What May Come of the Haditha Massacre?

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer again bumbles into old news and proudly reports it. He’s shocked, shocked, that Marines in Haditha murdered as many as 24 Iraqi civilians in cold blood last November and then tried to cover it up.

Also shocked is Senator John Warner, one of many war-loving old bastards residing comfortably in the US Capitol. Warner, icon of the aging, do nothing and morally challenged Senate that has cursed this country throughout the late 20th and early 21st century, looked very serious today after being briefed by the Pentagon brass on a horrendous bit of terroristic brutality committed by US Marines in the name of freedom, democracy, human rights, and anti-terrorism.

Warner, and McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden all stand in sharp contrast to another aging politician, Representative John Murtha, who has single-handedly made what happened in Haditha a major domestic news story. Murtha has been willing to act morally in the face of grave political danger. God bless him, and the Walter Jones, and the Ron Pauls and others in Congress who have bucked the administration and tried to do the right thing to remedy this illegal invasion, ongoing U.S. quagmire, and unnatural disaster for 25 million Iraqis.

The Haditha story has been on the internet for months. Knight Ridder seems to have broken the story here in March. The Marine Corps has likely known since last year, or perhaps they only discovered it when they read the Iraqi police report. Murders happen, you know.

Blitzer’s dismay is probably not sincere. It is, after all, a great news story. American military leaders are also expressing consternation. Are they unhappy that the evidence was not completely covered up? Are they saddened about a tarnished image for the Marine Corps? Are they concerned about what this may portend for the even less well-trained and disciplined US Army? Are they worried that Americans might begin to look more closely at contracted US mercenaries, unbound by law or tradition?

No flag officer seems interested in going to the mat for any of the young men in the US military who stand accused of war crimes — and who very likely will be found guilty on most counts. This is a perfect replay of the lack of any responsibility — not even the most infinitesimal drop of responsibility — exhibited by senior military and civilian leaders after the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

Instead, modern American military leaders, like trained dogs, sit silently alert. They are not alert to the physical, psychological and moral damage to Americans in uniform brought on by enforcing a wrongheaded police state in a shattered Iraq. Instead, they are alert only to any sign that their political masters may be displeased. Barring that, our great military leaders are as silent as the tombs in which nearly 2,500 Americans already rest.

No emperor or king, no Stalin or Pol Pot, could be more delighted with the state of our current military leadership.

The recent short-lived case of several retired generals calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation was met by a blast of official Pentagon talking points defending their man. Our doe-eyed mainstream media thanked the Pentagon for the talking points, and went on to far more important human-interest stories. The administration counterattack did not attempt to take on the truth. The generals were absolutely right. Rumsfeld has overwhelmingly proven himself to be the most incompetent, discredited, disliked, and ineffective Secretary of Defense since McNamara. Instead, the administration counterattack on the dissenting generals was aimed at the character of those so impertinent that they first retired, and then carefully, honestly spoke their mind.

Haditha is the story of what happens in war. It’s cruel, unjust, ugly, and criminal. Babies get shot, old women massacred. Get used to it. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

And yet, the Haditha horror is a golden opportunity. The American people and the American military brass might use it to ask why American soldiers and Marines are even in Iraq, and what is our mission there? Is it policing? Is it Chapter 7 peacekeeping? Is it nation-building? Is it to provide security for American civilians and politicos in the Green Zone? Is it to occupy and secure the world’s largest (and clearly least needed) embassy, or perhaps the world’s biggest and nicest new military bases? If so, why? Are we there to win? What are we winning? How can we tell? Is there really a prize at the bottom of this Cracker Jack box called Iraq, or just a sticky crumbly mess? Does anyone perceive the prize may actually be the continued destruction, chaos and hate in the region? If this is true, can that be in any way defensible or moral?

Every American needs to really think about each of these questions. We are living with someone’s agenda in Iraq — but is it truly our agenda? Can we say we own it?

A few months after the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush landed on the USS Lincoln and said, "Mission accomplished!" Upon this Bush command, every U.S. general in Iraq should have packed up his troops and sent them home.

Instead, we are building mega-bases, monstrous embassies, forcing false unity governments, and killing children in their homes. We are not picking up garbage, pumping oil, hiring Iraqis, repairing water systems or electric grids, or roads, bridges, and factories.

While the truth of what I have written here is verifiable by every American soldier and Marine in Iraq, and every general officer they serve, not a single flag officer on active duty will risk his reputation as a good boy who sits and stays.

We will figuratively hang those Marines who participated in the slaughter at Haditha. We will also crucify those who did not participate, but failed to stop it, and those who helped to cover it up. We will not pity those young Americans we trained to kill when they failed to show mercy in a place they don’t understand, on a mission as frivolous as it is insincere. We will hold them responsible.

We ought to set our sights a bit higher, and begin in a serious way to politically destroy those people in Washington who placed our young men and women in Iraq, on such a frivolous and insincere mission. Those worthy of a criminal punishment include much of the Senate, many in the House, and of course, our great decider, his untrustworthy Vice President, and their Pentagon senior staff.

Amazingly, mainstream Americans have failed to hold our leadership accountable — for fear of being called traitorous, or ill-informed, or fanciful, or terrorist-lovers. We have been afraid to see what we are really doing. We have been reluctant to recognize what we as a nation have become, and we don’t really want to know what it has cost. Haditha is a wakeup call, not only for the Marine Corps, but for every American.

Will we now rise and shine, connect with our neighbors and our congressmen and our political parties to challenge our continued military presence in Iraq and truly define our real purpose there? Or will we, like the American generals on their gilded leashes, roll over, sit and stay?