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The horrors of Haditha.

It's hard to read about Haditha, this place in Iraq where, last November 19, some U.S. Marines went on a rampage, reportedly massacring twenty-four Iraqis, including a man almost eighty years old in a wheelchair and children as young as one, three, four, and five.

"Some victims had single gunshot wounds to the head," a Defense Department. official told The New York Times.

"Most of the shots," The Washington Post reported, "were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor," according to doctors who saw the bodies.

The old man in the wheelchair "took nine rounds in the chest and abdomen, according to his death certificate," the Post story said.

"I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head," Eman Waleed told Time magazine. "Then they killed my granny."

How does that make you feel?

It fills me first with nausea and revulsion, and then fury.

Fury at the Marines who allegedly did this.

All those who took part in this massacre, all those who covered it up, must be held responsible. Being a Marine does not give you a license to murder.

But fury, too, at Bush for putting them over there.

Bush has turned Iraq into what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called an "atrocity-producing situation." In such a situation, he notes, "ordinary people--men or women no better or worse than you or I--can regularly commit atrocities." Lifton, who described this situation first in his classic work, The Nazi Doctors, warned two years ago in The Nation that the Iraq War has become practically a laboratory for atrocities: "A counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting, especially when driven by profound ideological distortion, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity--all the more so when it becomes an occupation."

Bush has placed U.S. troops under enormous stress in Iraq. It was only a matter of time before some of them snapped.

And that's what appears to have happened at Haditha.

Though we would not have known that from the Marines themselves. According to Time, the initial report from a Marine spokesperson was: "A U.S. Marine and fifteen civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha. Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small arms fire. Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another."

The only part of that account that appears to be true is that a U.S. Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. (Time broke this story, but only months after a video shot by a local journalism student and witness testimony to human rights groups had been reported in the Arab press. Some of the most damning evidence appears to have come from a U.S. soldier who took pictures of the atrocity on his cell phone and transmitted them to a friend.)

Once again, as at Abu Ghraib, the gravity of the massacre did not register on Bush. "I am troubled by the initial news stories," he said on May 31. Hell, I am "troubled" when my teenagers are out past curfew. Couldn't the President have expressed a more powerful emotion, one that is more appropriate to the gravity of the allegations? How about disgusted or appalled or outraged?

Like My Lai, Haditha, as horrible as it appears, cannot be called a surprise. This is the trajectory of occupation. And there s been a stream of reports about U.S. atrocities in Iraq prior to this, just as there was in Vietnam prior to My Lai.

"The story is unique only in that the evidence that a terrible crime took place appears to be too great for 'plausible deniability,'" writes Joshua Holland for Alternet. Among other accounts, Holland cites an AP story quoting Iraq's U.N. ambassador as saying that the U.S. forces killed his unarmed young cousin in "cold blood." Holland also references a March Knight-Ridder story that said Iraqi police officials "accused U.S. soldiers of executing eleven Iraqi civilians, including four children and a six-month-old baby" in the town of Ishaqi. The BBC has since pursued this story, saying it has video "evidence that U.S. forces may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of eleven innocent Iraqis." The U.S. military denies the charges.

Dahr Jamail, writing at, says "countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public."

He cites a story from the Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq, a nongovernmental organization there, about an assault on May 13 south of Baghdad when "U.S. Forces, accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard," attacked families that were fleeing a , shelling by U.S. helicopters. According to this account, the U.S.-led assault killed more than twenty-five people.

Jamail also cites this group's estimate that "between 4,000 and 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah."

It's one thing for a war critic like Jamail to say the atrocities are occurring on a daily basis. But it's more damning when Iraq's prime minister, who came to power with a push from Washington, says essentially the same thing. U.S. attacks on civilians are a regular occurrence, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said on June 1. U.S. forces "do not respect the Iraqi people. They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is totally unacceptable."

The horrors of Haditha are just more evidence of the horrific toll that Bush's war has taken on Iraqi civilians: between 38,000 and more than 100,000 deaths.

For the dead, it is of no meaning whether they died in a massacre or as "collateral damage" from a bombing raid.

But for Bush, the Pentagon, and U.S. war propagandists, the Haditha massacre story is of tremendous significance, for it shreds any last claim that this is a just war. Abu Ghraib and Haditha will be the two lasting images of Bush's misadventure.

On Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery, Bush gave a speech in which he had the chutzpah to say, "America has always gone to war reluctantly because we know the costs of war."

But he did not go to war "reluctantly." He went to war recklessly. When some of America's allies on the U.N. Security Council argued strenuously against the Iraq War, when the U.N. weapons inspectors themselves said they could find no weapons of mass destruction and begged for more time to look, Bush couldn't be bothered. He was in haste for war, and he was mindless of the costs.

Those costs include the 2,500 U.S. soldiers killed for Bush's folly, and the 18,000 wounded, and all the Iraqis killed and wounded, as well.

Those costs include more than $200 billion of U.S. taxpayer money.

Those costs include, the loss of respect for the United States around the world, and the increased hostility toward Americans, especially in Arab and Muslim lands.

Those costs also include making recruitment for Al Qaeda and its cohorts all the easier.

And those costs include Haditha.

The United States will be paying for Haditha for a long time to come.

"I hate the Americans," Waleed told ITV News. "The whole world hates them for what they have done here.... They kill people. Then they say sorry. I hate them."

It's time to put an end to this awful war.

No more messianic militarism.

No more Hadithas.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Author:Rothschild, Matthew
Publication:The Progressive
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Previous Article:Troubletown.
Next Article:Pastor knows best.

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