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View Diary: We Were Soldiers Once.........And Murderers (141 comments)

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  •  Whatever happened to Honor? (37+ / 0-)

    One of the things I've always admired about the military is the survival there of the concept of Honor.  The idea of forsaking expediency for the dictates of a moral code is almost lost in our society today, and that idea has always been valued in military culture.

    Like most ideals, however, not everyone lives up to this ideal in the military.  This is nothing new, and Vietnam certainly showed us how far from honor military leaders were capable of straying.

    Nowadays, however, I think there's something worse afoot.  Don Rumsfeld seems bent on extinguishing any sense of honor in military culture.  This, like the Constitution, our international reputation, the middle class and most things good about America, is to be sacrificed on the altar of political advantage for the Busheviks.

    Of all the grievous wounds today's conservative rulers have inflicted on our country, the abasement of military honor ranks high.  We'll be a long time rebuilding this sense, and many trials and commissions to find truth and name names will have to come before the effort can succeed.

    Thanks for this wonderful diary, militarytracy.  Excellent and perceptive, as always.

    -4.50, -5.85 In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. --Orwell

    by Dallasdoc on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 03:18:19 PM PDT

    •  'Honor' (16+ / 0-)

      "Honor" is how we lend nobility to our practice of organized mass murder. The proposition that Rumsfeld et al have stripped the military of this ineffable quality of "honor" is to perpetuate a convenient lie that the U.S was not an imperialist country until the ascent of Bush.

      Check out the links below for a very small taste of the "honor" that characterizes the U.S. military. (The U.S> military is hardly alone in this regard of course, but it is the case in question here.)

      First Gulf War

      Invasion of Panama

      Viet Nam


      Spanish-American War

      "Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories" -- Amilcar Cabral

      by Christopher Day on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 04:05:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  there is no honor (3+ / 0-)

        in modern warfare.those days are long gone, if they ever existed. there are only heat, dirt, radiation, poison, metal, blood and gore.

        •  Honor existed. Still does. (10+ / 0-)

          Just not with this administration.

          When a war is immoral how can the troops on the ground find any semblance of honor?

          Honor is intrinsic in chain of command. If it's not at the top, you aren't likely to find it at the bottom.

          •  Vietnam turned out to not be very moral (14+ / 0-)

            Vietnam got started basically due to "bad intelligence" also.  In spite of how wrong our administration was on the issue and in spite of the total horror the was Vietnam, we still had soldiers who conducted themselves with honor.  Many of them weathered the hell that was Vietnam and then stayed and rebuilt our devastated military afterwards because they knew that as much as we would all like to not need a military, the dark heart of men who would be dictators means that America will need some sort of military and ours was just about broken beyond repair.  To be an officer in the United States military you must want to be an officer first.  You must be accepted and go through a strict training program.  It a choice to become a soldier in America, and it is an even bigger choice to become an officer in America.  Nobody forced these men to be leaders....they chose to be leaders, and they broke rules and failed.  That is their disgrace!  It is a heady horrific bestowing of power giving men the ability to grant death as these men were given.  That is why the command comes with the rules that it does.  That is why we do not stand for these rules to be broken.  If any man finds himself not up to the task they can ask to removed from command at any time.  They are not forced to command ever, they accept command!  If the immorality of Iraq War had come to weigh on their hearts and deter them from carrying out their duties, they needed to ask to be removed from their commands!  Every officer knows these things!

            •  but (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              acquittal, JuliaAnn

              it seems like those rules are broken and it is accepted by virtue of the silence.

              I notice that nobody in the military spoke out against Haditha till someone with amateur footage showed it to Times magazine.  If there was no footage, would this have even come to be acknowledged?  Would Abu Ghraib?

              This situation is hardly unique to this war or to the US military.  It obviously should not be condoned, but the liberal use of firepower in response to "attacks" independent of this investigation does not seem to weigh heavily on the minds of many.  The culture of honor does not reside with a profession but with the individual.  Similarly, criminality also lie with an individual.

              It is also telling how the families of Lockerbee received MILLIONS in compensation, whereas, families in Iraq, if they are lucky can receive upto 2,500 bucks.  It resonates clearly, an Arab life is literally worth a fraction of a Westerner's life.

              •  I believe that the reason why nobody (0+ / 0-)

                spoke out until film footage was revealed was because other than the soldiers present and the lone survivor....nobody knew with any sort of certainty what had happened.  The chain of command had received the report from the troops......looks like a Sarg who took part in the actual killings was who made the report to superiors also (we won't know all of these things for sure though until the report is released).  There was a team sent in to confirm the deaths and superior officers it would seem knew within two days the report from the Sarg and the report from the separate team that confirmed and collected the dead did not jibe!  Other than that, rumors are rumors and Americans do tend to pride themselves on allowing for some kind of presumption of innocence.  I know that this is a less than perfect solution where atrocities are concerned, but we fail to come up with a better way of dealing with such things that protects the innocent and discovers the guilty.

      •  The problem with honor (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barbwires, Militarytracy, poco

        ... is that it is value-neutral.  All of the most vile and despicable regimes in history have been defended by those with a high sense of military honor.  

        Nuremberg tried to impose some sense of values to military law, but I can't say this casual observer sees much evidence of its survival.

        -4.50, -5.85 In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. --Orwell

        by Dallasdoc on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 05:41:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Cover up (8+ / 0-)

      I get all hung up on the morality of the commanders in this case.  What kind of person learns about a massacre of unarmed civilians and their first impulse is to cover it up?  They don't have the impulse to punish the wrongdoers?

      I just don't get it.  How does that happen?

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. -- Daniel Patrick Monynihan

      by Unstable Isotope on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 05:00:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The wrongdoers (6+ / 0-)

        are them. First rule of command, there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers. These people are on their third deployment to hell. Everyone, friend and foe alike look the same. They strike from the same places, they live in the same houses. Their unit took 25 casualties last tour. The blame for these things lay squarely on the shoulders of bush, cheny and most of all rumsfuck.
        This does not excuse what happened, but with the command structure doing it's job, these tragedies would not be happening.

        Impeach and Imprison! -6.63/-6.10

        by FireCrow on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 05:52:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

          I can't agree that there are no bad soldiers, since their definitely are the "bad apples".

          Furthermore, I do not agree that The blame for these things lay squarely on the shoulders of bush, cheny and most of all rumsfuck.  In this instance, the blame lay squarely with the perpetrators.

          Bush/Cheney/Rumsfuck orchestrated the setting, condoned torture, etc.  I'm pretty sure that you will never find a memo allowing the execution of women or children that has been legitimized by Abu Gonzalez's acrobatic interpretations of the law.

          •  Disagree strongly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Everyone has limits.
               The leadership was wrong, in this and in all the other incidents as far back as you want to go:

            Bush/Cheney/Rumsfuck orchestrated the setting

            yes, you're right about that.
                The failed leadership we here are most acquainted with are the political leaders whose failures put these troops there.
                 I don't think it appropriate for comfortable us to start up any claims about how the troops are at fault here. I also don't think it wise to make such claims on some else's blog.
                The troops will have to live with their own personal horrors and responsibilities for the rest of their lives. They may be the only ones tried and punished, but our position from this far away has to remain focused on the failure of leadership at the higher levels.

            Somebody, do something, I got kids I care about, fer crying out loud!

            by KenBee on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 11:42:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  ?? (0+ / 0-)

              I don't think it appropriate for comfortable us to start up any claims about how the troops are at fault here.

              I'm not sure how you can make this statement.  They are under investigation for the murder of 25 civilians over the period of 5 hours AFTER an attack killed one of their company.

              If they pulled the triggers, then they are responsible.  Period.  They are not solely responsible.  No.  But then again, the blood of ALL the innocents in Iraq are on BushCo's hands.

          •  I think you're both right (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dallasdoc, Militarytracy, KenBee

            There's no excusing the behaviour of those Marines. But there's also no excuse for their flaccid, neglectful and deceitful command. The latter begat the former - it always does.

            This will probably land my butt in hot water but...

            If I were Commandant of the Marine Corps, I'd prosecute the Marines of Kilo company to the fullest extent of the UCMJ and make damn sure they were all wrung out on a dishonorable or an other than honorable discharge - all of them, fair or not. I'd disband Kilo company in this battalion for all time. Every Marine hereafter would know their names and why no Kilo company exists in that battalion anymore. And no Marine hereafter would ever have to wear badge of shame that Kilo company brought onto the Corps and the country that deployed them. And then I'd start burning down the careers of their commanders that failed their men and didn't play straight with me, all the way up to my own office if I had to, to set an example Corps-wide: Don't shame yourself, don't shame the Corps, and do not ever shame this country as a Marine.

            I'd do it for a lot of reasons, but the two main reasons are these:

            Obviously, there's a lack of morality, respect, and honor among these men that's just untenable in a Marine.

            Plus, we train Marines differently. We train them to have a greater degree of autonomy in the field - and that must be preserved. But with that latitude comes a necessity to accept the consequences for foul action, on the spot and throughout command. Somebody in the Marine Corps, i.e. the Commandant, needs to make damn good and sure that if Marines cannot bring themselves to respect their command on deployment, they'll just have to make do with fearing the wrath of command from on high if they fuck up.

            But that's just me.  

            The soul that is within me no man can degrade. - Frederick Douglass

            by Kimberley on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 12:23:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hey, I like it, (0+ / 0-)

              but then again, I speak heresy fluently.  And in this instance, my instinct is to "salt the earth and make it desert" too.

              "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18

              by Noor B on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 05:44:58 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  You sound like someone who knows the Marines (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dallasdoc, KenBee

              well and understands how they view honor and serving.  Disbanding Kilo company makes 100% sense in every way possible impacting and making Marine Corp history....and every Marine will know that history and know the names of those who we discover to be responsible.  Marines are just like that.  For all the right reasons that involve combat and being first sent and touching down in the middle of whatever the hell is going on.  When all is said and done I hope they take a cue from you and disband Kilo company!

    •  Honor as Casualty, too... (23+ / 0-)

      I'm sure this incident rings a bell with many of you:

      A 44-year old Army colonel and leading scholar of military ethics (whose dissertation had been on the meaning of honor) committed suicide in a military base trailer near Baghdad airport. Shooting himself once in the head with his service pistol, he became the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq (at the time).

      A West Point professor, Ted Westhusing volunteered for war duty in order to improve his teaching abilities. While in Iraq in charge of training Iraqi police, the Colonel had uncovered possible corruption by US contractors; an investigation followed.

      “In e-mails to his family, [he] seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor, and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq.” In a letter found in his trailer, one question loomed large for him: “How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?”

      •  It certainly continues to ring with me (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        oofer, ilona, eastmt

        A sad loss

      •  I followed the link you gave (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but it led me to an article that didn't include the quote you had in your comment. I'd like to read more about this. Somehow I missed it when it happened last year. Do you have a link for what you quoted above or links to other articles you might recommend on this guy? I do know how to use Google but thought you might have a choice link or three on the subject.

        "We must love one another or die." - W. H. Auden

        by marathon on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 07:02:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is for Lying eyes below you, too. (5+ / 0-)

          I'll try this again. I just lost half hours worth of work here due to a momentary electricity shut-down (my light also flickered off); something that's happened maybe one or two times before. What's curious is that as soon as I started my computer back up again, my Norton AV alert came up and said that someone had recently tried to attack my computer. Ha. I guess we're hitting a nerve here... Anyhoo...

          What I meant to say, marathon, is sorry for the confusion; the quote above comes from my own summary of the incident as reported in an LA Times piece last year (the summary is from the PTSD Timeline, my research of reported OEF/OIF incidents related to combat PTSD hosted by ePluribus Media). The Timeline link was no longer working (probably because they've moved it into archives), so I quickly found something recent on the incident and used that link instead as I had to get to dinner. Sorry for the confusion. Fortunately, the LA Times piece, A Journey Ended in Anguish by T. Christian Miller, can be read in full at ZNet.

          Just as Lying eyes write below (and I had mentioned as well in my seemingly zapped comment -- cue spooky music), there are some people who believe it was not suicide but rather that he was murdered.

          Whatever it was, the man was clearly a great loss to us, and his death is but one shining example of everything that's wrong with the war in Iraq.


          NPR, All Things Considered transcript for Nov. 28, 2005 (I'm placing it all in here in the interest of public education):

          This past June a 44-year-old colonel in the US Army, Ted Westhusing, was found dead in a trailer on a military base in Baghdad. The Army investigated and ruled his death a suicide. Westhusing had a single gunshot wound to the head. Weeks before, he had reported allegations about corruption by a US contractor in Iraq, a contractor he was responsible for overseeing. Los Angeles Times reporter T. Christian Miller has been investigating Colonel Westhusing's death and questions that remain.

          And first, tell us a bit about Colonel Westhusing's background. Who was he?

          Mr. T. CHRISTIAN MILLER (Los Angeles Times): Colonel Westhusing was a very interesting figure in the military. He was one of a handful of US officers who actually had a PhD in philosophy, and he used that PhD to return to West Point, where he was an instructor in English and philosophy and taught ethics. And it was clear from my reporting that ethics and issues of morality were very important to him.

          BLOCK: He volunteers to go to Iraq. What was his specific role there? What was he doing?

          Mr. MILLER: Once he got to Iraq, he took over a component of one of the most important missions in Iraq right now, and that is the training of the Iraqi security forces. His piece of that mission was to train a special squad of police officers who would do protection of high-ranking figures and would conduct raids on high-value targets.

          BLOCK: And the company he was overseeing, what was that?

          Mr. MILLER: Well, to do his job he took over a contract, which was--had been issued to a US company and the company actually did the training. Colonel Westhusing's role was to oversee that company and make sure the training got done. The company in question was a company based in Virginia called USIS, and they're a large security company that has contracts all over the world.

          BLOCK: Let's talk about these corruption allegations. This past May, Colonel Westhusing got an anonymous four-page letter, allegations of wrongdoing by this company, USIS. What was in the letter? What were the specifics?

          Mr. MILLER: There were two sets of allegations. One, essentially that the company was shortchanging the government in terms of the number of trainers that were being provided to train these Iraqi cadets. And the second were a more serious set of allegations that had to do with human rights violations by USIS officials or trainers, as it were. Those allegations were, first, that USIS trainers had actually engaged in offensive military operations during the siege of Fallujah. Under Department of Defense regulations and Iraqi law, security contractors aren't allowed to engage in offensive operations. The second concerned an incident in which a USIS contractor had apparently witnessed the killing of an innocent Iraqi and had not reported that to anybody higher up the chain.

          BLOCK: So these allegations come to the colonel. What happens then?

          Mr. MILLER: Colonel Westhusing, who, as I said, had made morality and ethics the focus of his life, immediately reports them to his supervisors and he, himself, confronts the contracting people on the ground--the USIS people on the ground in Iraq--and raises his concerns about what are the allegations in this letter and what truth is there to them? The FBI does the investigation and, as I understand it, is still looking into the investigation about some of the human rights abuses. The inspector general for Iraq is looking into some of these allegations as well. The Army contracting people look into some of the contract-related questions and they clear the company of any problems. The Army itself undertakes its own military investigation of these allegation, and they've also cleared the company of any problems.

          BLOCK: This is not long before the colonel is found dead in his trailer, and there's a note next to his bed. What did that note say?

          Mr. MILLER: This is where the whole case gets sort of murky. He reports the allegations. They begin to be investigated and then about three weeks after he receives that note he's found in his trailer. In his trailer, which was actually at the contractor's headquarters--contractor base...

          BLOCK: USIS?

          Mr. MILLER: Yes, the USIS base in Iraq. He's found on the floor. There is--his weapon is--a weapon is in his room and there is a note by his bed. The note essentially talks about his distress at what he sees as corruption in the activities in Iraq and he says that he came to Iraq to serve honorably and that he feels sullied, that he feels like the mission he came for is not the one which he's carrying out. And he says death before dishonor.

          BLOCK: When the Army investigated this death, was there any hint that it could be anything other than suicide?

          Mr. MILLER: Certainly there are family members that believe that, in part because he was a deeply devout Catholic. He was an expert in military ethics. He had dealt with issues of post-traumatic stress. So how does a guy like this end up committing suicide?

          BLOCK: At the same time, you describe in detail in your story a number of incidents leading up to this death where he seems troubled. He seems quite agitated.

          Mr. MILLER: He does clearly become more agitated as time goes by in Iraq. The first signs you see is he writes home some letters which say things like, `I'm not sure I could have made it through last night' and suggests that he's going through a lot of stress in his work. What worries him most, clearly, is his feeling that profit has overtaken military values like duty, honor, country in Iraq. In the final note he leaves and in his e-mails home, in his conversation with his friends, he talks about `I didn't come here to be surrounded by greedy contractors. I didn't come here to be a part of a mission that has been corrupted by concerns of money and things like that. For me, in some ways, it becomes a metaphor for the way the Iraq War has been fought, which is to outsource a lot of which has been done to private companies and so rather than having idealistic soldiers or young bureaucrats or whatever doing the work in Iraq you have people doing it for motives which are not altruistic and pure but rather for the bottom line.'

      •  Color me suspicious (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kimberley, ilona, JuliaAnn, supersoling

        when I read that a 44 year old Army colonol and scholar of military ethics committed suicide after discovering possible corruption by US contractors in Iraq.  I can't help but wonder if this was really a "suicide".  

        "He that sees but does not bear witness, be accursed" Book of Jubilees

        by Lying eyes on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 09:23:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  honor?? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, Carbide Bit

      we threw that out in mainstream society along time ago.
      look at enron, worldcom, tyco etc.
      why should our military be any different.
      sadly i think our whole society has been posioned by oppourtunistic thinking.
      there is going to be far worse to come. watch.

      life is not a dress rehearsal

      by johnfire on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 06:03:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is posts like yours that make me read as (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        many comments as I can.

        why should our military be any different.
        sadly i think our whole society has been posioned by oppourtunistic thinking.

        "I open the Times and scan for the latest whitewash ...It's always there, some slimey rhetorical hairball distracting from the substantive issue." MediaFreeze

        by Carbide Bit on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 06:26:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Honor does exist (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ilona, Dallasdoc, Militarytracy, Jay Elias

      Captain Ian Fishback and Lt. Colonel Weshusing
      are two that come to mind immediately.

      Honor recognizes that war is something to be engaged in with great reluctance and great responsibility.

      "Glory" is sought by the self-centered and obtained with the blood of their subordinates - or their own if they are particularly incompetent. A good leader puts the lives of his subordinates ahead of his own.  He would not ask anyone to do what he himself would not do.

      Many are a few drawn to the military for the "right" reasons - Duty, Honor and Country. Soemtimes principle must be defended with blood.  But too often our nation puts them to the test because political leaders fail at their job.  Any task that requires a large number of lives could have been accomplished with far less loss of life by more compent men - or those with more foresight. And when the cause is not just, a nation betrays those that serve it.

      I fear that this country is making the transition from Republic to Empire.  Our own citizens no longer serve. Our own "aristocracy" is notably missing from military ranks.  Our President touts those who die for our country and serve - though not citizens.  The parallel to Rome is inescapable.  

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