society as well- to the detriment of Christian operation.

    Thank you.

  4. Ramzi Jaber says:

    Marc, thank you for this. Only when there is justice and peace for ALL – Christians, Moslems, Jews – would there be peace in the Holy Land. One party cannot be prospering and living while the other is festering and dying. All of us from the three religions deserve to live in peace and dignity. All of us, not some of us. All of us want peace and prospectiry and security for our children and their children.

    As to the inter-relationship between Christianity and Judaism, that is a complex relationship founded in ages of guilt starting with Jesus being a Jew (originally) and then continuing through the ages up to the Holocaust and today Zionist Christians in the US.

    What is surprising to me is the lack of realization that the Jews of then are in fact the Christians of today; the Jews of then are NOT the Jews of today, let alone the Israel of today. But the Zionists were very successful in hijacking that concept to the benefit of the state of israel. Truly astounding. But then again they were able to achieve that mirage by brainwashing the fundamentalist Christians in the US. Of course, Sep 11 didn’t help, although it had nothing to do with Palestinians.

    So Palestine has a long slug to go to even gain the attention of the average US citizen, let alone win them to our side. It’s a long way but a challenge that we are working on with support of open-minded and progressive and just folks like most on MW. We shall overcome, propelled by more calls by more people for a 1S1P1V solution – one state, one person, one vote. We shall overcome, certainly, with or without the support of the US government because we will eventually win over the US people for our cause is just and humane.

  5. pabelmont says:

    I agree with your “take”. Jewish oil-on-water is acceptable, Arabic/Palestinian is not. But not all Jewish moralizing is acceptable, as you note.

    “For Temple Israel the question remains if the reason for their study [of divergent views on I/P within the congregation] is to keep the congregation from imploding or to fashion action that confronts the state of Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people.” But another reason may be to suppress the conversation by holding the “study” and asking congregants to keep quiet in the meantime. I guess that falls within your “to keep the congregation from imploding” but censorship has its own name. Maybe the study is untertaken to “buy off” the big-old-money hard-right-Zionists who would withdraw support if the pro-Palestine Jews started sounding off, especially pubicly. Another reason for exercising censorship.

  6. According to the Kaballah, God had a little mishap, a hiccup perhaps, as He was engaged in the delicate job of creating light and the divine light was shattered into a googolplex of tiny shards. It is therefore incumbent upon us as Jews to concentrate the force of our prayer to bring all the shards back together and restore the integrity of the divine light. That is tikkun olam (repairing the universe). In our days, however, even presidents and cardinals indulge freely in tikkun olam, and that raises in my mind the apprehension that the universe, God forbid, may get accidentally overtikkuned — that is, so densely reconcentrated that it disappears into a black hole and is never heard of again. Unless God has another hiccup at just the right moment.

  7. Citizen says:

    Here is Weddady’s own comment on his participation in the memorial service: link to freearabs.com
    Note he stresses that every legal immigrant to America must declare/pledge his or loyalty/allegiance to this country.

    So, he’s not a dual citizen? Are there any Arab or Iranian dual citizens here?

  8. Citizen says:

    The Cardinal’s blog mentions the Jewish notion of “repairing the world.” It mentions a 300 year old Torah the Catholics have over there, and shows a pic of Catholic priests sitting for study, likening it to study of the Torah. Absolutely nothing about anything Palestinian in any way. It’s disgusting. I’m glad I left the church forever when I was an altar boy. What a stupid tool he is.
    http://www.cardinalseansblog.org

  9. seafoid says:

    Rather interestingly the 2 leaders who told obomba in no uncertain terms to crush the terrists, we understand this were Liar Peres and Ramzan Karymov of Chechnya. Which says much about where the Jewish state is right now in terms of ideological fellow travellers.

  10. Les says:

    In the US Christianity is preached everywhere especially in our media though it’s practiced almost nowhere.

  11. Citizen says:

    Watching the news on Cable TV, it’s really amazing that whenever the motive for the Boston bombers comes up, nobody ever brings up US foreign policy in the Middle East. It reminds me of the same silence when 9/11 was in the news daily. Even when the 9/11 Commission told us what the key motivators were (# 1: Blank check to Israel & #2z; support for tyrant Arab regimes, and #3z; US physical in places like SA), US media has yet to discuss this, and certainly not the data members of the 9/11 Commission gave after the report was out, how they were stifled and had to make the report generic–rather than pointing especially to US special relationship with Israel, it just concluded generically that US foreign policy always entails blowback. And now, it’s happening again. Is there not a single honest courages journalist or main media spokes person willing to take this issue on? Or have they all learned the lesson of Phil Donahue, who was booted off Cable TV’s liberal MSNBC despite his very profitable show simply because he railed against Bush Jr’s infantile attack on Iraq?

    • seafoid says:

      The official response is also driven by the DNA of the USA. Violence is in those genes. Half of the guns in the world in private hands are in the States. Why? How come Canada has such a low homicide rate compared to its neighbour ? Culture

      Why does the USA have a school mass murder once every 3 months ?
      It is all connected.

      Trudell says “they lie to us and they lie to themselves about lying to us”.
      Much of the media coverage was pathetic. The memes are weird.

      Boston was shut down for 7 hours. Pour encourager les autres.

      Christ only knows how much the “war on terror” has cost. Did it achieve anything ?

  12. Joe Catron says:

    There’s a whole backstory about how Wedaddy wound up “representing” Boston Muslims, which highlights some of the obvious problems with political authorities organizing religious services in the first place:

    link to jns.org

  13. Daniel Rich says:

    @ Mark H. Ellis,

    Q: Though I agree with the sentiments, I’m curious where the Rabbis stand on Israel – and Palestine.

    R: They stand in Israel, on Palestinian land.

    @ Citizen,

    Q: it’s really amazing that whenever the motive for the Boston bombers comes up, nobody ever brings up US foreign policy in the Middle East.

    R: Can we discus 9/11 and the US/Israeli foreign policies disaster in one breath on this web site? I don’t think it’s not because nobody wants to talk about those issues, it has been made very clear that certain ‘topics’ will not be allowed to be expressed/mentioned on this site.

    There’s nothing worse I can think of than ‘self-censoring’ [in order not to get banned] and ‘banning’ itself.

    Freedom lasts as long as freedom of speech is allowed to speak for itself, before being silenced.

  14. Kate says:

    You might be interested to know that the choice of Nasser Weddady to represent New England Muslims at the service was apparently made without consulting mosque leaders here or other local Muslims. I was expecting to see the imam of one or another of our larger mosques, and when Weddady appeared all I could think of was ‘Who is that?’ I don’t know how he was chosen, or by whom.

  15. giladg says:

    Watching CNN, one would struggle to understand that the brothers are Muslims. PC is our of control in the US.

  16. dbroncos says:

    “Palestinians couldn’t be more wrong. The Christian hierarchy in the West has a self-interested investment in Jews. It’s about Christians and their credibility after the Holocaust.”

    The power of the Holocaust as its used by Israel’s defenders is of a political nature, not religious. I doubt that most American Christians feel as though their credibility is undermined because of the Holocaust, as if they were in some way complicit or responsible for it as Christians. The Germans, among others, are understood to be responsible and their motives are understood to have an ethnic or racial basis, not religious. What ever the case may be, the strongest connection Christians have to Israel is based on their understanding of how Jews fit into “God’s plan”. This is what Christian Zionists believe, it’s also what my mother believed and she was just a mild mannered, mainstream Presbyterian. She never mentioned feeling responsible for the Holocaust.

    I’m glad you’re back, Marc. I always enjoy your posts.

  17. mcohen says:

    jim crow talking to huckleberry finn on the walkie talkie in the movie “Capstone”

    houston :this is eagle one

    eagle one: go ahead

    houston:we have a 4 crow sunday

    eagle one:affirmative houston 4 crow sunday

    a wave of sand.a hail of stones.a dome fallen.a capstone revealed

  18. RE: “We concluded our day of pilgrimage at the famous Western Wall of the city, where devout Jews of many places and rabbinic schools were getting ready to begin the Sabbath.” ~ Father Gregory Vozzo

    MY COMMENT: I recall reading an article back in the mid-’70s by architectural critic Paul Goldberger in the New York Times about the “plaza” Israel created at the Western Wall after the ’67 war. He wrote about how before 1967 a person would wind their way through a maze of Arab residential streets before the ‘Wall’ would suddenly loom up above them. He considered that drama to be a very important part of the experience of visiting the ‘Wall’.
    After the ’67 war, Israel bulldozed all of the Arab residential area (“creating facts” on the ground/creating a “fait accompli”) in the Morrocan Quarter next to the Western Wall to make the large empty space called the “plaza”. From reading the article, I got the distinct impression that Goldberger did not think very highly of Israel’s new “plaza” adjacent to the Western Wall.

    • Philip Weiss says:

      Thanks for that. Missed that article. I want to find it.

      • Citizen says:

        Within 48 hours after the Israelis got control of the area around the Western Wall in ’67, without any official orders, the Israelis commenced destroying the entire Moroccan sector located commencing a dozen or so feet from the Wall. Wiki has a detailed piece on it, and here’s additional facts: link to jerusalemquarterly.org

        They did it for the simple reason they could, and Israelis never lose an opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity, just like Rahm Immanuel. It was the opportunity of a Zionist lifetime. Today, there’s virtually no records available to the average Israeli or Palestinian what was destroyed ever existed. The victorious Israelis have painted that area destroyed as formerly just a bunch of slum huts and hovels. They point to a few old pics of the area from the 1920′s.

  19. ● RE: “The director of civil rights outreach for the American Islamic Congress, Weddady sought asylum from Mauritania in 1999, and though he did not mention it Thursday, was in the media spotlight when he was wrongfully detained by law authorities after Sept. 11 on suspicions of ties to terrorism.” ~ Marc Ellis

    ● IN THE WAKE OF THE BOSTON BOMBINGS, a “National Security Expert” on Fox “News” said that the U.S. is like a 14-year-old going through “security puberty”; and we must demand that our government “get on the Israeli page”! ! !
    • SEE – On the Wish List from the Boston Bombings – The Israelization of America [VIDEO, 00:24] – link to youtube.com
    This is yet another reason I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment.
    I do not want to live in a police/garrison state like Israel! ! !
    “Give me liberty, or give me death.” ~ Patrick Henry
    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

    ● FOLLOWING THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING BACK IN DECEMBER, I saw David Keene (“El Presidente” of the NRA) on my little 19″ boob sh-t screen and he said that when the December shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut occurred, he just happened to be (surprise, surprise) in Israel. It was from Israel that he got the idea that there should be a policeman at each and every school in the U.S. (just like they supposedly have in Israel).
    • SEE – NRA President’s Report: David Keene on the Push to Protect Our Children [VIDEO, 12:10] – link to youtube.com

    ● ALSO, REGARDING THE “ISRAELIZATION” OF SECURITY HERE IN THE U.S., SEE:
    “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK – link to theamericanconservative.com
    “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi, Antiwar.com, 7/05/12
    LINK – link to original.antiwar.com
    “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK – link to rawstory.com
    “From Occupation to ‘Occupy’: The Israelification of American Domestic Security”, By Max Blumenthal, Al-akhbar, 12/02/11
    LINK – link to english.al-akhbar.com OR link to informationclearinghouse.info
    “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK – link to mondoweiss.net
    “In bill discriminating against Arab- and Muslim-Americans, Boxer and 17 other senators serve Israeli gov’t over their own — Greenwald”, By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 4/13/13
    LINK – link to mondoweiss.net
    “The Second Battle of Gaza: Israel’s Undermining Of International Law”, by Jeff Halper, mrzine.monthlyreview.org, 02/26/10
    LINK – link to mrzine.monthlyreview.or
    “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald, guardian.co.uk, 11/15/12
    LINK – link to guardian.co.uk
    ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK – link to mondoweiss.net

  20. Jeff Levy says:

    Thank you, Marc Ellis, for the decoding you give us here.

    As a Boston-area resident, Jewish American and one-time national-class runner,
    I was quite interested to listen to the ceremony that “healed” our city and to the
    Boston corporate media’s lead-up to the event.

    Briefly, as I rode to work, I heard first about the importance of Boston pitcher John Lester in the battle against terror. Lester is clearly a “leader in bringing this town together,” because he came up with the idea of having all of the Red Sox players have dinner together. This demonstrated to the city that, “We are all goint to pull together.” Before signing off, the reporter mentioned that, “The Red Sox have always been a rallying point for this city, bringing everybody together.” Unfortunately, the actual history is the Red Sox, former GM Joe Cronin and owner Tom Yawkey, were renowned as the most racist in baseball. The Sox were the last major league team to integrate; so deep was the racism that even Willie Mays and
    Jackie Robinson, after trying out for the team, were deemed unsuitable to the Red Sox style of play.

    Once the ceremony got started, we heard from Boston mayor Tom Menino, who expressed the standard outrage against violence and evil and terror. He didn’t mention any of the many black and latino kids who have been killed on his watch.

    Then, of course, we had Barack Obama recite the usual litany of grief, consolation and pulling together against terror. Meanwhile, he killed 11 kids this week via drone attacks, bringing the total of murdered-by-US-drones to 490 or so. (See Democracy Now website for continuing coverage.)

    In short, there was no Gandhi, MLK, Rabbi Heschel, no Yeshayahu Leibowitz
    and no Marc Ellis among the government officials or the clergy on this day.

  21. Cliff says:

    In other news

    link to articles.chicagotribune.com

    U.S. soldier accused in Iraq killings reaches deal

    “We have reached an agreement and both parties have entered into the agreement,” his civilian attorney, James Culp, said.

    He said Russell would plead guilty to five counts of intentional murder, one count of attempted murder, and one of assault at a hearing on Monday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

    An Army spokesman declined to discuss the status of the case.

    The prosecution, which has accused Russell of acting with premeditation, is likely to seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Culp has previously said. He declined to say what punishment he would recommend or give details of the proceedings.

    Even if the plea bargain is accepted by the presiding judge in the case, Army Colonel David Conn, under the military justice system Russell would still face a court-martial – with opening and closing statements, testimony from witnesses and the presentation of evidence – to decide the degree of his guilt.

    The choice would then be between a verdict of premeditated murder or the lesser offense of intentional murder that Russell has agreed to plead guilty. His prison term would hinge on that finding. The death penalty would be off the table, as would a not-guilty verdict or insanity plea.