June 06, 2006

Haditha: Newsweek Pulls Its Punches

The big Newsweek story starts out with some startling revelations:
The Marines know how to get psyched up for a big fight. In November 2004, before the Battle of Fallujah, the Third Battalion, First Marines, better known as the "3/1" or "Thundering Third," held a chariot race. Horses had been confiscated from suspected insurgents, and charioteers were urged to go all-out. The men of Kilo Company—honored to be first into the city on the day of the battle—wore togas and cardboard helmets, and hoisted a shield emblazoned with a large K. As speakers blasted a heavy-metal song, "Cum On Feel the Noize," the warriors of Kilo Company carried a homemade mace, and a ball-and-chain studded with M-16 bullets. A company captain intoned a line from a scene in the movie "Gladiator," in which the Romans prepare to slaughter the barbarians: "What you do here echoes in eternity."

... The Marine grunts of Kilo Company had been trained to kill, not to practice "counterinsurgency," whatever that meant. Not that their leaders were much better informed. Neither the Army nor the Marines had a counterinsurgency doctrine when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, and since then soldiers and Marines had received at best patchwork training in the subtle arts of winning hearts and minds. (Indeed, only now, in the late spring of 2006, when the Iraq war has been spluttering along for almost as long as the time it took America to win World War II, is the military finalizing a draft of a manual on counterinsurgency.) Haditha, quiet but menacing for the first several weeks after Kilo Company arrived, is far more the norm in Iraq than the full-scale, all-out fighting of Fallujah. In Haditha, the Marines of Kilo Company sometimes handed out candy to kids but mostly patrolled about in Humvees, making some kind of show of force, presumably, but really just offering themselves as targets.

... In Vietnam, when the doleful news came home of burned villages and slaughtered civilians, many Americans blamed the military. Vets came home to be spat upon and called "baby killers." Americans have learned from their disgraceful behavior back then, and generally honor today's Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. But increasingly, they blame their leaders for putting young men and women into situations they were not trained or equipped to handle. As more accounts of civilian killings come to light, the pressure is likely to grow on the Bush administration to bring home the troops, not just to save their lives, but to rescue their honor and decency.
But then comes this crap:
Haditha may turn out to be the worst massacre since My Lai. And Iraqis may be entirely justified in their outrage. But the scale of the tragedy should not be exaggerated. America still fields what is arguably the most disciplined, humane military force in history, a model of restraint compared with ancient armies that wallowed in the spoils of war or even more-modern armies that heedlessly killed civilians and prisoners. The 24 Iraqis killed at Haditha are a fraction of the 300-plus lined up and murdered at My Lai in 1968, just as the roughly 2,500 U.S. soldiers who have perished so far in Iraq pales against the 58,000 dead in Vietnam.
OK, so we massacred a few people, but at least we are not as bad as Pol Pot, or Genghis Khan... Jeebus!

Similarly, Newsweek quotes Lt. Gen. James Mattis, former commander of the First Marine Division, last year:
"Actually, it's quite fun to fight them. You know, it's a hell of a hoot ... I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
But before delivering that quote, they soften the blow by telling readers how nice Mr. Mattis told his trooops to play football with the Iraqi kids and take off the "sunglasses that made them look like invading aliens".

Sometimes Newsweek even manages to get 100% "fair and balanced" within a single sentence:
The Marine Corps, though justly famous for loyalty and discipline, has a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality...
Yeah, those nice Marines. Such good boys.
To fight boredom and disgust, said Clif Hicks, who had left a tank squadron at Camp Slayer in Baghdad, soldiers popped Benzhexol, five pills at time. Normally used to treat Parkinson's disease, the drug is a strong hallucinogenic when abused. "People were taking steroids, Valium, hooked on painkillers, drinking. They'd go on raids and patrols totally stoned." Hicks, who volunteered at the age of 17, said, "We're killing the wrong people all the time, and mostly by accident. One guy in my squadron ran over a family with his tank." ...

Hicks claims that "there's a lot of guys who steal from the Iraqis. Money, family heirlooms, and then they brag about it. Guys would crap into MRE bags and throw them to old men begging for food."
But MIND YOU...!!!
The accounts of Hicks and some other vets returning as C.O.s or with disabilities are obviously tinged with bitterness and may be exaggerated.
It's a long article (5 pages), go read it all if you are interested. Then send your complaints to:
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