Friday, June 02, 2006


The massacre of Iraqi civilians by US Marines that occurred more than seven months ago in Haditha has been getting a lot of attention lately, including, amazingly enough, in the United States, the home country of the grunts who did the killing and of their superiors (right on up to the Commander-in-Chief). Indiscriminate killing of Iraqis by US troops has been going on for more than three years now, but rarely does it generate much media coverage, let alone any outcry, in the country responsible. So what's so special about the Haditha "incident" (as these people and their stenographers prefer to call it)?

Two things, I think. First, the story was reported in Time magazine (though that just begs the question of why other such "incidents" were not) and second, it has seriously upset Congressman John Murtha, who is vocal with his outrage. This gives the Haditha massacre a visibility that cannot be ignored by the American press, public, or political elite, despite the military's efforts to cover it up. And as such it may well mark the beginning of the end of America's occupation of Iraq.

I'm not in a position to comment at length on the subject, but I recommend reading Dahr Jamail's and Rahul Mahajan's commentaries, and the recent posts on the subject at Left I on the News (here, here, here, and here). And I’d like to share a couple of observations of my own, after browsing the blogs and news reports over the past few days.

One thing that struck me was how much of the reporting, and especially the quotes from various American officials and think-tankers, present the Haditha massacre primarily as a P.R. problem for the US. Never mind the dead and orphaned, the most worrying effect is the tarnishing of the US (and Republican) image, and the undermining of support for the war. And so we are treated to thoughtful soul-searching analyses such as this:
One senior Republican Congressional aide said the members of his party on Capitol Hill were nervous about the political impact of the episode and wanted to get information out quickly to avoid a "drip, drip" of news stories leading up to November.

"You've got an election that the White House is doing everything possible to prevent from being a forum on the president and Iraq," said the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid appearing to criticize Republicans. "And here you have the biggest P.R. problem since Abu Ghraib running right smack into the summertime before a major campaign."

and this:
The case just added to the administration's many Iraq woes. Just when things seem like they can't get any worse, they do.
''When something like Haditha happens, it gives the impression that Americans can't be trusted to provide security, which is the most important thing to Iraqis on a day-to-day level,'' said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
''It tends to confirm all of the worst interpretations of the United States, and not simply in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and in the region,'' Cordesman said.
The disclosure of the allegedly unprovoked killings of civilians in the Iraqi town comes with the war looming large in this year's congressional elections, and with the administration still struggling to explain the American treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, compared Haditha to My Lai ''on a smaller scale.''
''My Lai symbolized the wanton reckless use of force that was associated with B-52 bombings, and the use of napalm, and the screaming children with their clothes burned off their skin by American incendiaries,'' O'Hanlon said.

And, while U.S. use of force in Iraq is on a far lower order of magnitude, ''these sort of things do reverberate,'' he said. ''And, yes, Iraqis do pay attention to the media, and they watch TV. Their overall impression of the U.S. is not very favorable, and this will make it a little worse.''

Gee, ya think? Now if only we could stop the media from reporting on it, the Iraqis probably wouldn't even notice all the violent deaths in their towns, and the bright US image would remain untarnished.

The other thing that struck me was the stubborn, deluded mindset of some Americans, who are prepared to defend US actions abroad no matter how demonstrably heinous they are. When I read some of the commenters here, like the one who closes every post with "God Bless America and God Bless the American military" or the one who morally justifies the killing of pregnant women and little kids as legitimate enemy targets, I'm reminded of William Blum's opening paragraphs in a recent Anti-Empire Report:
I'm often told by readers of their encounters with Americans who support the outrages of US foreign policy no matter what facts are presented to them, no matter what arguments are made, no matter how much the government's statements are shown to be false. Included amongst their number are those who still believe that Iraq had a direct involvement in the events of September 11, that Saddam Hussein had close ties to al Qaeda, and/or that weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

My advice is to forget such people. They would support the outrages even if the government came to their homes, seized their first born, and hauled them away screaming, as long as the government assured them it was essential to fighting terrorism (or communism). My (very) rough guess is that they constitute no more than 15 percent of the population. I suggest that we concentrate on the rest, who are reachable.


Blogger Lenni Quis said...

It's appalling to see how negligent the corporate press has become in fulfilling their Constitutionally-mandated role as the "Fourth Estate" check on governnemt power. It's also disgusting to see how many cowardly, sycophantic "good Germans" we have in this country -- what I generalize as the knee-jerks, red-necks and chicken-hawks. I'm always reminded of Daniel Ellsberg's statement on the Vietnam fiasco. to (Paraphrasing) "It was to the American people's credit that they had to be lied to in order to gain their support for war, but it was to their discredit that it was so easy to do so."

However, there are some decent journalistic pieces out there on this subject. Check out the Newsweek article, "Probing A Bloodbath."

6:08 AM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...

Nice quote from Ellsberg!

7:02 AM, June 08, 2006  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I agree with Blum that there's no point in trying to convince psycho-racist-fascists of facts or morals, but I do believe they should be called out--as you did in this post.

9:48 PM, June 10, 2006  

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