Thursday, June 1, 2006

Week in Review Special Edition: Haditha

Generally speaking, “Week in Review” will cover a few stories – at least two. This time, I’m preoccupied with one news item, summed up in a single word we’ve all unfortunately come to know: Haditha. Not only does the story enrage me, but this is exacerbated by the raving right-wingers at FOX News (such as Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson) who actually defend the butchery of innocent civilians. For anybody not up to speed on this story—a scandal that makes Abu Ghraib look innocent in comparison—I will provide a snippet of news coverage.

A US military investigation is expected to conclude that a unit of marines killed 24 civilians, among them women and children, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, reports published in America yesterday said.

If confirmed when the official findings are published next week, the incident would be the worst war crime committed by US forces in Iraq.

Though on a smaller scale, it will inevitably spark comparisons with the massacre of up to 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968. Citing Congressional, military and Pentagon officials, the reports in US newspapers said investigators had unearthed a catalogue of abuses so serious it is likely an as yet unspecified number of marines will be charged with murder.

John Kline, the Republican Congressmen for Minnesota who is a retired marine colonel, was briefed on the findings. "This was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians," he told the New York Times. "This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity."

A new investigation is also to be launched to determine if any of the men's superior officers tried to cover up the killings after it was first reported that the deaths were the result of a roadside bomb or a crossfire.

Source: Here

OK, before I start on this issue, I must admit that these are only allegations at this point. But, from all indications, this unfortunately isn’t a fairy tale invented by the left-wing media. People with inside knowledge are bracing for the worst; the facts are incredibly damning. The rest of this post will assume the gist of the story is true.

If there’s any bright spot in this breaking story, it’s that murder charges are being considered. For years and years, Saddam Hussein was referred to as the Butcher of Baghdad. Now, it is with great shame I give that nickname to every marine involved in this atrocity. The mindless slaughter of unarmed civilians is an act of cruel butchery, no different from the crimes for which David Berkowitz and Richard Ramirez rot in jail today. I reject the excuse that the marines in question were burned out on combat and simply “snapped.” A perfectly sane and compassionate individual doesn’t “snap” and mow down a row of pleading human beings. These marines must have had psychopathic tendencies, which apparently were simmering just below the surface. By the way, the same goes for those who would engage in torture, as was done at Abu Ghraib.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I staunchly oppose the death penalty, as well as all forms of punitive torture. I will not throw away my principles to make an exception in this case. With that said, assuming this story is true, this is about as close as I’ll ever come to endorsing use of capital punishment. Savages, cloaked in the American flag and masked in combat fatigues, saw fit to exterminate two-dozen pleading, crying civilians. Even as I type it, my blood boils in anger. No longer can we, as a country, condemn the insurgent butchers who behead innocent people. Innocents aren’t cherished by our side either; we just snuff them out via different means.

But these thugs are going to face serious criminal penalties, right? Doesn’t that distinguish us from them? That remains to be seen. We don’t have such a great record with respect to punishing those who commit wartime atrocities. Just look at the Vietnam War for prime examples. Following will be quotes from one of my college papers.

The most well known instance of American brutality might be March 16, 1968’s infamous My Lai Massacre. The following factual information comes from "My Lai Massacre,” a WGBH Educational Foundation Web site. The soldiers involved, from Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division, were in bad shape after losing many soldiers in brutal battles with an elusive enemy. Clearly, Lt. William Calley was uniquely disturbed.

Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire. According to eyewitness reports offered after the event, several old men were bayoneted, praying women and children were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped, and then killed. For his part, Calley was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a fury of machine gun fire.

By the time the firing ended permanently, more than 300 civilians were dead. The story broke in late 1969 but only one member of the unit was convicted for the My Lai slaughter--Calley. Unfortunately, the lieutenant was paroled after serving merely three-and-a-half years under house arrest. This kind of grossly irresponsible leniency on a mass murderer is sadly repeated over and over again, as more stories of Vietnam brutality break.

Continuing further on in the paper…

The other specific person to be singled out here is Sergeant Roy E. “the Bummer” Bumgarner. His case might be even more disturbing than that of Doyle since “the Bummer” clearly had a passion for killing and an unquenchable thirst for spilled blood. “According to a former commander, ‘the Bummer’ was rumored to have ‘personally killed over 1,500 people’ during a forty-two week stretch in Vietnam." His methods of achieving such an “honorable” body count included this gem:

According to investigation documents, Bumgarner and a subordinate rounded up three civilians found working in a rice paddy, marched them to a secluded area and murdered them. "The Bummer" then arranged the bodies on the ground with their heads together and a grenade was exploded next to them in an attempt to cover-up their crime. Assorted weapons were then planted near the mutilated corpses to make them appear to have been enemy troops.

The massive institutional irresponsibility of the government and particularly the military during this era shines through in all its ugliness when Bumgarner’s fate is explored. His punishment for crimes such as those was a manslaughter conviction that got him a rank demotion and a $582.00 fine over six months. Of course, after his wrist slapping, he re-enlisted in the armed forces and returned to Vietnam, just as he wished to.

As I wrote earlier, I’m glad to see that murder charges already are being mentioned. Without question, the alleged offense warrants them. The US’ oft-repeated claim of moral authority rests on justice being served in this case.

Then again, that moral authority might forever have been lost when we started a war based upon false pretenses. In any event, I don’t feel much like waving a flag anymore.


Anonymous bernarda said...

If I remember correctly, the helicopter crew that landed at My Lai and put an end to the massacre by threatening to shoot on Calley et al were finally recognized and received medals and honors for their action.

10:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Lord Omar said...

Simply abhorrent.

These marines must have had psychopathic tendencies, which apparently were simmering just below the surface.

Reminds me of when my Canadian government sent an overly aggressive Paratrooper Regiment to do peacekeeping in Somalia. The result? A tortured and murdered Somali teenager caught stealing. The Airborne was subsequently disbanded.
We in the west are going to pay major grim dividends in the future for our bungling of Middle Eastern affairs. There will be reckonings that will make 9/11 look like preschool.

Francis, I like yourself loathe the death penalty, even in the cases of these Marines if found guilty. It always surprises me that Americans, who value freedom as much as they do, support the death sentence. For me the thought of spending the rest of my life with no freedoms is a far more grim prospect.

11:08 AM EDT  
Blogger The Comment Pimpette said...

Well, Frances, this morning I looked over the news and found another story that is now headlining yahoo in regards to a March 15 raid on Ishaqi:

"In March, the U.S. military said four people died when they attacked from the ground and air a house suspected of holding an al-Qaida operative. The house was destroyed.

But video shot by an AP Television News cameraman at the time and previously unaired shows at least five children dead. The video shows at least one adult male and four young children with obvious entry wounds to the head. One child has an obvious entry wound to the side caused by a bullet.

Local Iraqis said there were 11 total dead, and charged that they were killed by U.S. troops before the house was leveled.

The video includes an unidentified man saying "children were stuck in the room, alone and surrounded."

"After they handcuffed them, they shot them dead. Later, they struck the house with their planes. They wanted to hide the evidence. Even a 6-month-old infant was killed. Even the cows were killed too," he said.

The video included shots of the bodies of five children and two men wrapped in blankets.

I had been against this war from the onset, but as we had started something - I was a believer in finishing what we started and rebuilding this nation. IMHO, to do otherwise would have been an even graver injustice to these people.

At this point, I say pull em out and get out. Let the Iraqis now rebuild their country, afterall it is Iraq and not one of the US states, unless I'm missing something here.

Fuck - what a mess we're in - it wasn't bad enough when we were pissing these people off by funding their wars against each other, but now we're killing them too!! I think this administration is a threat to National Security.

12:18 PM EDT  
Blogger Delta said...

This is a very sad incident, and those marines should get life-imprisonment. But then again, the Iraq war was unnecessary and so all the dead, both American and Iraqi, are unjustified killings of innocents. In addition to making these marines pay, we must hold our "leaders" responsible. But this won't happen, and I think the Middle Eastern interpretation that we don't give a damn about life unless it's our own has pretty solid backing.

And the comment pimpette, I believe there is a video on what you're talking about here. You'll have to scroll down a few stories to get it.

1:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Woozie said...

Out of all this, I hope that the world, specifically Iraq, doesn't obtain a view that all U.S. soldiers and in turn all U.S. citizens are psychotic murderers like the ones involved in the alleged Haditha massacre. It's probably going to happen anyway, sigh. Looks I won't be able to show the American passport for a few years...

7:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Drunken Tune said...

I had the privilege of speaking this year with Seymour Hersh, the reporter who broke the My Lai massacre. I asked him a few questions and had a chance to shake his hand and thank him for coming to talk. He stressed that he only reported the facts, that he was an average man, of average education and upbringing. He recorded history.

As Hitler bluntly said, "Does anyone still remember the massacre of Armenians?" This is the same weak excuse used every time. If no one had been present to uncover any atrocity, it simply would not have happened. And even then, a simple disinformation campaign can mask any blemish.

This mass slaughter of innocent Iraqis will soon be forgotten. There is no massacre, but the gradual extermination of whole groups of people over the course of decades. No one remembers Rwanda; no one remembers the Armenians; no one will remember the Sudanese genocide in Darfur; no one will remember this, or any other death of innocent Iraqi citizens by the '08 election. I can promise you that.

Us Americans are very accomplished amnesiacs.

9:28 PM EDT  
Anonymous bernarda said...

As an indication of the brainwashing of American soldiers see this Zogby Poll of military in Iraq.

"The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”"

"Four in five said they oppose the use of such internationally banned weapons as napalm and white phosphorous. And, even as more photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq surface around the world, 55% said it is not appropriate or standard military conduct to use harsh and threatening methods against insurgent prisoners in order to gain information of military value."

Does that mean the one in five would support using banned weapons and that 45% would support harsh and threatening methods?

4:08 AM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

If I remember correctly, the helicopter crew that landed at My Lai and put an end to the massacre by threatening to shoot on Calley et al were finally recognized and received medals and honors for their action.

I'm not certain about that. However, they definitely would be deserving of such honors. Calley is no different from Ted Bundy or Son of Sam - a cold-blooded butcher.


Francis, I like yourself loathe the death penalty, even in the cases of these Marines if found guilty. It always surprises me that Americans, who value freedom as much as they do, support the death sentence.

I am completely opposed to capital punishment in ALL cases. I make no exceptions. I have two reasons:

1. The criminal justice system is demonstrably fallible.
2. Governments ought not kill their citizens. Governments should occupy their time with governing, not executions.

3:13 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

Well, Frances, this morning I looked over the news and found another story that is now headlining yahoo in regards to a March 15 raid on Ishaqi:

I think Haditha just scratches the surface of American atrocities committed over in Iraq. I would call Abu Ghraib the first atrocity, Haditha the second, and there are probably countless others that might or might not ever be reported.

An atrocity is an atrocity, no matter who commits it. The perp should be punished harshly, and without mercy.

3:16 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

But then again, the Iraq war was unnecessary and so all the dead, both American and Iraqi, are unjustified killings of innocents.

Absolutely true.

Let us never forget this: The US started a war on false pretenses. It's unforgivable; a shame to this country; and a black mark that will never disappear.

Thanks, George...

3:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Allie D. said...

I just want to say that I agree with you on everything you just said.

I also oppose capital punishment. Life is an irrefutable right and the government should not be engaged in the act of exterminating its citizens.

That being said, if someone killed or raped one of my kids, I wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet through their miserable brains myself. Vigilante justice is so much more cost-effective anyway.

Damn, I think I'm feeling kind of callous today. lol

10:07 PM EDT  
Anonymous bernarda said...

In fact the American helicopter crew, Thompson, Colburn, and Andreotta did receive the Soldier's Medal for stopping the My Lai massacre.

RIP Thompson and Andreotta.

Notice the mention of the two bad guys at the end of the story.

8:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought I'd finally stumbled onto something with this website until I read this. This is hypocrisy. Let's pull a quote from one of your posts:

19. “Objective, Generally Applicable Morality?”

It does not exist. Morality is a coherent term only when taken in the context of “to me.” Outside that individual context, it’s wholly incoherent.

20. “Morality Can Be Divorced From Opinion...”

Never. Morality IS an individual’s opinion. To say, “Action A is immoral” is really to say, “In my opinion, Action A is wrong.” Morality cannot be divorced from opinion because morality is opinion.

Was morality these marines opinion, and if so, according to you, "morality cannot be divorced form opinion because morality is opinion". Yet, it appears that you are presuming to judge their morality, and are willing to nearly compromise your other belief's ("...this is about as close as I’ll ever come to endorsing use of capital punishment").

So, you should have started your post with "In my opinion....", since objective, generally applicable morality does not exist, and is wholly incoherent when take outside that individual context, as has been done here.

It seems you have a long way to go friend...

4:43 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roy E. the 'Bummer' Bumgarner was a soldiers soldier who was described as a superman by men who served with him.His courage was legendary. He along with a few good men operated deep inside enemy territory and survived.His commander Lt Col Anthony B Herbert has described how many a time Roy had put his own life in line to save his comrades. Roy is no more. But for the silent majority of patriots he lives for ever.

- GireEsh./Kerala /INDIA

7:43 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

The life of a Vietnamese is equal to the life of an American. Killing Vietnamese people isn't something of which to be proud.

9:19 AM EDT  
Blogger 23Ringo said...

Anonymous had a very good point. I have heard the damning evidence of Sgt. Bumgarner, and it is always the same incident with a lot of hearsay. Not only did Anthony Herbert have much respect for this man, but one ( to really be objective ) should read what CSM Franklin "Doug" Miller MOH says about him. Miller a Green Beret who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam after a vicious firefight, claims that the one true hero that comes to his attention is Sgt. Bumgarner who taught him the ropes when they served in the 1st Cav together. He had an epiphany about Bumgarner during his horrible fight where he heard the mans words telling him to calm down before he shocked out and shut down. There are sometimes more than even two sides to an issue. I've heard a lot more praise for Bumgarner than damnation. Which is good because he is facing a much higher judge now.
P.S. Don't know where or how it came about ...but I hate the name of this website.

12:55 PM EST  

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