From My Lai to Haditha
Now we have Haditha.
In case you haven’t heard, it is alleged that in the city of Haditha, Iraq, a band of Marines reacted to the roadside bomb killing of one of their mates by going batshit crazy and shooting up houses full of Iraqi civilians, murdering up to two dozen of them. Then the Marines attempted to attribute their deaths to the roadside bomb and the Marine Corps may have been complicit in the cover-up. Three investigations later and now survivors, some children as young as twelve, describe the horror of watching their families executed by the American military.
Upon hearing the news, my wife exclaimed, “God damn George W. Bush!” Keith Olbermann on MSNBC asked whether the environment we’ve created (e.g. Geneva Conventions are “quaint anachronisms”, we’ve gone from liberators to occupiers, we’re using more reservists and Guardsmen who may not be as well trained, etc.) in this war helped set the table for this atrocity to occur.
I thought about that for a moment and I was surprised to find I don’t blame Pretzeldunce Chimpy W. McFlightsuit for this, nor do I think this war’s lawlessness makes atrocity any more likely.
For war itself is the atrocity. The very act of shooting people to force their government to accept a different worldview is an atrocity. Sure, My Lai and Haditha were borne of wars against a guerilla insurgency, where it is hard to tell enemy from friendly and where there is no well-defined battlefield; however, those are not the motivating factors for the slaughter of civilians. Atrocities against civilians happen in every war, just or unjust, well-planned or Rumsfailed-planned. It is the nature of war. War causes massive stress, a few soldiers will react badly to massive stress, and a few civilians will be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It would be inaccurate to try to pin Haditha on Cheneyburton’s lust for the use of homoerotic torture, or Rumsfailed’s foolish idea to disband the Iraqi military, or Chimpy’s calls for the insurgency to “bring it on”, or even Congress’ and the people’s lack of sufficient outrage over Abu Ghraib needed to create real oversight and punish the real wrongdoers at the top of the chain of command. Maybe these factors lead to a better chance for more atrocities to occur or perhaps a more intense atrocity to occur, but how could we measure that? Like global warming to hurricanes, common sense leads us to believe the former affects the latter, but it’s hard to prove.
I say that in war, the atrocities are going to occur no matter how perfectly you plan and fight the war. That’s why we go to war as a last resort for the purpose of self defense ONLY. We only go to war when the cause is so pressing and so just that we can accept as unavoidable the deaths of civilians in the crossfire. If there is anything about Haditha to blame on Bush, it is only at the meta level — the fact that he got us into an unnecessary war of choice in the first place. Abu Ghraib didn’t cause Haditha; “Shock & Awe” did. And Haditha’s not the only atrocity; it’s just easier to spot because it is individual soldiers directly choosing to murder innocent civilians instead of a cluster bomb dropped from miles above indirectly taking out a wedding party.
Oh, well. So much for winning the hearts and minds in the Muslim Arab streets. If I were Osama bin Laden, I couldn’t imagine a better recruiting poster for al Qaeda than a picture from Abu Ghraib, a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb for a turban, and the text of that 12-year-old Iraqi girl describing the slaughter of her parents in Haditha. To really rile ’em up, you could add pictures of Americans cheering in the background, including a scantily-clad Paris Hilton eating a $6 cheeseburger while washing a Dodge Viper, Donald Trump in a $5,000 suit on his gold plated toilet, and George W. Bush riding a missile a la Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.
They hate us for our freedoms… yeah, right! Well, maybe a couple of freedoms: our freedom from the general non-military public sacrificing anything for this war and our freedom from concern and outrage over the slaughter of innocents.
Yes, I know: 9/11 changed everything. Sure did. It proved the land of the free and the home of the brave is actually populated by some very cowardly people who will readily give up their freedoms if they are frightened and who will lash out like violent bullies out of fear with no consideration of the actual culpability of the victim. In one morning, 19 young men with box cutters did to our country, Constitution, and culture what the British, the French, the Mexicans, the Confederates, the Spanish, the Kaiser, Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, Ho Chi Minh, and Saddam Hussein couldn’t accomplish with actual armies and months or years worth of real warfare. 9/11 changed America from a lofty ideal to just another name for a piece of land.
And no, I’m not going to leave America, because I don’t hate America, so don’t say it. I love America. I just hate the people who are running America into the ground. I’m going to stay and see that those people are removed from office and punished, and then I’m going to work toward making America a shining ideal again.