Saturday, June 3


Jeff Greenfield makes a good point in his article comparing Haditha to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

But what My Lai and Haditha may have in common is the special complexity that involves a war where the people we are fighting for and the enemy occupy the same space.

In such cases it is difficult for troops to tell friend from foe, which is one of the major reasons insurgencies are so hard to fight. But that doesn't go far enough. It is an axiom of insurgencies that the indigenous peoples may be friends one minute and foe the next. For while they may harbor anxieties about or opposition to the insurgents, the foreign forces are still an invading, occupying force, not of "their own." While Iraqis may appreciate their toppling Saddam they nonethless have a cultural bias towards being ruled and pushed around on their own land by what Islam would call "infidels."

The bottom line is, when the enemy is not clearly defined, or even clearly recognizable, tragic mistakes are going to be made, innocent lives lost as "collateral damage," and our own soldiers put at terrible risk. They are walking targets, they know it, and they can't even identify the source of their danger. Yes, it was the same situation in Vietnam, and while My Lai was an outrage I can't forget my three-tours-in-Vietnam brother-in-law's horrifying rejoinder, "When any nine-year-old kid may be rigged as a bomb, how can you call anyone innocent with any certainty?"

Bush and others may characterize the Marines who snapped in Haditha as "bad apples," but the fact is that many, many people including diplomats, generals, historians and experts on the Middle East cautioned against putting our troops in a Vietnam-like environment, predicting such an insurgency as we have experienced, and the Bush administration chose to ignore those warnings, preferring to believe that American military might would just march in, take over and rule a grateful, pliant people. I hold no brief for Marines who murder innocent women and children (or men, for that matter), but none of this would have happened but for the disastrous policies and deliberate ignorance of the Bush administration. The Iraqi people never threatened the U.S. Even what are now the insurgents never posed a danger to us before we invaded. Even if Saddam himself had been the threat Dubya called him (which he clearly was not), invading the country to remove him was always a boneheaded idea.

George Walker Bush is as responsible for the deaths in Haditha as are the Marines who pulled the trigger.

UPDATE: Eleanor Clift thinks Haditha could haunt the GOP in the midterms:

The American people have already decided we’re not any safer because we're in Iraq and that the war is more of a humanitarian gesture to help the Iraqi people. When it looks like we’re creating more misery than we’re alleviating, pressure will mount to bring this madness to an end. When a government takes a country into war, everybody should be forewarned that war is not a glorious little romp—a cakewalk—that terrible things will happen to innocent people. The Bush administration failed us on that count. Iraq was not a war of necessity; it was a war of choice, entered into with a willful disregard for the consequences.

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