Thursday, June 01, 2006

Haditha and Ishaqi

The news about the apparent massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha by Marines and the possible cover-up is particularly depressing. The incident occurred in November after a Marine was killed in a roadside bombing driving the survivors into a rage. This description of what happened by witnesses appeared in the L.A. Times today:

After the roadside bombing, the Marines arrived first at the door of Abdul
Hamid Hassan Ali, 89, an amputee who used a wheelchair. They shot him, then
turned their guns on his three sons and their families, survivors said.

Waleed Abdul Hameed, a 48-year-old worker in Al Anbar's religious affairs office, was among the first of the family members to be gunned down. His 9-year-old daughter, Eman, said she was still wearing her pajamas when the Marines arrived. Her 7-year-old brother, Abdul Rahman, said he hid his face with a blanket when his father was shot.

A few minutes later, the boy saw his mother fall to the ground, dying."

I saw her while she was crying," he said. "She fell down on the floor bleeding." Speaking days ago in Haditha, months after the attacks, the boy broke into tears, covered his eyes with his hands, and began to mutter to himself.

You can read the entire article here but I must warn you the description of the events by witnesses continues and does not get any better.

Then there is a report on the BBC tonight that U. S. soldiers may have been involved in the deliberate killing of 11 civilians in Ishaqi in March. This would contradict the official report four civilians were killed as a result of a firefight with an al Qaeda fighter. You may read the report here.

We must keep in mind the information we have is sketchy and, of course, the accused are innocent until proven guilty. We must also keep in mind if these stories proved to be true they are not a reflection of the vast majority of our troops serving in Iraq.

That said, it is also important to point out that if these stories prove to be true they likely reflect demoralized soldiers. Demoralized troops in the field in close contact with civilians are a prescription for trouble. We saw that in Vietnam. The investigators into these incidents need to examine not only what happened but why. The conduct of the war and reconstruction in Iraq by this administration has been so inept that it has to take responsibility for the mess it created. Our soldiers in the field are the ones in the middle of this mess and even if just a small handful takes out their frustrations on the civilian population the positive work of the others will be undone.

Second, the fact that President Bush learned about this from the press rather than from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield is just one more reason why Rumsfield should be fired. Of course, how many reasons must there be before the President takes action? Rumsfield should have been relieved of duty two or three years ago. President Bush owes that to our troops and he owes it to the Iraqi people.

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