"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Unconstrained By Decency

From Hubris to Humility

PRESIDENT BUSH'S outbreak of humility was too late. In a joint press conference last week with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush dropped the words ``missteps" and ``mistakes" into his opening remarks. This was a different Bush than the one who refused in a press conference two years ago to come up with a single mistake he had made after 9/11.

Asked by a reporter what missteps and mistakes he regretted the most, Bush said he wished he had not ``sent the wrong signal to people" by goading Iraqi rebels with ``bring 'em on" or declaring he wanted Osama bin Laden ``dead or alive." Bush said the biggest mistake of the Iraqi occupation was the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison.
It was just Bush's plummeting luck that his touchy-feely moment was upstaged by the hardening evidence of an American atrocity in Iraq. Last November, Marines allegedly went house to house in Haditha to kill 24 Iraqi civilians, including a 4-year-old boy, a 66-year-old woman ( shot in the back), and a 77-year-old man in a wheelchair ( shot in the chest). They were apparently killed execution-style by soldiers enraged when Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas of El Paso, Texas, was killed by a roadside bomb.

The original story the military gave was that a Marine in a convoy and 15 Iraqi civilians were all killed by the bomb. Gunmen followed up the blast by attacking the convoy. The Marines said they shot back, killing eight ``insurgents" and wounding another.

Increasingly, in a Time report two months ago and a flurry of media disclosures last weekend, it became almost undeniable that the Marines engaged in a cover-up of the killings. Sensing a public relations and morale disaster, the Marine commandant, General Michael Hagee, flew to Iraq to talk to the troops about respecting the Geneva Convention.

In a statement before his departure, Hagee said he would ask soldiers to guard against ``becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves." He said, ``We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force. We use lethal force only when justified, proportional, and, most importantly, lawful." Hagee added, ``To a Marine, honor is more than just honesty, it means having uncompromising personal integrity and being accountable for all actions."

As in all such matters, one has to stop for a moment and acknowledge the majority of soldiers who are doing their job with courage and honor, those who would stop and pick up a dropped book for a child or a coin for an elder. But there is also no getting around the fact that Bush is being betrayed by his war, one that lacked from its outset the personal integrity, accountability, and honor the command er in chief demands of his soldiers.

Humility looks thin in a war that began without a moral underpinning, on the claim we were ridding the world of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. On the basis of that claim, this nation rained down death on tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, at least 30,000 by Bush's own admission. It continues in the chaotic deaths of scores of people every few days and at a monthly financial cost that the Congressional Research Service says is now $8 billion a month, way past the monthly pace of spending for Vietnam.

Bush's humility looks thinner still when others in his administration continue to talk with a frightening certitude. On the same day that newspapers reported on events in Haditha, Vice President Dick Cheney told graduates of the US Naval Academy that the enemy in the war on terror ``is as brutal and heartless as any we have ever faced. The enemy wears no uniform, has no regard for the rules of warfare, and is unconstrained by any standard of decency or morality. They plot and plan in secret, target the defenseless, and rejoice at the death of innocent and unsuspecting human beings. . . . they hate us, they hate our country, and they hate the liberties for which we stand."

Haditha and our needless killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis continue to turn Cheney's words on their head. Probably more than a few of our soldiers understand that our invasion was unconstrained by decency. It should not surprise us that a few of them may have turned their hatred of being in Iraq into a door-to-door killing spree of the innocent.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.



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