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When the Parade Passes By…


Crooks and Liars has a clip of Rep. Murtha’s interview on This Week yesterday.  They talked about the deaths at Haditha, but they also spent time talking about Marine officers who were recently discharged — possibly because some of their men voiced concerns about the readiness levels of Iraqi forces to some British media and Rumsfeld got wind of it.

The NYTimes has more on Haditha — and elsewhere — this morning, and it’s painful, gut-wrenching stuff:

In the home Ms. Abdullah escaped from, she said American troops also shot and killed a 4-year-old nephew named Abdullah Walid. She said her mother-in-law, Khumaysa Tuma Ali, 66, died after being shot in the back. Two brothers-in-law, Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan and Walid Abdul Hamid Hassan, were also killed, she said.

In addition to Ms. Abdullah and Asma’s baby, two others survived. One, 9-year-old Iman Walid Abdul Hamid, said she ran quickly, still clad in her pajamas, to hide under the bed with her younger brother, Abdul Rahman Walid Abdul Hamid, when she saw what was happening.

"We were scared and could not move for two hours. I tried to hide under the bed," she said, but both her and her brother, Abdul Rahman, were hit with shrapnel.

Abdul Rahman, 7, said very little about that day. "When they killed my father Walid, I hid in bed," he said.

Hiba Abdullah assumed the two children had died, but she said they were later found at a local hospital.

One Haditha victim was an elderly man, close to 80 years old, killed in his wheelchair as he appeared to be holding a Koran, according to the United States defense official, who described information collected during the investigation. An elderly woman was also killed, as were a mother and a child who were "in what appeared to be a prayer position," the official said.

Some victims had single gunshot wounds to the head, and at least one home where people were shot to death had no bullet marks on the walls, inconsistent with a clearing operation that would typically leave bullet holes, the official added.

There is no excuse for this. None. But I am sick and tired of the grunts ont he ground taking the brunt of whatever punishment gets meted out, while Donald Rumsfeld stays on the job — and the cadre of yes men with which he surrounds himself, both civilian and military, who perpetuate this mess never face reprimand.

In the Bush Administration, only the little guy pays a price. Anyone who actually comes up with a failed policy gets a promotion or a medal. Pathetic.  And the fact that this has been covered up at the Pentagon for months is shameful — and disrespectful to every soldier, from the lowliest grunt to the highest level officer, who is trying to serve the nation with any sense of dignity and honor under conditions that, mercifully, most of us will never face in our lifetimes.

I come from a long line of family members who have served our nation in uniform.  Most of my older relatives would only talk about their service well into a bottle of Wild Turkey, but the stories I have heard were enough to make me weep for the dreams that they must still have at night. 

This behavior at Haditha is not — NOT — who we are as Americans.  But the policies that have been put forward by Rumsfeld and his cronies, to do war on the cheap, to use up the soldiers like they were so many game pieces and not human beings who bleed, who ache, who try to retain some sense of humanity in the face of the explosions and the shots and everything else…well, it hasn’t been working for quite a while.

Folks like Murtha and all those retired generals have started speaking up — not just because the policies are wrong and because of their long-term damage to this country, but because they fear that our nation’s military will be broken altogether.  All that Republican whining that Democrats and peaceniks and whatever other name they want to use are trying to gut the military is so ironic now — given that it is this Republican President who may succeed in breaking the Army and the Marines all on his own.

One of our readers, who is a retired Marine, wrote in yesterday, and I wanted to be sure that everyone saw this:

I’m a retired Marine, still living and working…for the Marines, and I’m sick at heart over this unfolding story about the murder of Iraqi civilians in Haditha. I am hoping that the Marine Corps is going to investigate this thoroughly and release it all to the public. It’s a very sad Memorial Day for me for a lot of reasons. I’m sick at heart over this news, and seething with pent-up anger over this terrible war. I am hoping so much that the upcoming mid-terms will be the sea-change that opens the door to throwing these criminals out of office, but I am also so angry at the feckless responses from the Dems – Pelosi, Schumer, the whole lot of them.

It is time for everyone to stand up and be counted against George Bush’s piss-poor decisions and this folly of a war in Iraq.  Our men and women in uniform cannot do so themselves — they are forbidden by the UCMJ from protesting against military policies of the President (despite the GOP using folks in uniform as props at campaign events, they aren’t supposed to do that either — but it’s the person in uniform who risks the trouble, not the politician…).

Bob Geiger, a vet himself, has a fantastic post this morning on what this Memorial Day means to him.  I wanted to share a piece of it with you:

As someone whose biggest, personal military stress was planning how to quietly desert his post in the Air National Guard, Bush has no idea what battle really looks like. Leading our military and the results of war are all an abstraction to him and it is with deadly consequences that Bush handles this responsibility like a young boy playing with toy soldiers on a dirt pile in the back yard. He has never seen young soldiers die or seen everything they would ever become draining from their bodies as they die far away from a parent or spouse’s final embrace.

We have lost thousands, have many thousands more who have been maimed for life and an untold number who will suffer the psychological effects of this war for a lifetime. Our current leadership has also caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and destroyed the reputation and good faith we formerly enjoyed with other nations and that was earned by so many others we remember today.

And somehow this president has found a way to make some Veterans ashamed to publicly observe Memorial Day, because doing so means indirectly associating ourselves with a hollow cause, a paper-tiger of a Commander-in-Chief and the man responsible for too many of the deaths we honor at the end of each May.

So, I will stay away from the parades and the speeches today.

Instead, I will sit quietly and perhaps sip a beer in honor of friends I once had who are no longer alive. I’ll also take the time to reflect on the debt we owe all who have died wearing our country’s uniform and to mourn in advance those who will face a pointless death in the coming hours, days, weeks and months in Iraq.

How we work our way out of this unholy mess, I have no idea. But we have to start somewhere. And perhaps that somewhere is just speaking up about how wrong all of this is — and that our nation’s military deserves better than half-assed planning and then bearing the blame when things go wrong.

It starts at the top. I can’t personally fire George Bush, much as I would like to do so at this point. But I can start insisting that Rumsfeld has to go.

Do our nation’s military a favor — fire Donald Rumsfeld.

UPDATE:  There’s more from the TimesOnlineUK.  (H/T to reader Kent.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com