Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Final Word on Haditha

I was just reading a fellow blogger, and unfortunately I've found the author's views to be pretty representative of military reactions to the killings in Haditha/Ishaqi: Blame the media, blame the Left, etc. etc. I've noted a prevalence of this twisted view that blaming any soldier for wrongdoing in this case is a direct attack against all in the military, and indeed against American values, and it makes me furious.

So for those who might ever read this, I'm going to say one more thing about the killings in Haditha, and for those in the military, it would behoove you to listen up, and listen well.

We are soldiers. Regardless of how we are put to use, we are supposed to be the elite among American citizens. America's Finest, remember? We're supposed to represent something. We're supposed to stand up for the weak, and police the strong. We're not perfect, but we ARE expected to make respectable moral judgements. And when we forget that, we not only disgrace ourselves, but our units and our country. And trust me, our country doesn't really need anymore help in that department.

From Day One, we are trained to work as a team--support each other, police each other, even CARRY each other if necessary. We are supposed to be family, and we are, as the drill sergeants say, "Only as strong as our weakest soldier." Like it or not, despite whatever you may feel in the heat of combat, murdering civilians--even civilians who may conspire to kill you--is the act of a WEAK human being, of a person unable to control their baser emotional impulses.

I didn't kill the civilians in Haditha. Neither did you, probably. But in the wake of these atrocious crimes, it is clear that we have failed to pay heed to our training. At least, failed with regard to anything except how to cause harm.

And in the military, where one fails, ALL fail. Just like in Basic.


Blogger cinnabari said...


I should not have followed your link. The blood pressure rises. Fuck world peace, man. If I could wish for one fucking thing, it'd be universal critical analysis, so people could discuss without resorting to sides and name calling like a bunch of degenerate five year olds.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Susan as herself said...

I raise a glass to you. Here, here.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

Well, I don't know about the elite of American citizens but if you want to shoot for the goal then more power to you as long as you don't start thinking you've reached it.

The defensive reaction to the Hadith reports among the military and its more mindless supporters is both predictable and maddening. Facts are facts, and while we don't know every last thing (and never will) it's clear enough that marines murdered civilians there. Which marines and how many civilians, we're not sure. But we don't have to know those details to know that a massacre occurred.

Rather than blame the messengers or concoct a justification, the Marine Corps should stand up and face the music. The USMC in particular is always rattling on about being the repository of the original virtues, and about accountability and leadership, blah blah blah. Well, you really find out what people are made of when it's hard to live up to the promises as opposed to when it's easy to make them.

In any case, Spc. Freeman, this civilian really appreciates what you wrote on your blog. I wish I heard more of it our of the military.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Raven said...

Freeman, I think you miss a point here. Michael's post was not about whether the Marines are innocent or guilty. His post was about the cartoon that assumes guilt- as I get the impression you are as well.

Michael is a Marine and he has a far better understanding of that than you or I. He has seen the best and worst of them. If the Marines involved in the Haditha incident are found guilty I can assure you we all want justice. We're just not sure, YET, as no one should be, that the stories being out out are truthful. We don't know. So why not give the Marines a chance? Innocent until proven guilty used to mean something in America. Guess it's the other way around now huh?


11:37 PM  
Blogger Kender said...

I, for one, would like to see some ballistic evidence.

In a regular court of law, ballistic evidence usually proves what gun shot what person, right?

So show me some ballistic evidence, and prove it came from a certain marine's rifle and then talk about guilt. Until then, regardless of what YOU hear or read, innocence should be presumed.

The fact that so many of you are so willing to believe the worst of our Marines that haven't been charged (as far as I know of at this moment) with a crime yet shows that you have some kind of a problem being objective or you simply don't like our military.

Either way, it reminds me of the pronouncments of Rove being indicted....and you saw how well that worked out.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

It would be nice to see ballistic evidence, but you have to consider that the USMC waited four months to request a criminal investigation. Ballistic evidence will be unavailable.

No dummies, the Marine Corps. They fixed the outcome before they ever started their so-called "investigation." Some virtue. Some accountability.

2:38 AM  
Anonymous Seth said...

Agreed, Kender and Raven.

The investigation's not over yet, but all too many have already decided upon the guilt of these Marines.

My own view of this is that these folks(I discount liberals, as declaring the guilt of these Marines meets a hostile liberal agenda wherein actual facts mean nothing) who have already pronounced these Marines guilty are doing a great disservice not only to our country, but they are unreasonably denying people who have put their butts on the line for us any kind of benefit of the doubt. I say unreasonable because 99.99999% of those doing the talking have no idea what they're talking about. How could they if NCIS hasn't even announced any conclusions, and they are more in command, by this time, of the facts than the rest of us are?

2:44 AM  
Blogger Raven said...

The Marines initially did investigate this. It wasn't until this video came out, three months later, that the hoopla began. I think you live in that world of conspiracy and intrigue WW. You're making some pretty broad assumptions. With no absolute proof other than accounts that may have been forged, pictures and videos that have been questioned for authenticity. Typical of liberal mind set though.

The difference between you and me: I like to assume innocence until guilt is proven. If the Marines are found guilty, then they should be punished with all that they deserve. I have faith in the system, esp. the military system. You, on the other hand will assume guilt right from the get go, and therefore will never accept innocent. You will forever believe in coverup theories and other reality based bulloney. It's too bad. Someday it might be you who is accused of committing a crime that you didn't do. There will be people just like you though, assuming your guilt. What goes around comes around.

4:09 AM  
Anonymous WW said...

There is no forensic evidence because the Marine Corps waited four months to request a criminal investigation.

Here's what actually happened:

1. Marines murder civilians in mid November

2. USMC issues press release next day including lies about firefight and deaths from bombs

3. USMC photog takes pics next day that contradict official account. Marine Corps buries pics.

4. Iraqi photog takes video that contradicts official account. USMC unaware of it.

5. Time magazine gets Iraqi video in January. Asks USMC about it. USMC spokesliar calls it enemy propaganda.

6. Time keeps asking questions. Marine Corps goes "oops," and has Army investigate.

7. Army leaks preliminary statement in February backing USMC lies.

8. Time prints story in March. Effluent hits fan. USMC requests criminal investigation

The USMC "investigation" is phony. It's too late to get forensic evidence. The USMC knew that from the get-go. In Pentagon-speak, it's called "slow-rolling."

No marines will ever be convicted of the murders, or if they are by the kangaroo military justice system, the convictions will be overturned on appeal. The coverup will be punished "administratively," i.e., officers will walk.

Knee-jerk military "supporters" will claim there was no massacre. USMC will claim that a full 'n fair investigation was done. Iraqis will remain dead. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Oh, but not to fear. The Marine Corps laid a few bucks on the families. It's the American Way. Hush money. The mafia knows what that's all about.

5:33 AM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

Raven, Seth, Kender, thanks for dropping by.

I understand your points. I do. I'm not really concerned with the supposed guilt or innocence of these individuals. That's for CID or the corresponding criminal investigative agency for that branch to determine.

What DOES concern me, however, is the knee-jerk reaction that conservatives have put forward in response to the mere SUGGESTION of guilt. It is almost as thought conservatives find it ideologically threatening that somewhere, some American might have committed a war-crime. One of those thoughts that seems to be anathema to establishment dogma. And the knee-jerk reaction to that thought, and its contagiousness, is exactly what I fear prevents us from having an objective mind.

Might these Marines be innocent? Sure. Is there evidence that they aren't? I sure as hell think so. But if you think Americans don't do fucked-up shit during deployments, you're fooling yourselves.

6:23 AM  
Blogger brogonzo said...

"Assuming guilt"... would invading a country based on the suggestion it was full of weapons of mass destruction -- only to find none -- count as assuming guilt before all the facts were made available?

Freeman, you've got it nailed -- there are a lot of conservatives who find the very idea that the marines might be guilty ideologically offensive. This "wait till the facts are in" line is merely a stalling tactic. No investigation or facts need to be in for everything to be blamed on the evil "MSM."

It's not surprising that few reporters are taking the Marine Corps at its word on this issue, because the Corps' first move was to lie about it, claiming that 15 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of a roadside bomb.

As WW pointed out, now that four months have gone by, there's little hope of anyone turning up any physical evidence to support one theory or the other. Ballistics, for example, will not be able to determine the size of the bullets used to kill the victims, for example.

But many milbloggers excitedly linked to the version of the story given by a staff sergeant who supposedly was there. Seems like the side of the story given by a suspect is normally of very limited value. But in this case, it's gospel truth, since it backs up the "marines couldn't possibly be guilty" meme.

One last point -- I've yet to see any of the supposedly "anti-military" crowd (John Murtha, et al) actually use this incident to try to "smear the entire military." Huh? Did I sleep through something?

6:49 AM  
Blogger Raven said...

Freeman, thank you for clarifying your position on this.

I don't think my reaction was of the knee jerk varity nor do I think Michael's was either. Michael's post was about the cartoon, which is what started this debate.

Like I said, if the Marines are guilty, they will be held accountable as they should. I do think the "massacre" story is falling apart though. And I know the military isn't perfect; there are bad apples in every bunch.

I have a hard time trusting the media with this stuff- they have gotten it wrong before. The video is being questioned as we speak. It's authenticity
is being questioned, as is the Human Rights Watch group that produced this video. Time went with the video and never questioned it's source- a reporters first mistake. Of course this forced the USMC to do another invesitgation. The Marines involved with the Haditha incident admit they killed innocent people but the circumstances are very different, according to them. Rep Murtha went out and told the world the Marines "killed in cold blood" when he really has no proof of that. He of all people should know better, being a Marine himself. And now it's being reported and I saw a copy of his letter at his web site- Murtha is interested in being Speaker of the House if the Dems win. So he does have political motive to make a name for himself. He should not have used the Haditha events as his stepping stone because he will forever be associated with that- be the results for or against the Marines.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

In a symbolic way, the other civilians getting gunned down these days are the general population at the point of the polarization gun. Liberals are hostile. Conservatives are hostile. The middle is the crossfire zone.

Figure and ground and the reverse. We are all wearing mirrored sunglasses and yelling at each other.

3:50 PM  
Blogger labottomme said...

Hi there. I found your blog through the comment you made on fmcfun's blog re. women in drag and masculinity accentuating their raw nature...i agree with that 100%.

I found this entry of yours re. military interesting. I don't know the full story on Haditha, but it sounds about the same as any torture / "unnecessary" brutality within war pretty much anywhere (to me there is no difference, within war or outside of it, between "civilians" and "non-civilians").

I'm just curious, why and how do those in the military (and civlians, for that matter), differentiate between civlians and non-civilans, as though there is some concrete separation between human bodies that comes into fruition when one dons a military uniform. that's not to say that women in uniform aren't hot, but that's a whole other whole thing is that violence, in whatever context, is problematic, and i don't see any use for armies or police - people give such power and authority to these people, and what have they done for us exactly? the history behind the 'need' for policing and eventually, armies, was that kings hired lower-class 'thugs' to protect them from the poor because the royalty stole from the poor - that is how they got rich back then, and continue to do so today. so armies and wars today just perpetuate this resource theft, and murder to attain these riches is backed by the state and free from punishment by law (in which the law and so-called justice is set up by the elite, FOR the elite)...

anyway, sorry for the novella but i couldn't help commenting after reading your entry.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Yoda said...

I agree with all your observations. The Military is supposed to be the best people from a nation. However, as you said yourself, that is not true. Since time immemorial, soldiers in wars have committed atrocities. In ALL wars. It is the responsibility of the civilian government to make an appropriate decision when to use force and when not to. I am apalled each day as to the very flimsy evidence based on which this war was started. When Abu Ghraib incident happened, the comment I heard on CNN was that it is a 'one-off' incident. Then Haditha. Then Ishaqi. Are all these one off incidents?

No. The last word cannot be to just punish the soldiers (who committed the crimes, granted), but to address the concerns around the circumstances which led them to do these horrible acts.

6:24 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

Ah. I see some of the degenerate five year olds arrived, after all, spouting all the predictable party-line crap.

What no one appears to address, in all the Bad Liberals/Bad Conservatives rhetoric*, is the psychological consequences of deploying and redeploying people into urban combat situations. The Marines are human. Not superhuman, which both Rad Left and Rad Right seem invested in believing. They are not beyond making mistakes, and ironically that's the standard to which both sides seem to be holding them. They either did, or did not do it-- but they should not have, because somehow 19-23 year olds who're getting shot at every fucking day for months on end for *years* on end (Kilo's been over there, what, three times in as many years?) are expected to be flawless.

They're probably PTSDed. They're probably not unique in the Corps or any other branch. And there's only going to be more of them the longer the war continues. We would be better served actually addressing that, non?

But it's so much easier to blaze in and declare the USMC to be butchers, or the 'liberals' to be enemies of America uninterested in facts, than to think about the actual soldiers and Marines on the ground and the whys and maybes of what happened. Innocent or guilty, no middle ground, and no interest in communication.


*leaving aside those capable of critical thought, which appears to be the tiny minority

6:43 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

cinnibari, it is you who is engaging in bumper-sticker thinking. You are using the tactic of reductio ad absurdum, mischaracterizing the arguments given by myself and others with respect to the Haditha Massacre and the culpability of the marines who committed it.

No one here has stated, suggested or implied that marines are anything but human. No one has established an expectation that they be superhuman or flawless. No one has suggested that the Haditha massacre was unique as war crimes go. No one has said or implied that the USMC is butchers.

What I've said is that marines murdered a number of civilians that day; that the Marine Corps lied about it, not just once but at least twice; that a criminal investigation didn't commence for four months, and therefore the details won't be known; that the knee-jerk response from the "milblogs" about innocent until proven guilty is a dodge because no one has accused specific marines but rather has cited well-known evidence that marines committed murder that day.

Yes, of course there should be further investigations and trials. There are many details yet to be known. But there are also many details that, at this late date, will forever be unknowable. The response of the "milbloggers" has been to cite the unknowables, and the individual presumption of innocence, to deny what we know to be true: that marines massacred civilians in Haditha that day.

Beyond that, a frequent refrain from the knee-jerk crowd has been that to take note of these facts is to somehow accuse all marines or even the entire U.S. military of being war criminals. That's just a lie. No one has done that.

As for Murtha having said that marines committed murder "in cold blood," I see nothing wrong with his statement. The facts support a massacre. In cold blood? I think so, given who was killed, where and how. Those who object to Murtha's words just don't want the bad news.

Nations that lie to themselves lose their wars, their honor and eventually their wealth, security and freedom.

7:30 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

WW: whyever did you assume you were one of the degenerate five year olds...? Think twice before throwing Latin around, in any case.

Murtha is playing for an audience. So is that newspaper cartoon to which Freeman's blog-link refers. So are the 'milbloggers', when they presume that any discussion of fault is somehow a broad-brush attack on the integrity of all troops. And so... well, yeah. So are you.

Mafia, you said. Hush money, you said. That's its own labelling and judgment, and it's not focused on individuals who may or may not have committed a crime. It's pointing at the overarching organization as being somehow criminal. Why is it any less (absurdly) essentializing to slam the Corps while excusing individual Marines, as it is to slam individual Marines while exonerating the Corps?

Frankly, I'd be unsurprised if the massacre occurred. And I'd be unsurprised if it didn't. I don't assume cover-up, having decent personal experience with military admin. I also don't assume there wasn't one. Neither human error or human malice would shock me overmuch. Data's been lost. We won't know for sure or ever, what happened. Justice, or lack thereof, won't bring anyone back from the dead.

I am far more concerned with what we're doing to our troops, and whether or not we've bothered to adequately prepare them for a fourth generation war. We cannot prevent another (alleged! lest I be accused of prejudging!) Haditha by throwing troops into 'ethics' classes. The whole way we envision and execute 'war' needs to change. A little forethought along those lines might've prevented this whole business (the "war". Haditha. Abu Ghraib. The list grows.)

If you can get that on a bumpersticker, lemme know and I'll buy one.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

Anyone who makes a public statement "plays for an audience." So, yes, I am playing for an audience. As for politicians, their purpose in life is to play for an audience. Would you prefer that they do their jobs in secret? I wouldn't.

When I criticize "the Marine Corps," what I'm actually doing is criticizing the actions that bear its implicit stamp of approval. Individual marines don't pay out tens of thousands of dollars; that decision is made collectively at a higher pay grade. Individual marines might have put out one mistaken press release, but when a USMC captain tells Time magazine to ignore Haditha because the stories about what happened there are enemy propaganda, I think it's fair to attribute that to "the Marine Corps" rather than a statement by a single officer.

Similarly, the decision on whether, when and how to investigate something like Haditha is a collective one made at a fairly high level. That's something that also can be fairly attributed to "the Marine Corps." While it's true that an institution is ultimately comprised of individuals, as you go up the chain of rank and complexity the decisions made and actions taken have an institutional character.

You write as if a massacre might not have occurred. That's primarily what I am zeroing in on here. We know that this happened. Even if no individual marines are convicted -- due to an institutional decision not to gather the evidence in time -- it has no bearing on whether civilians were massacred. That evidence is already in; to pretend otherwise is to engage in a knee-jerk dodge from truth, honor and accountability.

I agree with you about ethics classes. I regard them as one more example of the Marine Corps p.r. propaganda machine at work. There are a couple things you can say about the USMC. One is that they're tenacious fighters, often courageous. The other is that they're very good at telling everyone how very good they are. To a fault, I'd say.

Here's your bumpersticker:

Haditha? We'll Never Know!

9:15 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

One other thing. I agree that "justice won't bring anyone back from the dead." But when has that ever been the purpose of seeking justice?

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WW- reductio ad absurdam? I don't think so. I think that Cinnabari was just saying that the rhetoric in this case has little or nothing to do with the fate of the victims or the fate of the Marines who stand accused of murdering non-combatants. The majority of words generated by either side are intended to do their work on a meta-commentary level. One side of the blogosphere tries to turn an individual incident into a synecdoche for the entire war in Iraq. The other side tries to create a disconnect between the incident and any institutional decisions which might have contributed to the situation. Either way, the indivduals involved have ceased to be people and have instead become rhetorical pawns. How is that a reductio?

As she said, the individuals involved in this are on their third rotation. The military has been stretched too thin for too long. Haditha, like Abu Ghraib and so many other black marks on our military, is more a psychological failing than a moral one. The troops are being stressed to the max and hung out to dry by those in charge of dealing with the problem.

The military is being broken from the bottom up, not by failures of morals or morale, but by stress and psychological damage, and no one seems to notice this or care in the contest for the rhetorical moral high ground.


9:33 PM  
Anonymous WW said...

cinnabari has reduced facts to caricatures, with the goal of making those who present those facts appear to be making statements that they haven't made. Why? Because cinnabari thinks that there's no proof of a massacre, when in fact there is ample proof.

The rhetoric has everythin to do with the "fate of the victims." U.S. marines murdered a number of civilians. That's what we're discussing.

Is the Haditha massacre a "synecdoche for the entire war in Iraq?" Well, first things first. I actually had to look up the word, and found that your use of it is obscure at best. In plainer English, you seem to be saying that "one side of the blogosphere" is trying to make Haditha a symbol, or maybe a metaphor, for the whole thing.

I have seen no evidence of that, but in any case we're having (or trying to have) the discussion in this thread, and I've seen no one doing what you say. All I've seen is cinnabari and now you throwing sand in the gears to try and derail an orderly debate. If there are any metaphors or synecdoches involved, I'd say what the two of you are doing is what the military and its knee-jerk defenders do in general, only writ small.

Yes, military members are under extraordinary stress. Murtha says the Army is broken, and maybe he's right. I don't know because I'm not there. But all of that is somewhat beside the point; stress might be a partial explanation for a massacre but it's not a justification, and the same goes for a general breakdown in leadership and discipline.

Haditha and Abu Ghraib are more "psychological failing(s) than moral?" Here I offer my most vigorous protest of all. At Haditha, a bunch of civilians -- somewhere between 15 and 25 that we know about -- were slaughtered. Abu Ghraib is but one of many manifestations of the systematic process, ordered by civilian leaders and carried down through the command chain, of institutionalized torture.

This is Nuremberg Tribunal kind of stuff. Psychological failings? I couldn't possibly care less about the wounded psyches of torturers, murderers and their superiors. Let 'em worry, I say. Let 'em worry a lot.

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First the rhetorical, then the more important details.

WW- "I actually had to look up the word, and found that your use of it is obscure at best. In plainer English, you seem to be saying that "one side of the blogosphere" is trying to make Haditha a symbol, or maybe a metaphor, for the whole thing."

No, actually, I meant "synecdoche," which is why I used that term. Haditha is not a metaphor. It is not an analogous comparison because it is a part of the war as a whole, rather than something like the war in some sense. Nor is it a symbol of the war. What it is is a part of the war -- a part of the institutional structure standing in, in the case of much public rhetoric, for the whole of the war on some level. "Part for whole" is what distinguishes synecdoche as a rhetorical figure -- it is a transformation of scale. Check Kenneth Burke's Philosophy of Literary Form if you doubt me.

As for whether or not it is a psychological failing, rather than a moral failing on the part of those involved in the incident, I was thinking of Milo's earlier reference to the work of Milgram and to Zambrano's Prison Experiment, (which was, after all, funded by the US Navy and the USMC). I am not saying that individuals should not be held responsible for their actions, merely that the actions performed by an individual do not reflect their inherent moral qualities so much as they reflect the circumstances under which they have to try to balance conflicting directives.

On the whole I think that changing circumstances under which our troops operate is a more effective approach to dealing with future potential Hadithas than using potential Hadithas as a crucible in which to test the morality of our troops.


3:07 AM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

I am deeply impressed by your telepathic skills. They appear to be matched only by your reading comprehension.

I never said I didn't think civilians died. I have refused to use the term massacre because it's inflammatory and does not serve the purposes of furthering the dialog it's abundantly clear you can't have. If Marines killed 15 people in cold blood, then you can have the term massacre and I will join you in its use.

I was trying to address possible motives and circumstances surrounding Haditha, which--to an astute reader--might suggest I believe the events themselves did, in fact occur, whatever I happen to be calling them. Characterizing it otherwise is simple dishonesty.

If we don't understand the whys of something, we can't act to prevent it again. Actions come with intent and surrounded by circumstances. It's the latter two things that concern me, because I can imagine people I know and care about being in those kinds of situations and maybe breaking, maybe not, but God, I'd like to prevent them ever having to go through it. Clearly you have a different agenda.

::shrug:: Guess that means we're done.

3:07 AM  
Anonymous WW said...

I think that changing circumstances under which our troops operate is a more effective approach to dealing with future potential Hadithas than using potential Hadithas as a crucible in which to test the morality of our troops.

No one in this thread has used "potential Hadithas as a crucible in which to test the morality of our troops." Until you dropped in here with what I frankly regard as divergent and pretentious hyper-academic analysis -- something I am quite capable of doing, my need to look up the occasional word notwithstanding -- this was a discussion about a real event in a real place.

I have refused to use the term massacre because it's inflammatory
The term isn't what's inflammatory. The reality is what's inflammatory. When 15 or 24 civilians are murdered, it's a massacre. That's a fact. Get used to it. Nations that lie to themselves about facts lose their wars.

If we don't understand the whys of something, we can't act to prevent it again.
I absolutely believe in trying to understand why things happen. That said, it is the "what" that matters most. You see, I am in that camp that says, for example, that I don't regard a murderer's horrible childhood as an extenuating circumstance.

People are responsible for what they do. If we can't identify the responsible parties, that's no reason to deny the event itself, as you so obviously ache to do.

I can imagine people I know and care about being in those kinds of situations and maybe breaking, maybe not, but God, I'd like to prevent them ever having to go through it. Clearly you have a different agenda.
My agenda is two-fold. First, to acknowledge and face the truth of the Haditha massacre. That starts with a straightforward realization that marines massacred civilians on that fateful morning in November.

Second, I want to know as much we can about who was responsible for the massacre itself, and for the various elements of the attempted coverup. That's what justice is about.

But, given the Marine Corps having delayed its criminal investigation for four months, I am skeptical that we'll get the answers that I want or that you (claim to) want.

The difference is that I won't use the lack of complete answers to deny the underlying reality. You will. Again, nations that lie to themselves lose their wars. Really.

Finally, and once again: To acknowledge the reality of Haditha is not to want to discredit the Marine Corps as a military organization, or to indict marines in general. Those who make this argument are attempting the cheesiest of dodges. I know your game, and I'm calling bullshit on it.

5:35 AM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...


I'd just like to state that, having observed everyone's comments, that you're more in agreement than I think you all realize. Everyone wants to know the truth, and everyone wants to know how to prevent such future instances. But I think I'm going to have to interject here, in the interest of preventing a flame-war.

Everyone play nice.

10:08 AM  
Blogger labottomme said...

that's too bad freeman, i think a thread with such energy means that people truly care about this topic - it's hard to find much passion on this side of the world, and sadly, when it is found, it's often directed in the wrong places...and with such cutting hostility, as demonstrated by cinnabari. but that aside, i think this is an interesting discussion.

I think you're right, everyone seems to be upset at these 'massacres' that have gone on against 'civilans', but what i'm saying is that WAR is one big's mere semantics that the government/military use (re. civilans vs. 'non'-civilans - aren't we all human?!?!) to make soldiers feel better about murdering in cold blood for the state and not getting punished for it. but soldiers get punished anyway, whether it's "proper" murder or not, in their personal lives, when they come back from war w/ PTSD and of course long-term health defects that continue to escalate in severity as harsher chemicals and bio warfare are used in the theater of war. now i know i'm probalby talking 'civilian' language cuz i don't know the proper terminology within the military hierarchy, but that doesn't mean i can't critically look at the gong show of war that goes on from a macro perspective.

And i don't think it's the soliders' "fault" for any of these murders, because the soldiers are just doing the job that they've been brilliantly programmed into doing. As they say, "Join the Army: Be Everything They Tell You To Be".

i don't think it's possible to play all that "nice" when we're talking about murder and who is for or against it, depending on what kind of language is used to support it. I think it CAN be really simple: don't join the army (globally - everyone) - if the elite don't have scapegoats to carry out their agendas, then there would be no war. do you think these elite would go to war, or send their own kids into the battlefield? not bloody likely. they need the working classes to do their dirty work, and they use the propoganda of so-called patriotism to support the cause, to make families send their kids, siblings, lovers, off to their own deaths, all in the name of...the state? "homeland security"?? what is that exactly, when our own government are the real threat to OUR own security?

call me a tree-hugging hippie, but i don't think there are any wars "won" if people die in the process. nothing is worth that, and fighting in a war (or being murdered within it) is far from heroism. just cuz the state says it's so, doesn't mean it is.

i'm not interesting in playing any blame games - i'm just calling bullshit when i smell it, and to me, that's war, and everything and everyone involved in it; but without laying individual blame, which seems to be where people get stuck cuz nobody wants to be the bad guy.

11:44 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

damn! what have you started here? i do think, mr. milo, that you see the similarities of your commentors. i, too, see they have more in common than they do not. regardless of guilt or innocence, the fact remains, people were murdered. by who? that remains to be seen. and i would be willing to bet the NO ONE, and i mean no one, wants any of our troops to have anything to do with it. liberals may not be behind this war, but they are behind the troops. and i hope, would never use any person in uniforma as a launching point to protest this war.
this has been a great debate y'all. you make us all smarter by putting your thoughts out there - even heated as they may be. aren't we lucky we can do this? good day to you all!

2:09 AM  
Anonymous WW said...

Well, I'd differ with labottome, who in so many words makes a pacifist case. Now, even though I'm not a pacifist and could offer the usual straight-ahead arguments against it, I'm not sure there's a point. I mean, who hasn't heard that debate in one form or another?

I don't know how old everyone is here, but I get the sense that at the age of 48 I might be on the older end of the spectrum. labottome's posting reminds me a little bit of the 1988 presidential campaign, specifically when there was a presidential debate and Bernard Shaw of CNN asked Michael Dukakis asked the following question: "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

Instead of saying something like, "I'd want to cut the motherfucker's head off with a dull butter knife and stuff it down the hole where his neck used to be, but instead I'd call 911", he gave some bloodless answer about opposing the death penalty and how the crime rate in Massachusetts has declined. Christ, no wonder Bush I beat the living shit out him.

So labottome, I could do the same thing. You know, say something like, Come on over here. Let me knock your teeth so far down you'll be taking your meals through the other opening. Now are you a pacifist? You know, and then you get to come back with a Dukakis-like response that violence isn't the answer, yadda yadda yadda. No, I won't do that because it's cheesy and obvious.

Instead, I'll take a different tack. I'll start by stating my believe that no one is a pacifist. Okay, virtually no one. The other 99% have their breaking point. So it's a matter of where you draw the line. What worries me more than pacifism itself is the rest of the logic, i.e., the lumping together of all killing without any differentiation, as if blowing away a legless old guy in a wheelchair and a 3-month-old infant isn't any different than shooting someone as he aims a mortar at you.

What also worries me is that happens when the line is crossed and the pacifist becomes something else. Having abandoned his original principles, is the only thing remaining the earlier lack of differentiation? In this regard I think of how, prior to Ronald Reagan's presidency, a $60 billion deficit was regarded as a national crisis. Then the Republicans abandoned fiscal responsibility, and it was like your classic Sunday school preacher on his first drunk.

Or take Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Jewish lawyer of the classic mold, except now he's a neo-con. The passion for justice still exists, but it's taken a new form. Dershowitz thinks torture is okay as long as they use sterile needles under the victim's fingernails. Trust me folks, if they ever get the Democrats on the torture bandwagon that is truly when you'd better worry.

So anyway, labottome, my basic point is that you can be as pacifist as you want, but in the process don't forget that murder occurs on a scale, i.e., manslaughter to first degree. Even in the horrible, there are gradations. It's not all the same. Oh, and one last thing, as opposed to some others in this thread I think you've posted in good faith. So don't take anything I've written as a personal attack or rebuke, 'cause it's not.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous WW said...

Let me say it slightly differently. From the right wing, I see a lack of differentiation and a general label of support for the war. From labottome I see a lack of differentiation and a general label of opposition to ALL war.

I don't concur with either way of looking at this. Call me one of those 5W's and an H kind of guys. The way I see Haditha, we know Who at the group level but not (yet) at the individual level. We know What, albeit not every detail. We know When. We have a pretty damn good idea of Why, although there are details to fill in. We know How.

The broader philosphical questions are a lot less interesting to me than to some others here. I don't worry too much about the effect on the USMC's reputation, at least in the sense that recognizing the facts and seeking to affix responsibility should be avoided out of fear of huring the Corps.

On the other side of it, I don't think the events of Haditha constitute any particular indictment of war, or necessarily of the U.S. way of fighting it there. Maybe if that thread is tugged at, the result will be a fuller examination of Fallujah, which I think was far more problematic in ethical terms that we've been told.

But Haditha itself strikes me as one of those horrible things that happens in wars. It's not, say, like the torture stuff, which in my opinion carries broad and deep significance far beyond what's been revealed of the abuses themselves. Haditha's a one-off as far as I can tell, at least for the moment.

3:32 AM  
Anonymous WW said...

Oops, I forgot something. We also know Where.

3:33 AM  
Blogger EL said...

I think that's part of what makes people so upset about this : for better or worse, we do (or I do, I admit) expect that our soldiers are the "cream of the crop" - that's why they enlisted/went through an academy to serve their country, which most of us don't feel the duty to do.

Of course our men and women in uniform are just that - men and women, in uniform - and some will act wrongly under pressure as any of us would. But what "wrong" means when you're dealing with life and death, torture and humanity is very different than what "wrong" is for the rest of us in our day-to-day. Which is why our soldiers HAVE TO BE BETTER, really.

I, too, want to know the Truth of all this, but I also feel like we can't just sit around waiting either. Anything we would do if it were the worst it could be, we should do anyway, as an overall measure. Only for the individuals fingered in Haditha does this truly matter.

5:48 PM  

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