Living Our Values?

This week the House once again passed an Iraq Supplemental with no deadlines for an end to the occupation and no effective limits on permanent bases (saying no permanent bases while buying the concrete to build them just doesn’t cut it in my book) and the military court in hearing the latest Haditha Massacre case dismissed all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after the military prosecutors apparently tainted the case. Judge Folsom ruled:

“Unlawful command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice. The appearance of unlawful command influence is as devastating as actual manipulation of a trial,” said Folsom, who described his ruling as drastic but necessary. “To restore public confidence … we need to turn the clock back.”

The prosecution has filed an appeal but this is just the latest in a serious of dismissals and deals which once again show that Iraqis have no real legal protection even from the most horrific abuses of our occupation.

The defense of the Haditha Marines is being led by the Thomas More Law Center who apparently view this as yet another in their campaigns for a Christian nation:

The Thomas More Law Center is a not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. Our purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square. …

Our ministry was inspired by the recognition that the issues of the cultural war being waged across America, issues such as abortion, pornography, school prayer, and the removal of the Ten Commandments from municipal and school buildings, are not being decided by elected legislatures, but by the courts.

They have already announced on several right wing media outlets that they plan to sue Congressman Murtha once this case is completed for calling the massacre in Haditha “murder.”

Perhaps someday the lawyers at TMLC could explain how the slaughter of innocents in Haditha met the standards just published by the MultiNational Force Commanding General in his new CounterInsurgency Guidance (pdf available here.) Petraeus’ “Guidance” is full of the sort of motivational language normally found in bad corporate manuals. Two sections jump out as we read again about Haditha:

Be first with the truth. Get accurate information of significant activities to your chain of command, to Iraqi leaders, and to the press as soon as is possible. Beat the insurgents, extremists, and criminals to the headlines, and pre-empt rumors. Integrity is critical to this fight. Don’t put lipstick on pigs. ….
Live our values. Do not hesitate to kill or capture the enemy, but stay true to the values we hold dear. This is what distinguishes us from our enemies. There is no tougher endeavor than the one in which we are engaged. It is often brutal, physically demanding, and frustrating. All of us experience moments of anger, but we can neither give in to dark impulses nor tolerate unacceptable actions by others.

While General Petraeus spins his counterinsurgency message, his lead advisor David Kilcullen – as Tom Hayden has just reported – has a reputation for a very different approach which argues for :

a kind of deception-based warfare that is contradictory to democracy itself, with its instruments of critical media, congressional oversight, and public disclosure of the cost in blood, taxes and honor. The key militarily is to secure the civilian population from the insurgents, in South Vietnam by "strategic hamlets", in Iraq by the "gated communities" with checkpoints, blast walls, concertina wire, fingerprinting, retinal scans and house-to-house population listings. The insurgents, meanwhile, are to be hunted, killed if necessary, and detained without charges in American-controlled or American-supported prison camps indefinitely, without access to lawyers, journalists, human rights observers, or family members.

Not surprisingly this approach is closely aligned with the just leaked US Special Forces doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense which describes in detail the original “Salvador Option” we’ve apparently seen played out over the past years in Iraq.

More and more accounts from participants remind us what is really going on in Iraq – for example, take a look at this week’s interview in Mother Jones – Am I a Torturer? – but the people of Haditha need no such reminders:

Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War.

"We put our hopes in the law and in the courts and one after another they are found innocent," said Yousef Aid Ahmed, the lone surviving brother in the family. "This is an organized crime."


The dismissals have deepened the victims’ relatives’ grief. Many say they feel deceived after having collaborated with U.S. investigators who came into their homes, collected evidence, took testimony, and ultimately failed to hold the Marines accountable.

"Right now I feel hatred that will not fade," said Ahmed. "It grows every day." Charges against two Marines who allegedly killed his brothers were dropped in August 2007.

Week after week, Iraqis face the horrid reality of the US occupation of their land – someday perhaps our representatives will find the backbone to put a stop to it.

Meanwhile, we can reach out to the Iraqi people by offering our support to the Iraqi Red Crescent – we began a campaign to send donations to help their work on Friday. Let’s continue to do all we can.

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 Update: h/t to Eureka – important Dkos diary on Iran legislation coming this week – read and then call, call, call!

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