Loved ones of Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Wilson of McDuffie County had enough to face, knowing he was killed Sunday in Mosul, Iraq.
They didn't need the further indignity of being told that he, and another soldier, had been beaten with concrete and perhaps had their bodies mutilated by a mob of young Iraqis.
If the Iraqi accounts of such savagery were pure fiction, as the Pentagon claims, the brutality of the hoax is nearly as bad as the beating itself.
We realize honest mistakes can be made, especially in the midst of the kind of chaos U.S. troops are now trying to pull Iraq out of. But if the story were maliciously made up, it was only to insult and terrorize Americans.
We wouldn't put it past some in that part of the world to traffic in such utter bile. Or, frankly, to have engaged in the kind of behavior alleged.
Truth is, Saddam Hussein's brutal oppression obscured - maybe "regulated" is a better word - the kind of mindless barbarism alleged in this incident. Whether it happened is of more than academic interest here, of course. We hope the Pentagon is correct in saying it did not.
But the mere possibility of it is a reminder of the impossible task we've put before our men and women in service to America:
To somehow civilize the uncivilized - and quickly.