Have We Learned Nothing?
As if the comparisons between the Iraq war and Vietnam weren’t clear enough, now we have Haditha, the My Lai massacre for the new millennium.
All of the mistakes that the Bush administration has made, in starting this war with no clear objective, in just about every aspect of its execution, have contributed to this horrific incident. We can vilify the soldiers who acted without a shred of humanity in the slaughter of innocent Iraqis as if that will make us feel better, but by disregarding what is just and right, this administration has stripped these men of their humanity and created the conditions that made it possible.
Of course these soldiers should be tried and put behind bars, but so too should the men who let it happen and those who covered it up to protect their political hides. As horrible as this news is to hear, I can only feel that it was just a matter of time before such an event took place. I am a bit surprised that it ever came to light, but thank goodness that it did. Now, perhaps we can have some honest discussions about the cost of war.
How exactly is Bush responsible for Hidatha? Sending young soldiers to fight a war with no clear objective leaves them flailing for leadership and wondering who the enemy is. Not providing our soldiers with the equipment and body armor necessary to protect them makes them feel more vulnerable than they otherwise would. Using a stop loss program that keeps soldiers in theater far longer than is prudent, creates unhappy and agitated soldiers. Forcing soldiers to carry out operations that they are not trained for, leads to anxiety and mistakes. The meager salaries that we pay our men and women serving in our armed forces means that they worry about their families back home, a distraction they surely don’t need. Using American military to protect contractors making four times as much for the same jobs is demoralizing for our soldiers. Destroying a country through “shock and awe” and then occupying that country without enough troops to keep the peace, puts our soldiers in danger each and every day.
All of these things contributed to what happened in Haditha and all of these things can be laid squarely at the feet of the president. Instead of apologizing for insensitive remarks like “bring it on” and “dead or alive,” Bush should be apologizing for bad policy decisions that have led us to this point. His failure is not one of style, but of substance. Until he apologizes for his real mistakes and makes a true effort to change course, more tragedies like Haditha are in our future. As Americans, we better ask ourselves if we’re okay with that, because if not, we have a duty to help bring our troops home.