Sunday, June 04, 2006

The sins of empire

I haven't written anything about the recent spate of allegations of war crimes by US troops in Iraq, because I frankly didn't even know where to start.

A quick technorati search reveals the vast divide among the blogosphere. Personally, I think that there are some problems that can be solved by the tactical application of high explosive. But other problems are only exacerbated by the application of force.

Wisdom is knowing the difference. Unfortunately, this administration's handling of the war on terror is anything but inspiring. Chris Floyd sums my feelings up well when he writes:

Many observers have compared the methodical murder of 24 innocent civilians by U.S. Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha ... to the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when American troops slaughtered hundreds of civilians in a bloody rampage.

But this is a false equation, one that gravely distorts the overall reality of the Coalition effort in Iraq. For it is not the small-scale Haditha atrocity that should be compared to My Lai: it is the entire Iraq War itself.

The whole operation – from its inception in high-level mendacity to its execution in blood-soaked arrogance, folly, greed and incompetence – is a war crime of almost unfathomable proportions: a My Lai writ large, a My Lai every single day, year after year after year.

Details of the Haditha killings are finally emerging after months of official cover-up and heated denunciations of anyone who questioned the shifting, conflicting stories issued by the Pentagon....Like Abu Ghraib, Haditha is not an aberration by a few "bad apples" but the emblem of a wider, systemic crime, the natural fruit of an outlaw regime that has made aggressive war, torture, indefinite detention, "extrajudicial killing," rendition and concentration camps official national policy. This moral rot is Bush's true historical legacy. |Empire Burlesque|(emphasis added)(links omitted)

Occupying a country whose language and culture is foreign is a daunting task. The uncertainties of urban warfare and the constant deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on our military.
Allegations [of war crimes], regardless of how they are borne out by the facts, can have [a detrimental] effect on the ability of US forces to continue to operate," Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham of the military's Joint Staff told the Pentagon briefing this week.

[T]he armed services are openly struggling with the...inevitable [civilian deaths] in fighting a counterinsurgency. The problem becomes greater with more lethal weaponry and multiple deployments. (The Marine Corps battalion was on its third deployment to Iraq when the killings at Haditha occurred)....

Purposely killing civilians
, states an Army training manual, is especially likely in guerrilla warfare where the enemy combatants do not wear uniforms and in fact may include women and children.|CSM|(emphasis added)

Julian Borger reports on the breakdown in morale among the Marins accused of the murders at Haditha:

The marine unit involved in the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November had suffered a "total breakdown" in discipline and had drug and alcohol problems, according to the wife of one of the battalion's staff sergeants.

The allegations in Newsweek magazine contribute to an ever more disturbing portrait of embattled marines under high stress, some on their third tour of duty after ferocious door-to-door fighting in the Sunni insurgent strongholds of Falluja and Haditha.

The wife of the unnamed staff sergeant claimed there had been a "total breakdown" in the unit's discipline after it was pulled out of Falluja in early 2005.

"There were problems in Kilo company with drugs, alcohol, hazing [violent initiation games], you name it," she said. "I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha." |Guardian| (emphasis added)

The truth of these allegations is almost beside the point, they are devestating to our national image and the ultimate goal of defeating the wellspring of terrorism. The Bush administration surrendered any pretense of credibility long ago and few are going to believe the Pentagon regardless of its conclusions on these claimed atrocities.

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