June 1, 2006

Haditha vs. Abu Ghraib

Hatched by Dafydd

I want to make perfectly clear what I'm talking about in this post: in the real world, the allegations (no proof or even evidence yet) of what was done at Haditha are of course infinitely worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. A series of deliberate murders of children, women, and non-combatant men is obviously far more horrific than mere humiliation.

That aside, let's turn to the lesser question of politics... which could turn out to be of more moment than the reality.

The politics of Haditha may well determine whether we continue in the Global War on Terrorism. If the anti-war, anti-Bush maniacs can spin this into a Nuremburg trial, where the entire military is indicted for war crimes and atrocities, then the 110th Congress (which begins next January) may severely curtail the war effort... and if there is a Democratic president in 2009, he or she may simply pull us out, willy-nilly. So as sad as it may be to admit, the politics and the policy are inextricably intertwined.

So it's fair to ask, what will the politics of Haditha be?

If a thorough investigation ends up exonerating the Marines, then I believe there will be little problem: the usual suspects (here, in Europe, and in the Middle East) will scream cover-up; but theyr'e always crying "wolf!" anyway. We've already factored in that reaction.

So for analytical purposes, the only case that needs to be looked at is the awful possibility that the charges are at least partly true: that some Marines did, indeed, deliberately kill civilians, possibly even including children.

I am not saying that happened; I am saying that is the only case where we really have to ponder how it may affect the war effort. Any lesser result of the investigation will have no particular effect at all.

Surprisingly, I believe that even if the essential Murtha charge turns out to be true, Haditha will not have as big an impact on public support for the war as Abu Ghraib did. We have spent so much time thinking about the substance, which is much worse than Abu Ghraib, that we've failed adequately to address the politics... which would be much less destructive than Abu Ghraib.

I know a lot of you are incredulous, but walk a few steps with me first.

What was it that caught our attention most about Abu Ghraib? It wasn't concern for the prisoners; we know they're most likely terrorists or at least terrorist supporters. They have killed innocents, and not many Americans care one way or another if they are tormented.

It was not the claim that prisoners were being beaten or threatened with dogs; we all understand that imprisonment is force, and war is deadly force -- and sometimes, those who administer force go too far. We punish them when they do; but we also understand why they did.

No... what stunned and infuriated voters was the sheer perversion of those American troops. Stripping Iraqi prisoners naked? Dressing them in women's clothing? Having a woman dance around and jeer at -- and publicly fondle -- their genitals? This is just weird, disgusting, sick, lurid stuff that belongs in the pages of the National Enquirer, not the playbook of military prison guards.

It was creepy: one of the rumors was that Lynndie England spent a lot of time prancing around the prison nude herself... not only in front of prisoners, taunting them, but the other American soldiers themselves. This claim of exhibitionism, whether true or false, is the kind of abnormal sexuality that preys upon the American sense of decency and morality. We desperately do not want to think of our soldiers as the sort of people who hang out in public restrooms and expose themselves. Any scandal that forces us to do so -- Tailhook, for instance -- outrages the American people more than almost anything imaginable.

It's weird; it's decadent. Worse... it's French.

Americans can understand mere murder, but sensationalism and sexual depravity freak us out. Even after being released from prison, we make convicted flashers register whenever they move into a community; but not criminals convicted of mere murder.

Logical or not, that's how we look at it. Maybe Europeans are different; certainly the U.N. appears to be, considering how blasé they are about allegations that "peacekeepers" and aid workers in Africa forced famine victims to give them sex in exchange for food.

Such debauchery and decadence outrages us far worse, I believe, than would a scandal where some Marines might have snapped under the pressure and turned into the sort of "Ghengis Khan" barbarians of the fevered imagination of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (Such people certainly were found occasionally in Vietnam; but there is not a shred of evidence John Kerry ever met any among the Swift Boat crews.)

And for that very reason, I believe the public will be far more willing to accept that such things happen in war: it's only the tiniest of minorities (perhaps five Marines out of 950,000 military personnel who have cycled through Iraq, 0.0005%); they will receive the maximum punishment if convicted -- probably death by hanging or firing squad; yet we still must move on with the war, not throw in the towel because some mentally deranged individuals killed civilians without reason.

I do not believe that Haditha will have the same grip on the American psyche that Abu Ghraib did (and still does today). Not because it's not as bad; it's worse in the cosmic sense. But because it's a more understandable kind of "bad."

Any honest person who isn't a dyed-in-the-mud pacifist can think of circumstances where he or she would contemplate committing murder. But how many Americans can even imagine themselves stripping prisoners naked and lovingly slipping women's panties over their heads?

Murder is evil. Abu Ghraib was grotesque.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 1, 2006, at the time of 6:21 PM

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The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

The anti-war crowd have been looking for their "Lt. William L. Calley" for some time now. Many of the rest of us have allowed them to keep searching.

The My Lai massacre happened around March of 1968, and Lt. Calley was convicted around March of 1971. In "September 1974 his conviction was overturned and he was released."

War is about killing...not about "ethics". Anyway, apparently there was a "bomb explosion that targeted a military convoy" (AKA "Roadside Bomb"), and those are usually set off close by, with cell phones and such. A Marine (at least one) was murdered, and apparently other Marines took out a nearby taxi and houses. So what, that is what they should do. What if there was another bomb or two hidden in the area, do we expect our Troops to just wait and see, whilst Iraqi's are also running around with video cameras?!?!?!

Our Marines made one mistake...they did not wipe out the entire city of Haditha, and i'm talking wiping out *EVERY* man, woman, child, and reporter!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let the otherside waste their money on "ethical" Soldiers, or stop taxing me for the costs of maintaining a Military.

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 7:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

While I agree with your take on this, I would like to include something else. The conflict in Iraq is as much political as it is tribal and terroristic. As such, this incident is going to spawn other outcrys from those in Iraq who wish to do us harm, however they can. There is already a new charge of American butchery that has been made in the killing of (I bellieve) five Iraqi "civilians", this is not counting the two women killed when they didn't stop at a checkpoint.

So, as we expect the left and other enemies of our Repubic to try as hard as they can to use this against not only the military and the conflict in Iraq, but anything republican as well, our enemies in Iraq will be shouting "More American butchery"and such almost everytime there is a firefight. Dead Insurgents will become civilians and if necessary, they will kill women and children (with M-4s and other American weapons)to make the press and the governements believe it.

Papa Ray

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 9:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles


Are not the "insurgents" civilians under the normal rules of war? Since they are, why should we get bent out of shape because some "civilians" were found with holes in them that may or may not have been the cause of death or even ones fired by our Marines.

This story smells. It would be best if the drive-by media and its willing accomplices wait until a thorough investigation has been completed (yeah, I know, fat chance).

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 10:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

[Aside to Monkyboy: Spellcheckers are free... it may be too much to ask you to vet your logic but you could at least vet your spelling. ;) /Aside ]

IF these Marines committed murder, they will be convicted and sentenced. Keep in mind what this implies: The US Military does not accept acts of Murder committed by our own troops.

As far as how this plays out, neither result will have any affect whatsoever on American's views on the War:

Those who SUPPORT the War do not support Murder, and do not identify our troops with the act of Murder. Killing, yes... but not Murder: The fact that our Military is aggressively pursuing the truth and any resulting convictions is proof enough for them that these acts would be an anomaly.

Those who OPPOSE the War will not be satisfied in any event, and will still accuse our entire Military of these types of crimes and worse; and will believe those charges despite any evidence to the contrary.

The ONLY effect of the debate being held in the Press without the benefit of any proven facts is that the Enemies of the United States can use the unsubstantiated charges against our troops being made publicly by our OWN POLITICIANS as tools against us on the world stage.

Way to go.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 12:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Harold C. Hutchison

Mac's Mind has some interesting info as well.

All I know for sure is that something bad happened at Haditha, and some civilians were killed. Anything beyond that is irresponsible speculation.

The above hissed in response by: Harold C. Hutchison [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 6:14 AM

The following hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn

Two points to consider oh scaly one who draws his own references to the size of his lizard.

1) The left's attempt to promote mighty morphin ranger Jesse and his sort (which were so easily debunked) I think will also mute the story. We've heard all of this before. This one just seems to be more credible based on the inital facts. Remember the "rape of Iraqi women" story?

2) Their is a third scenario. The Iraqis ad the US are conducting independent investigations. Imagine if they come to different conclusions. Those who want to believe the marines are capable of this would cite the investigation that supports their positions. Those who don't want to believe the marines are capable of this would cite the other. In some ways this would be the worst case scenario, especially if the US investigation determined no issue and the Iraqi investigation concluded there was a problem.

The above hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 8:15 AM

The following hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn

Looks like the comment section is a bit screwy as it posted my comment three times.

The above hissed in response by: yetanotherjohn [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 8:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: rab

"Abu Ghraib was grotesque"

It got even worse yestereday when an enlisted man was found guilty of allowing his dog to bark at a detainee (terrorist) at Abu
Playing with girl's panties goes on in college dorms, fraternity houses and even in the Oval Office. What an outrage.

This country is sick and getting sicker (quote from Bob Grant)

The above hissed in response by: rab [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 9:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

The terroists in this war shows no restaint whatsoever. Innocent civilians? No such thing. Torturing captives? Check. Chemical weapons. Sure. Hostages, kidnapping? Of course. Al Queda and the Baathest thugs will resort to anything, anytime, anywhere.

And yet, there is this ho-hum attitude from the press and the Muslum world. An "ah, what are you gonna do?"

Really the only thing prolonging this war is our own restraint. Haditha could be pacified tommorrow if the U.S. military decided that protection of civilians was no longer a priority.
This war will end overnight if the U.S. ever decides to operate under the same rules of engaugement as the terrorists.

The U.S. military has operated with unbelievable restraint, given the situation. And yeah, this stinks of a set-up.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 11:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Little Green Footballs claims the main reports of the incident, upon which much of the hubub has been founded, apparantly came from a Reuters report authored by someone who had just recently been released from U.S. custody.

I think I'll wait for the DVD before worrying about this report.


The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 11:40 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Monkyboy that is not true, the mayor of Hadith complained to the Marines soon after the incident and a report was filed and an investigation begun within days. It was not ignored.

I heard this on NPR, which is not exactly considered a right wing news agency.

These Marines have a very difficult job to do and while it is no doubt easy for the Saddam Hussein fan club to pass judgment on them I doubt seriously if many of the finger pointers can even imagine what it is like for them to wonder when the next bomb will blow.

BTW, I also heard on that NPR report that the US pays condolence money. If a civilian can claim that an American is responsible for a death or property damage, deliberate or not they will be reimbursed. It is apparently a custom in those parts.

No wonder so many people in Iraq seem to be walking around with video cameras.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 3:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


They are not spinning anything, they investigated it, and then apparently decided to take another look at it after they had additional infomrmation. How about we remember that these young men have certain rights and allow the investigation to end before we decide they are guilty?

I realize that there are people out there salivating at the thought of hurting the military and Bush and the soldiers but the truth is these young men perform a thousand acts of kindness each and every day and people like you have no problem at all overlookng that. So I tell you what, whenever the Bush bad, America bad, Marines bad people want to show something resembling objectivity and fairness concerning the job done by the US military then and only then can they lecture the Marines for not moving fast enough to investigate violent death in Iraq.

What other country in the world puts this kind of time and energy and effort into even discussing the deaths of 24 people?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 4:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

BTW I also read that Defense lawyers for the Marines are requesting drone footage claiming it will exonerate the troops. I would be greatly surprised if this were true, but it would be great to sucker punch the press. God knows they like sucker punching people themselves.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 4:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi


Only the American military is scrutinized for this kind of activity. Who knows what Russians have done in Chechnya? We hardly ever hear about how the Chinese government put down peaceful demonstrations (by shooting real bullets at them). Who talked about all the ethnic cleansing in Sudan by the Moslem thugs supported by the government?

We fight against terrorists with one hand tied behind our backs. Even then we are kicking the terrorists' behind. We must have the greatest military in the world, no thanks to certain individuals like Congressman Murtha.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 3:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Tis true.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 4:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Well said, Sachi.
And it cannot be emphasized enough that murtha lied when he claimed the alleged killings were cold blooded murder. At the least, they took place as part of a fire fight.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 9:10 PM

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