May 29, 2006

Haditha: Who's To Blame?

Joshua Holland:
The media, hectored by the administration's charges that they don't report the illusory "good news" from Iraq, has shown little stomach for the story.

... the media's uncritical acceptance of the Iraq hawks' spin -- with notable exceptions like Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau -- makes them complicit in crimes like those alleged in Haditha. The editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times have the victims' blood on their hands, and they have no interest in turning Haditha into the Iraq war's My Lai.
Holland cites numerous similar incidents in Iraq which the media have chosen to ignore. No wonder Iraqi citizens have shown little outrage over the Haditha story to date: to them, it is totally expected behaviour from brutish US soldiers.
Paul Rockwell, who interviewed a number of U.S. soldiers who claim to have committed atrocities in Iraq for the book "Ten Excellent Reasons Not To Join The Military," wrote that American troops are not only "expected to follow unlawful orders, they are also expected to bear lifelong burdens of shame, guilt and legal culpability for the arrogance of their own commanders -- who dispense life and death from an office computer."

Incidents like those alleged in Haditha, Ramallah and Fallujah are entirely predictable. In World War I, about four in 10 deaths were civilians; by World War II, civilians made up more than half of those killed; and in the post Cold-War era, about eight in 10 combat deaths have been among civilians. The ultimate moral tragedy is that while some number of soldiers may face prosecution, the real culprits won't be punished. There are just too many of them.

The guilty include not only the Bush administration's hardliners who conjured up this war, but also the Democratic hawks who enabled them and the media that spun their glorious war narrative and convinced so many ordinary citizens to jump on board. It's the Tom Friedmans and Kenneth Pollacks and Peter Beinarts, who only realized the Iraq war was a mistake when it proved to be as disastrous as every other "war of choice." They promised us a clean war; smart bombs would spare the innocent, a high-tech military would be finished in a fortnight and casualties on both sides would be limited.

Those of us who said that the war would be hell on Iraqis were called "pacifists" and "appeasers." The hawks got their war. Now we know that it's not a video game or glowing green explosions on CNN -- it's a bloody and uncontrolled mess and civilians are paying the price, as they always do.


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