Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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.


Anonymous lester said...

bring em home. they've have enough

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Everyman said...

I do not agree with you on this issue.
150,000 troops over three years in Iraq and this is the first instance of alleged criminal behavior. Over 149,000 troops did not suffer enough, from the conditions you mentioned, to commit similar acts.
This cannot be blamed on the President, SECDEF, or any other military personnel other than the ones who did it. 'Stuff' happens in war: incidents,
misunderstandings,and errors in judgement or temperament. Some 'stuff' is inexcusable and this could be one of them.
In context, the incident, if true, is horrible. However, this is not My Lai.

Wikipedia says the following about My Lai:
"The soldiers found no insurgents in the village on the morning of March 16, 1968. The soldiers, one platoon of which was led by Lt. William Calley, killed hundreds of civilians – primarily old men, women, children, and babies. Some were tortured or raped. Dozens were herded into a ditch and executed with automatic firearms. At one stage, Calley expressed his intent to throw hand grenades into a trench filled with villagers.[1]

The precise number reported killed varies from source to source, with 347 and 504 being the most commonly cited figures. A memorial at the site of the massacre lists 504 names, with ages ranging from 1 year to 82 years of age."

This incident is nowhere near the magnitude of killing at My Lai. Yet it is a horrible action nevertheless.

To blame the President and the lack of body armor is to fail to recognize that events like Haditha may occur in war and conflict.They need to be investigated and the people placed on trial to establish their guilt or innocence.

We have the finest and most honorable military in the world. We should respect them and the jobs they do in extremely hostile conditions. Yet they are not perfect all the time and this is an example of that.

I was opposed to the Iraq War. But I would not lay this issue at the President's feet.

The issues you raise in paragraph 4 are not relevant to criminal behavior. They may be valid for morale concerns but not for criminal behavior. The military officers are trained well to handle stress. As I said 149,000 of them have faced the same issues without engaging in alleged murders.

This issue of criminal behavior, if true, rests with the soldiers involved.

3:18 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Lester--I couldn't agree more.

Everyman--Have you stopped to wonder why there is not more outrage amongst the Iraqi people surrounding this incident? Could it be that it is because this sort of incident is considered "commonplace" in Iraq and is a contributing cause to the continuing "insurgency"? Have we already forgotten about the video footage shot by Kevin Sites of our boys shooting a wounded unarmed man?

We simply do not know that this is an isolated incident and there are plenty of indications that it is not. Without reporters on the ground (Mr. Sites lost his job after capturing that footage and more reporters have died in Iraq than in Vietnam), we simply have no idea what the situation really is. The only thing we know for sure is that the Iraqis don't want us occupying their country and they are unified in their dislike and distrust of us. Our troops cannot do anything to change that fact.

While the numbers of dead in Haditha may not be comparable to My Lai, the action and the damage done is the same.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous lester said...

everyman- these guys went postal and there will most likely be more. look at the settler movement in Israel. You fight terrorists long enough you turn into one. If that's the only way we can "win" than we CAN'T win

3:50 PM  
Blogger Chief said...

I am curious to learn 'everyman's' bona fides. Has everyman been there? Does everyman wear the Combat Infantryman's Badge?

My Lai was an aberration only in the size/number of those killed. The killing or executing of unarmed civilians (male, female or child) does not happen everyday. But it happens far more frequently than is ever reported or one would suspect.

Just as in the case of "friendly fire" (there's an oxymoron). Pat Tillman's case of an on going investigation is the exception. Far more deaths of U.S. troops occur b/c of friendly fire than most (any ?) authorities will admit.

Airplanes drop bombs in the wrong place, a shell may have a little less powder and not go as far, a platoon may get lost and end up in the wrong place. It happens b/c humans make mistakes. The question is, are we fighting the "war" for the correct reasons ? ? ?

7:57 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

I just cannot accept your view that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

The military deserves better respect than that.

There are people shooting at American soldiers, beheading people, death squads are operating unrestrained, and the country is in the throes of civil war.

I am sure that fatalism has set in for some. I read several Iraqi blogs everyday and they speak of all the killings. I think that every blogger has had family members killed by IED's,by military, by Iraqi police, by terrorists, you name it.

I do not excuse the actions of those who may have participated in criminal acts. I just don't believe that these actions can be attributed to the policies of the President or the SECDEF.
Iraq's civil war can be atttributed to US policies, but not the actions of a single marine unit in a single area.

I do not know how to paste a link properly but here is place that talks about "What makes a shooting a massacre?" http://www.madison.com/post/blogs/militarymatters/85715

The author and I exchanged words when, in a previous posting, he trashed Congressman Murtha for releasing this info. I supported Murtha. Now I am linking to this guy. He is relatively cogent on what makes a massacre.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

I do not have a CIB. 6 years Navy a long time ago. I make no claim for anything.
It is false to say that Haditha is akin to My Lai though and false to lay this at the President's feet.
I agree that soldiers kill people and sometimes they murder civilians. When they do , it needs to be resolved.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Godlessfriend said...

Note to the honorable everyman:
Do you really believe that this is the first instance of 'alleged' criminal behavior? 'Stuff' happens in war? No shit...it's called killing. That is exactly why rational, intelligent and well adjusted people do not approve of it. If it is necessary to protect our lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness within our borders then you would be hard pressed to find opposition. You toss around the math about My Lai like this is some fucking high school debate contest. This is absolutely the same type of incident that occured at My Lai. Scared kids who were trained to kill and given the finest means known to mankind in which to carry out that mission, did exactly that...kill. I do not respect them...I pity them. They are generally poor or working class kids who, for a myriad of reasons, joined the military. I've had the opportunity to discuss the war with many returning soldiers and the vast majority are completely clueless that they are the pawns in the military-industrial complex's middle east chess game. Please remember why punitive action was taken against those involved in My Lai...public outrage. Please remember who the commander and chief of the armed forces is...George W. Bush. It is people like you who allow those who are placed in a position of power to escape responsibility for their mistakes. One more thing. You forget to include this in your worthless diatribe from wikipedia: "It was of primary importance to the U.S. military that NLF operatives be eliminated. Accordingly, rather than measuring success by the acquisition of territory or strategic locations (for example), missions were evaluated based on their "body count" - the number of presumed NLF operatives killed. Soldiers were encouraged by higher command to exaggerate body counts in order to give the impression of military success. Owing to that pressure, and to the fact that it was often very difficult for a NLF operative to be distinguished from a non-combatant, there was often a wide discrepancy between the declared body count for a particular mission, and the number of enemy weapons recovered." Wikipedia had it right. Stop hunting for literal excuses and mathmatical exemptions. The orders always come from the top and the only one that matters was the one that sent those boys there. Bush has some more blood on his hands.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...

LG, Everyman~

NOT the first 'instance'. See links below.

LG has placed the blame where it belongs, absence of leadership.
The Bush/Rumsfeld failings in this area have been well documented. THE most critical have been the miscalculations as to how many troops were necessary and the unwillingness to spread the sacrifice.
(leaving aside the decision to go to war with Iraq in the first place.)
I don't favor a draft, but the belligerence and rationalizations of the chickenhawks who didn't serve and who won't send their kids to serve is as pathetic as it is galling.

I served as an infantry squad leader in USMCR during the Vietnam era, '65-'71 to be exact.

My Lai came to light 4 years into my 6 year hitch. Our company commander addressed all of us on the rules of war and our accountability if we were called to active service and if we violated those rules.

I discussed the issues among my squad and we concluded that while we couldn't know what the loss of each other might do do the rest of us, we would have to draw the line at killing unarmed civilians. Someone has to step up and say "this we will not do".
Absent that clear command, the 'thin red line' is too easily crossed.

I used to pride myself in telling people that the USMC "wouldn't do a My Lai. Too much discipline, too much pride, too much protect and defend the weak and the helpless as part of the Marine ethos". WTF did I know? Just what I thought I could command, control and prevent though leadership.

The numbers of dead do not match up to My Lai in this one instance but it defies the law of averages, as well as the nature of a civil conflict, to believe that other instances haven't occurred. Note that the links below are now 2 and 2 1/2years old.

Army Investigates Wider Iraq Offenses: Cases Include Deaths, Assaults Outside Prisons
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post

Tuesday 01 June 2004


U.S.: Does The U.S. Military Prosecute Its Soldiers Aggressively Enough?
Friday, November 19, 2004


9:49 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

I was not defending war or being cavalier about killing civilians. I do think the President should be held accountable for the Iraq war but I stand firm that this Haditha incident is the actions of individuals not policies.

It was criminal behavior not policy that caused this.

Abu Ghraib was policy, Iraq War was policy, and domestic spying was policy. Haditha is criminal behavior.

I am repeating myself now. Time for me to drop this issue. I have said my piece. Thanks for tolerating a different viewpoint.

4:56 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Everyman--It's clear that you are NOT defending war or cavalier about killing civilians (you have made your point clearly and well), we just have a difference of opinion. I appreciate your point of view and thank you for expressing it. I don't have to agree in order to find your point valid and useful, and you're right, absence of evidence in not evidence of absence. It was just a thought and certainly not proof of anything.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous lester said...

everyman- accepting your contention that haditha was action not policy, did this action occur in a vaccum? why would these guys have taken this action?

if they did it, I'm sure others have thought about doing it. Iraq isn't going to turn around any time soon. This is the first chapter. alot more will die.

Why do you suppose these guys did this? I don't think it was fatigue or frustration. I think they were doing what the insurgents do, intimidating the locals into falling in line.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...

Contrary to "the absense of evidence..." there is plenty of evidence that this type of action is the rule rather than the exception. And a natural outgrowth of the administration's mythology re: the "war on terror," wherein anyone killed by Americans is by definition a "terrorist".

8:29 PM  

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