I came across this powerful and moving piece by Robert Koehler about the savage massacre of civilian men, women and children by the U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, and I'll let it speak for itself:
As we stare with sudden revulsion at the apparent cold-blooded murder of Iraqi civilians in Haditha — at least 15, maybe twice that number, killed by Marines avenging a buddy, including a 3-year-old girl, and men shoved into a closet, and a man kneeling in prayer — let us have the wit not to feign shock.
The massacre in this farming town on the Euphrates, about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, may not be precisely part of Operation Iraqi Freedom's official mission, but neither is it an aberration. Indeed, it is, as Iraq vet Charlie Anderson said to me, a "foreseeable consequence" of an occupation that from day one was clumsy, brutal and clueless. As it grinds into its fourth year, with thousands of GIs caught by stop-loss orders in a tour of duty without end, and with all claims of noble purpose long since abandoned by our government like burned-out tanks in the desert, the frustrations and hatreds generated by our presence continue to intensify.
What happened in Haditha six months ago — two days after Rep. John Murtha introduced his brave, lonely resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq — shatters every argument of the stay-the-course crowd and throws the dithering cowardice of Congress into stark relief. The longer we force our exhausted troops to stay not the "course" but the lie, the more dangerous the occupation becomes, for the Iraqis, for us, for the world.
Last Nov. 19, a Marine convoy was hit by an IED as it drove through Haditha; one soldier was killed. The Marines initially claimed the roadside bomb also killed the Iraqis, but thanks to Time magazine's investigative work (rare indeed from the embedded U.S. media) we know this isn't true. Video footage and 28 eyewitness reports "made an extremely strong case that the Marines of Kilo Company went on a vengeance rampage," according to a statement by Iraq Veterans Against the War. In their armed grief, the Americans kicked in the doors of civilian homes and wasted at least 15 Iraqis, including children and grandparents. See the rest of the article here.
Who should we Americans blame in the Haditha massacre? The Marines who pulled the trigger? I think it's important here to recall the words of Noam Chomsky, commenting about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam (from his recent book, Imperial Ambitions):
My Lai was a minor footnote to the war in Vietnam. It was part of a major military operation, Operation Wheeler--which was directed by guys like us, in ties and jackets, sitting in air-conditioned offices and targeting B-52 raids on villages. This was one of the many operations that killed who knows how many people. But in one particular spot, some educated poor GIs in the field, who were scared out of their wits, lost it and killed a couple of hundred people. That's the crime. And yet the criterion is that they're not like us. You get poor, uneducated people who are in the midst of conflict and have every reason to be scared. If they commit a crime, that's horrible. If nice, educated folk like us, sitting in comfort and protection, commit massive crimes---in particular, ordering these crimes--that doesn't matter. By contrast, Nuremberg worked the opposite way. The prosecution didn't go after the soldiers in the field; it went after the civilian commanders.
Perception trumps reality
58 minutes ago