Friday, May 19, 2006

And in Iraq?

Horror, pure and simple, as a group of marines, apparently, kill a family at prayer in cold blood:

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood," a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.
From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children . . .

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right . . .

Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that "there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

“This one is ugly," one official told NBC News.


Ugly? That doesn't even begin to cover it. Dick Cheney is ugly. The Pentagon is ugly. An Abrams tank is ugly. Executing helpless women and children while they're huddled on the floor, praying to their God, is a war crime committed by terrorists. It's Lidice and Rwanda and Srebrenica and, of course, My Lai. The men who committed this crime aren't really human any more -- they shed their humanity like a snake sheds its skin when they walked into those houses and started shooting. All that's left of them is a dark pit at the center of their reptilian brain stems, a place that knows no pity or remorse or even self-awareness. They're lost souls -- lost to the world and to themselves.

I don't know if it's better or worse that this atrocity seems to have been committed by a military unit completely out of control, instead of one that was following orders, as was clearly the case at Abu Ghraib. One one hand, you can argue that it's simply a reminder that Americans are as capable of being beasts as anyone else: Germans, Japanese, Russians, Serbs, Arabs, Afghans, Israelis, Somalians, Afrikaaners, Salvadorans -- the list goes on and on. There's nothing exceptional about us, even in our war crimes.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Marines -- the few, the proud, etc. -- were capable of such bestiality says something ominous about the psychological state of the American military after three years of being stretched to the limit. These weren't draftees or Guardsmen or pathetic losers like Calley. These were professionals, supposedly the best of the best, and yet they threw away their training, their code and their honor, and drenched themselves and their flag in the blood of innocents. They simply snapped, in other words, and it makes me wonder how many more like them are out there -- one IED or ambush away from going beserk.

There is a whiff of genocide in the air, and not just in Iraq. While the keyboard warriors still talk in slightly coded terms about waging war with the "ferocity" required to win, some of the real warriors aren't bothering to conceal what those terms really mean. A few days ago I came across a diary at Daily Kos (can't find it now) in which the diarist relayed the gist of his recent conversation with a Marine Corporal -- an MP, of all things, currently stationed at Quantico -- who was eager to get to Iraq so he could "kill some sand niggers."
There are good soldiers out there, ones who are horrified by this sort of violation. There are good American conservatives out there, too, who sincerely believe that the US military can make the world a better place.

What we should never forget, though, is that there are others out there- those that don't truly believe that the enemy is human and deserving of any rights and respect whatsoever. Some of them are America's enemies, but some of them are America's friends.

And some, to the United States' sorrow, are Americans themselves.

One other Billmon quote:

As for the excuse making, well, it's just Abu Ghraib, not to mention My Lai, all over again. There's something about war atrocities (ours as well as the other side's) that brings out the absolute worst in the keyboard commandos. If they could only hear themselves, they might realize they sound just like a bunch of Serbian paramilitary groupies, arguing that their boys couldn't have raped and murdered their way through Bosnia because Serbian fighters are men of honor, that everybody knows the foreign media made those stories up, and that the "Turks" just got what was coming to them -- all at the same time.
That's the problem, really. American exceptionalism isn't an incontrovertible fact, but a national myth. Like all myths, it can inspire Americans to actually strive to live up to the myth. Like all myths, however, it just serve as a feeble excuse for inhuman acts.

It certainly has today.

No comments:

Post a Comment