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.