"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.


Listen Up Anderson Cooper and all other Apologists

My Lai . . . Haditha . . . And America’s Whitewashers

It was 38 years ago that a platoon from Charlie Company (11th Brigade, Americal Division) commanded by a young Army lieutenant murdered hundreds of old men, women, and children in a small Vietnam village, presumably with the tacit approval of military higher-ups. A memorial later erected there by the Vietnamese lists 504 names as victims of the massacre, ranging in ages from 1 to 82.

My Lai had its victims, a gruesome display on par with the worst incidents that have come to light in the last century. It also had its gang of perpetrators; soldiers under the command of Lt. William Calley. And it even had four heroes; three from a helicopter crew (Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta) who saved the lives of a few villagers; and a man in Calley’s platoon whose conscience would not permit him to take part in the massacre (Bernhardt). But beyond heroes and villains, for the next few years My Lai would also have a never-ending series of whitewashers, who in good conscience must also be considered villains . . . by choice or by default.

The whitewashers came in all ranks of importance, from the anticipated ever-present military brass, that initiated and maintained the cover-up, to a host of politicians and people in leadership, all the way to the commander-in-chief, President Nixon in this case. The incredible bottom line to this massacre was, however, that the only person found guilty for this carnage was Lt. Calley, who ended up serving three and a half years of “house arrest” in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia. The entire sordid affair became not just a national disgrace for which the country could do penance, but a monumental whitewash that to date Americans prefer not to talk about.

In a way, the enablers to the entire whitewash were the American public. Not only were the villains and whitewashers de facto exonerated, but the four heroes in the plot became traitors . . . to their military comrades, and also to much of the population.

My Lai, photos and all, was just too big a war crime to allow an effective cover-up, or it might have remained a secret to this date. Accounts provided by soldiers who lived through similar criminal accounts, if on a much smaller scale, were kept hush-hush we are led to believe “not to affect the morale of the troops.” It was all done, as it always seems to be in these cases, for the “greater good.” Yes, the end justifies the means!

Now the hamlets of Pinkville have given way to the streets of Haditha, and the probable murder of two dozen Iraqis, including women and children, by a large, yes large, group of marines. If it turns out to be as horrific as noted in some of the leaked details, and there wasn’t a single marine with enough humanity in the group to put a stop to this. God have pity on us as a nation . . . and as human beings.

It has been six months since the incident occurred, far too long to conduct an adequate investigation had the military chosen to do so. But the delay probably had as much or more to do with the timing in the formation of the Iraqi government than with the preparation of Americans at home for this “new truth.”

Vietnam is far away in time and memory. But now Americans have to cope with new unpleasant realities: a government that lied to them, so as to enlist their support for an illegitimate war; then Abu Ghraib, and the realization that the military is far from squeaky-clean when it comes to torture, human rights and compliance with international law. Now, it is the pride of the military, the marines, who are being put to the test. And this may turn out to be a test like no other in the history of the Corps.

Revenge for the killing of a fellow marine is no reason to kill innocent, defenseless Iraqi women and children; nor is frustration, even when insurgents are at times fed and sheltered by civilians in the area, or when complicity is suspected. Criminal reprisal as an answer to physical and/or mental strain is just unacceptable behavior in human beings, much less in soldiers. When soldiers get to a point where they are apt to crack, they should be kept in their barracks or sent home. Just what role does the military leadership play in all this? Commanders, doctors and chaplains . . . aren’t they all gravely derelict?

How many more Hadithas are there . . . will we ever know what happened in Fallujah, and so many other places where the US military has no reason or right to be?

One must wonder. One, two . . . three decades from now some of these people who are committing crimes in Iraq, or those whitewashing their behavior, are likely to be in positions of political power in these United States. One could even become senator, president, or secretary of state. The whitewash, it appears, never ends.

© 2006 Ben Tanosborn
Online Journal Guest Writer

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm.


Bush The Atrocities' Enabler

Spreading Democracy in Haditha

As details of the atrocities in Haditha continue to surface in the media, it is clear that George Bush is either completely divorced from reality or simply incapable of grasping the catastrophe he has created. In fact, he is as culpable in the deaths of the “24 unarmed Iraqis” as if he had put the gun to their heads’ and shot them one by one.

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg established the model for prosecuting war crimes. Justice Robert H. Jackson ruled that military aggression constitutes the “supreme crime” because “it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. Jackson’s findings form a direct link between George Bush and the “execution-style” murders of Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Until Bush provides a credible justification for the invasion, he must be held directly responsible for the war crimes perpetrated on the Iraqi people.

The administration has dismissed the killings in Haditha with its “few bad apples” theory which it used in Abu Ghraib. It has also intensified its public relations campaign to connect the ongoing occupation with the hobgoblin of Islamic fanaticism. This appears to be a bad plan indicated by Bush’s dwindling approval ratings. All the same, the war on terror is now regularly invoked to justify the destruction of Iraqi society as well as an excuse for the skyrocketing civilian death toll.

Bush’s commencement speech this weekend at West Point is a good example of the White House’s feeble attempts to promote its bogus “war on terror” while diverting attention from America’s depredations in Iraq. The speech gives us a way to compare Bush’s sales pitch for war with the reality on the ground. It also allows us to ask whether Bush is a delusional megalomaniac who is simply out of control or a calculating despot who fully understands the savagery he’s unleashed on the world.

President Bush Graduation Speech at West Point - 5-27-06
Bush speech: "America will fight the terrorists on every battlefront. And we will not rest until this threat to our country has been removed…Against such an enemy there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory,"

The reality: Photographs taken by American military intelligence have provided crucial evidence that up to 24 Iraqis were massacred by marines in Haditha. One portrays an Iraqi mother and young child, kneeling on the floor, as if in prayer. They have been shot dead at close range. The pictures show other victims, shot execution-style in the head and chest in their homes. An American government official said they revealed that the marines involved had “suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership”.( LA Times)

Bush speech: "This is only the beginning. The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people in every nation."

The reality: The killings are emerging as the worst known American atrocity of the Iraq war. At least seven women and three children were among those killed. Witness accounts obtained by The Sunday Times suggest the toll of children may be as high as six. “This one is ugly,” a US military official said. The evidence points fatefully to a murder spree by marines. The stain on the American military could prove harder to erase than the photographs of sadistic prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Comparisons are being made to the My Lai massacre in 1968 in Vietnam, in which American soldiers slaughtered up to 500 villagers.”

Bush speech: “Difficult challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but America is safer and the world is more secure because these two countries are now democracies and they are allies in the cause of freedom and peace…With the formation of this unity government, the world has seen the beginning of something new - a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East.”

The reality: Yunis Salim Khafif, pleaded for his life in English, shouting: “I am a friend, I am good. I am good” …. “But they killed him, his wife and his two daughters.” (LA Times).

Bush speech: ""We're still in the early stages of this struggle for freedom and, like the first years of the Cold War, we've seen setbacks and challenges and days that have tested America's resolve. Yet we've also seen days of victory and hope.

The reality: “About 10 marines entered the home of a 76-year-old Abdul Hameed Ali Hassan, whose leg had been amputated because of diabetes. He was a blind old man in a wheelchair. They threw hand grenades and began firing in all directions. Hassan’s granddaughter, 10 year old Iman Waleed, was in her nightclothes. Her father was in a nearby room reading the Koran. The Marines entered the room and killed him. Then they gathered the rest of the family into one room —threw in two hand grenades and started shooting them. The adults tried to protect the children with their bodies, but all were slain. (LA Times)

The massacre in Haditha reveals the widening chasm between Bush’s promises of freedom and democracy on the one hand, and the reality of war crimes on the other. It exposes the lies which have been so essential to maintaining public support and removes the moral justification for the ongoing occupation.

Haditha is summary-event, much like My Lai. It epitomizes 6 years of failed leadership, unprovoked aggression, and human rights abuse. It reframes the war as a vicious and excessive attack on a civilian population to establish control over vital resources. It was executed with the cynical belief that the mountains of carnage could be papered-over by jingoism and propaganda. That illusion has begun to shatter; exposing the massive human trauma it has left in its wake.

Who’ll believe Bush’s rosy scenarios after they’ve heard the testimony of children who watched while their parents and siblings were butchered in front of their own eyes?

By Mike Whitney

05/30/06 "Information Clearing House"