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In a diary posted yesterday regarding the massacre of 24 innocents in the Iraqi town of Haditha, the diarist made an error common to those not familiar with Military nomenclature. I don't mean to call that diarist out or even to criticize him or her, my intention here is to use the mis-application of the word "soldier" to launch into an examination of the larger issues at hand.

All seven other soldiers

It's Marines not soldiers. I have seen Marines, (and living next door to Camp Pendleton for 55 years as I have, I've seen a lot of curious behavior from these "elite" fighting men), beat the living shit out of a guy for making this same mistake in nomenclature and not taking seriously his verbal correction. Nothing at all surprises me about this "incident" in Haditha nor the lack of applied justice received from this proceeding in Military law.

And why should it? After all, precedent had been set long ago when no one at all was held responsible for numerous massacres of Korean civilians. The precedent was reinforced in Vietnam when the slaughter of My Lai, an entire village, was marched into ditches and machine gunned by men of the Americal Division (a division, an entire division that was infamous on the QT for this sort of behavior).

When the unsuccessful cover up of this incident, orchestrated by a young Major named Colin Powell, came unraveled a year after the murderous rampage occurred, a green Lieutenant by the name of Calley was settled on as the scapegoat (it's important that no one higher than non com or junior officer at the most be held responsible although orders of some kind came from someone higher up). After a helluva lot of media rigamarole and further polarization of the country around this issue- the most vociferous of war supporters treated Calley as a hero while the rest of us, fed a steady diet of America as the ultimate good guy, vanquisher of Nazis and the Evil Empire of Japan were dismayed that such a thing could have happened and demanded a full investigation with punishment meted out to one and all involved no matter how high up the chain of command responsibility lay, Calley ultimately spent a few months under house arrest. No one else involved was even inconvenienced.

The precedent was completely cemented during Gulf War I, when Shitboy Bush the elder maneuvered Saddam into invading Kuwait over the fact the Kuwaitis were slant drilling into Iraqi oil fields and stealing the oil (see "There Will Be Blood" to learn how this is done- "I drink your milkshake, I drink it ALL up" ring any bells?). In the ensuing rout of Iraqi conscripts, 20,000 of whom were fleeing Kuwait, practically unarmed and certainly no longer a viable fighting force, down a highway later openly called "The Highway of Death". It was called that because the US Army and Air Force, I suppose there were some Navy aircraft involved as well, literally lit that rode up and bar-b-queued those 20,000 helpless men and boys. There was no military necessity for this, it was done simply because it could be done and no one suggested that this cruel and despicable act, unworthy of any American should be treated as the war crime it was.

So when Iraqi act II rolled into town, it's no surprise murders of innocents would inevitably follow. (I'm of a mind every Iraqi killed was murdered since this war was one of naked aggression as defined by the very court constituted to prosecute high ranking Nazis but that's a whole 'nuther story). The only real question is not would such cowardly behavior from undisciplined troops happen but where and how often?

We only hear of the very few incidents that somehow didn't stay covered up. We know from the past, when soldiers have to fight an enemy who can't be distinguished from non-combatants, that discipline will break down and it will breakdown not always from the bottom up but from the top down as well. It takes a helluva an officer corps to maintain the discipline necessary to prevent such massacres when soldiers and marines see their buddies killed by some average looking guy whipping out an AK, or blown to bits by booby traps and road mines around towns like Haditha, it is simply human nature to lash out in frustration, fear and anger. Sadly for the most part, we lack such an officer corps that can maintain the discipline that honor (and military people are so very big on honor ya know) demands. The evidence is strong and writ large for over a hundred years that proves this. A hundred years you say? Well, yeah, I forgot to mention the murder of a million Fillipinos during the eradication of the insurrection in that country at the beginning of the 20th c.

And that's how it was a 100 years ago and directly after the genocide conducted against the indigenous peoples of North America, this was no big deal and to too large a segment of the American public, such deeds up to and including Haditha and all the others, were acts of heroism, not vicious murders. I won't even get into the assaults on Fallujah, a case of group punishment meted out in such a fashion the SS troopers that leveled Lidice in 1942 would not have recognized much of a difference between their orders and those handed down to the troops involved in the two and especially the second of the "battles" of Fallujah.

No matter how diligently the Poobahs in the Pentagon cover these crimes up, no matter how many Americans support such egregious behavior, the fact remains these slaughters and "battles" are all war crimes of great magnitude and sadly, on the rare occasion "justice" is imposed, it is imposed on the lowest ranking individuals possible. Just ask Lynndie England.

Sometimes I wonder if it is only the Mythologies of American Exceptionalism that hold this country together and if the full truth was ever known, half the country would be hopelessly shamed while the second half would treat these crimes as heroic acts and in any case, it's war and shit happens. Yeah, it does but it seems it's always happening to the people on the wrong end of American firepower.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

    by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:00:13 AM PST

  •  This will not go down well here... (3+ / 0-)

    You know...you really can't train young men to storm beaches in the face of a hail of lead and almost certain death without turning on the crazy.

    It's turning it back off that's the hard part.  

    Sadly, in the world we live in...we need the US Marine Corps.  

    •  Combat is a different thing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dave925

      Always nice to feel appreciated

      Happy just to be alive

      by exlrrp on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:18:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No Question Such a Unit is Intricale to a National (3+ / 0-)

      Defense but these wars of Imperialism and note that these crimes always occur in wars that can only be described as Imperialistic. And I don't mean to level any blame at all on the poor young people tossed into the maelstrom of war. I think I made it clear the true authors of these horrors are the members of an inadequate senior officer corps and by extension the civilians who set the policy that start these conflicts.

      "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

      by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:21:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe...just maybe... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yastreblyansky

        The jury of these men's peers, recognize what you said as well.

        And, it may be why they received a measure of leniency.

        Not everything is a conspiracy.

        •  Well, (0+ / 0-)

          Under the UCMJ you don't get a jury of your peers, you get a board of officers and maybe a high ranking enlisted man but I'm not sure of that. This guy probably had a damn good military lawyer though and it's more likely a little "blackmail" was used to plea this down from murder to dereliction of duty.

          That's quite a spread and remember, the Sergeant knows what his orders were and where they came from. He may also be aware of other successfully hushed up incidents, too.

          That might be info the brass would rather not come to light all in all.

          "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

          by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:55:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  NONE of this is going down well - here or anywhere (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snoopydawg, Dave925

      "..in the word we live in..we need the US Marine Corps. "

      If that's true, then we also need the ICC.

      Marines make enormous personal sacrifices and put their lives on the line for the country. They do their job, for which they are due honor and praise. But in doing this job they kill people. In certain situations these people are innocent civilians. I don't like that, but I do need to accept that if I accept your premise as being true.

      War Crimes Tribunals take "Marines" [soldiers] who have killed civilians in certain situations and put them in prison for the rest of their natural lives. They also do their job, for which they are due honor and praise. You need to accept that.

      If justice is not served in situations like this there will be consequences for us that ultimately be much much worse.

      If you see any tension here, it's because it's a shit world we live in, and/or your moral vision is blurring through some some sort of sentimental crap. Get over it.

  •  I was too angry to write (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave925, BOHICA, snoopydawg

    a coherent diary on this yesterday, but you seem to have kept it together in order to do so.

    I was surprised and disappointed how little coverage this joke of a criminal proceding got on this site.

    Some men fall in love with women. Some men fall in love with men. Some men and women fall in love with their money. We call them conservatives. Steve Bell

    by ewan husarmee on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:22:19 AM PST

    •  Sadly (2+ / 0-)

      It's but another in a long list of injustices but ultimately these Marines were not the quilty but were only the weapons of an officer corps implementing criminal policy set by civilians.

      Ultimately the justice these things demand would only be satisfied by the trial and conviction of such criminals as Dick Cheney, Shitboy the Younger and Rumsfeld!

      Too often, stung by the accusations of failure to support the troops by chicken hawk right wingers, we on the left bend over backwards to overlook the failings of our Military. Sadly, without proper justice, such criminal acts continue over and over again. But then these wholly Imperialistic wars of choice from the genocide of Indians to Haditha and who knows what other places in Iraq are entirely crimes conducted by civilian and military authorities at the highest levels.

      Our soldiers and Marines are merely the abused pawns of such criminal policy but in the end, as Nuremberg made clear, "I was only following orders" is not a legitimate defense. Still, as far as I know, few if any German enlisted men were ever prosecuted for war crimes. There are limits but these men are not nor should they be held responsible. They are as much victims of the criminal behavior of their leaders as the Iraqis they slaughtered.

      "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

      by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:36:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  war supporters treated Calley as a hero (5+ / 0-)

    Even Jimmy Carter when he was Governor of Georgia instituted "American Fighting Man's Day" and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on, after the sentencing of Calley.

    "I wish I was a big enough man to say I
     forgive them, but I swear to God, I can't."
    - Hugh C, Thompson - My Lai - Viet Nam.

    "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

    by BOHICA on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 07:02:02 AM PST

    •  Hugh Thompson is a Great Hero (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      who was too long denied his due by an Army unwilling to face up to what was commonplace criminal brutality. Thompson, a Huey Pilot, ordered his machine guns turned on the men of Calley's company and through his actions singlehandedly saved the lives of scores of Vietnamese children, women and old men.  

      He threatened to shoot his fellow soldiers if they did not immediately stand down and cease fire upon the civilians already herded into ditches, something reminiscent of the techniques of mass murder employed by SS Einsatzgruppen in villages across the western Soviet Union. Thompson meant it. The soldiers ceased their rampage.

      Thompson's actions (and those of the men under his command) were totally unknown at the time, a time I recall all too well. Thompson's heroism wasn't revealed until the 90's if my memory serves. Sadly, he left this life too young in 2006.

      It is men like Thompson that prove soldiers in extremely difficult circumstances can and do maintain that code of honor so important to the discipline of men trained to kill. They do that honor to their country, to the uniform they wear and the Army they serve in. They are all too few but thank God they do exist and are an inspiration to us all.

      "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

      by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:10:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was an OH-23 Raven (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dave925, Oh Mary Oh

        Not a Huey, which makes it even more courageous.

        Known as an aggressive and exceptional pilot, Warrant Officer Thompson flew a Hiller OH-23 Raven observation helicopter as part of Company B (the 'Warlords'). On March 16, 1968, he and his crew were supporting Task Force Barker (a battalion-sized element of the Americal) in a reconnaissance capacity. Serving as one door-gunner was his crew chief, Specialist Glenn Andreotta; the other door-gunner was Specialist Lawrence Colburn.

        Same Wiki link as yours.

        AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: My Lai is a truly great documentary on the event. You can get on Netflix.

        "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

        by BOHICA on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:56:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  War isn't an intellectual undertaking (0+ / 0-)

    at the level of the combat infantryman. Unless they "hate" the enemy, they aren't going to be effective.  I don't say that to justify savage behavior. It's just the basic truth. As sargeant Poe told us in AIT, the theory of the bayonet is to kill.

    The power of the Occupy movement is that it ....realizes a fundamental truth about American politics… there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.

    by orson on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 07:36:32 AM PST

    •  It is important (0+ / 0-)

      That the enemy is properly identified. This is the tragedy of wars of Imperialism and the resistance they attempt to defeat that the enemy is exceedingly difficult to ascertain.

      In such evil wars however, it is clear who the real enemy is- as the old gag goes, "We have found the enemy and he is US".

      "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." - Dorothy Day

      by Dave925 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:13:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "...the theory of the bayonet is to kill" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, Dave925

    non-combatants, women, elderly people, kids, farm animals, pets?

    That's not what we were taught. Incidents such as these can usually be traced back to poor leadership and training.

    The last time we stormed a beach in the face of incoming was about 60 years ago.

    Here's an interesting story of a young man who got involved in the dark side of things in Iraq. Unfortunately for him he had a conscience. It did not end well.

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    “Humankind can not bear very much reality.” - T.S. Eliot

    by truong son traveler on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 07:58:56 AM PST

  •  Point of historical info: The Marines were Navy (0+ / 0-)

    I think the diarist is right -- so many people make this mistake.

    For those who want to learn the difference, it's rooted in the history of the Navy.  

    Back in the days of sailing ships and pirates (non-Somali), and before air forces and such, a nation projected its force with ships.  

    But in ship to ship battles and boardings, or when ships arrived somewhere like the "shores of Tripoli" they had to not only have sailors but men to actually do the fighting.  

    That's what the Marines were -- the non-sailor fighting men of the Navy.

    That's why they tended to become an "elite" fighting force, to be the first in, to be the invasion force and so on, while the Army was primarily based in the US and when deployed overseas, as in WW I and WWII not only fought, but did a very wide range of mundane activities, such as transport, engineering, logistics, cooking, paper work, and peace time occupations.

    The "tip of the spear" is a small part of the Army, while the Marine Corps is mostly "tip of the spear."

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