- Many observers have compared the methodical
murder of 24 innocent civilians by U.S. Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha
now confirmed by Pentagon and Congressional sources to the infamous My
Lai massacre in Vietnam, when American troops slaughtered hundreds of civilians
in a bloody rampage. But this is a false equation, one that gravely distorts
the overall reality of the Coalition effort in Iraq.
- For it is not the small-scale Haditha
atrocity that should be compared to My Lai: it is the entire Iraq War itself.
The whole operation from its inception in high-level mendacity to its
execution in blood-soaked arrogance, folly, greed and incompetence is
a war crime of almost unfathomable proportions: a My Lai writ large, a
My Lai every single day, year after year after year.
- Details of the Haditha killings are finally
emerging after months of official cover-up and heated denunciations of
anyone who questioned the shifting, conflicting stories issued by the Pentagon
following the November 2005 incident. The horror speaks for itself: a unit
of Marines from Kilo Company, thirsting for revenge after a roadside bomb
killed a comrade, broke into homes near the blast area and systematically
executed the civilians they found there, along with five men who happened
to be passing by in a taxi, Time Magazine reports.
- Photos taken afterwards by U.S. military
intelligence document the carnage. "One portrays an Iraqi mother and
young child, kneeling on the floor, as if in prayer," the Sunday Times
reports. "They have been shot dead at close range. The pictures show
other victims, shot execution-style in the head and chest in their homes."
The victims "included a 76-year-old amputee and a four-year-old boy,"
the Observer reports. "In one house an entire family, including seven
children, were attacked with guns and grenades. Only a 13-year-old girl
survived." A U.S. government official told the Sunday Times that the
attackers had "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership."
- Take special note of that last statement:
it may be the first time that a Bush Administration spokesman has ever
told the truth about the war. There has indeed been a "total breakdown
in morality and leadership" in Iraq; but it's not confined to the
Haditha killers. They are just the inevitable end product of the culture
of lawlessness, brutality, and aggression deliberately manufactured by
the White House to serve its predatory geopolitical ambitions and its dirty
- This fish has rotted from the head, and
the corruption has eaten through the entire body politic. It was bound
to find its most extreme manifestations in those whom Bush has armed with
lies a majority of U.S. soldiers believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11,
polls show and sent off to kill and be killed in an illegal war of aggression
based on knowingly false and tricked-up evidence. If atrocity is the foundation
of your enterprise, if atrocity is the atmosphere you breathe, why then,
you are bound to produce atrocities, over and over, despite the many individual
soldiers and honorable officers who struggle against the infected tide.
- These massacres aren't just momentary
outbursts of revenging anger; they're learned behavior. The Marines who
killed at Haditha were veterans of the much larger atrocity at Fallujah
the year before. There they took part in one of the most savage demolitions
of a city since World War II. Eight weeks of relentless bombing was followed
by a cut-off of the city's water, electricity and food supplies. a clear
war crime under the Geneva Conventions. More than two-thirds of the city's
residents, some 200,000 people, fled the coming inferno, refugees in their
own land. Those who remained were considered fair game in the house-by-house
ravaging that followed. Among the Americans' first targets were the city's
hospitals and clinics, as U.S. officers freely admitted to the New York
Times: another blatant war crime. They were destroyed or shut down, with
medical staff killed or imprisoned, to prevent bad publicity about civilian
casualties from reaching the outside world, the officers said. Later, an
investigation by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government found credible evidence
of the use of chemical weapons against the city; yet another war crime.
Up to 6,000 people were killed in the attack, most of them civilians.
- The few hundred Fallujah-based insurgents
who had been the ostensible target of the assault had escaped long before
the onslaught began. Thus there was no real military purpose to the city's
destruction, which had been ordered by the White House; it was instead
an act of reprisal, a collective punishment against the Iraqi people as
a whole, non-combatants included, for the armed resistance to the Coalition
conquest. The Marines of Kilo Company simply took what they were taught
by their eminently respectable superiors in Fallujah and applied it in
- No doubt these lessons are being applied
throughout Iraq. In March, we reported here on an eerily similar incident
in the Isahaqi region, when 11 civilians, including five children under
the age of five, were killed during a house raid by U.S. troops. [See the
flash film, Children of Abraham.] Local police said the victims had been
shot execution-style, although none of them were connected to the insurgency.
Photographs of the scene by Agence-France Presse confirmed the attack
and the children's deaths, with indications that they had indeed been shot
in the head. Pentagon officials, despite the photographic evidence, would
confirm only four civilian deaths: unfortunate collateral damage of a firefight
with an al-Qaeda operative, they said. The idea that U.S. troops could
execute civilians in cold blood was preposterous, they said.
- Like Abu Ghraib, Haditha is not an aberration
by a few "bad apples" but the emblem of a wider, systemic crime,
the natural fruit of an outlaw regime that has made aggressive war, torture,
indefinite detention, "extrajudicial killing," rendition and
concentration camps official national policy. This moral rot is Bush's
true historical legacy.