American atrocities in Iraq?

Yesterday, Time Magazine published a chilling story about an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in Haditha by US forces in November of 2005. According to Time:

…the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children.

After Time handed over its report to military officials, the military re-investigated the incident.

According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which will conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians.

Still, the administration and the military are still stonewalling:

Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force–Iraq, told TIME the involvement of the NCIS does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves."

I’ll leave you to judge whether shooting unarmed civilians – including women and children – is justified under these conditions. But I say – resoundingly – no.

I will say this: even if officials discover the shooting was not justified, they will never admit wrong-doing. Not under this administration. This administration does not admit to mistakes. This administration will not acknowledge that extending the tours of troops, that putting under-trained and –armored personnel in the field, that failing to define a war objective puts troops in a severely compromising position: they must battle fatigue and despair in a war with mysterious causes and no discernable end.

And you can bet that Democrats don’t want this massacre to turn out negatively, either. They’re already under the impression that any objection to the war and to the military’s methods is analogous to weakness. They’re terrified of appearing to be “against” our troops.

I say military discipline and behavior is an institutional trait. It comes down from the top. And remember, this is the same administration that approved of and encouraged the torture of Iraqi detainees. Do I think the administration and top military officials are encouraging US troops to kill civilians? No. But it should be painfully obvious to anyone by this point is that the Bush administration is interested in only the ideological theory of war in Iraq. I suspect that the administration and Pentagon officials are unconcerned by the day-to-day execution of military operations and by the mundane details associated with morale. I suspect that the command is chaotic, and that the discipline and morale of troops varies by location.

Accusations of another massacre over the weekend of Iraqis by US troops have surfaced, this time of worshippers in a mosque. US officials blandly state that the evidence supporting the massacre was faked, but the allegations are causing a rift between the Iraqi and US governments. That the administration is treating the alleged massacre so cavalierly, likely playing to domestic politics, is endangering the “mission” – whatever that happens to be – in Iraq.

  1. 1 4&20 blackbirds » Blog Archive » Links…

    […] Pentagon probe shows that US Marines killed Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” in Haditha. Is this the next My Lai? […]

  2. 2 4&20 blackbirds » Blog Archive » Haditha

    […] Contrary to what I thought in an earlier post, the Haditha massacre is getting traction and will probably result in the prosecution of the accused Marines . As it should. But that shouldn’t be the end of the story. […]

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