This affair cannot simply be dismissed as the spontaneous cruelty of a few bad men…
So far, nothing in President Bush’s repeated statements on the issue offers any real assurance that the White House and the Pentagon will not once again try to protect the most senior military and political ranks from proper accountability. This is the pattern that this administration has repeatedly followed in the past — in the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, in the beating deaths of prisoners at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and in the serial abuses of justice and constitutional principle at Guantánamo Bay.
The overwhelming majority of American troops in Iraq are dedicated military professionals, doing their best to behave correctly under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Their good name requires a serious inquiry, not another deflection of blame to the lowest-ranking troops on the scene.
Neat trick, that. If the investigation doesn’t implicate anyone at the top of the food chain then it’s not a “serious inquiry.” So far most of the pre-judging has been limited to assuming the suspects did what they’re accused of doing; the Times takes it a step further and pronounces the probe a charade unless Rumsfeld or Pace ends up being frogmarched out of the Pentagon.
Why? Because the honor of American soldiers demands nothing less.
Like I said the other day:
Even here, after they’ve pronounced the Marines guilty, they’re afraid to blame them for what happened. It’s Bush’s fault: he created the “climate of impunity,” he “sent the message,” and never you mind that magnificent 99% … whom the so-called message never reached.
They can’t have it be an isolated incident, they can’t allow for the possibility that it’s limited to a few bad apples and some midlevel commanders because then the blame falls squarely on the guilty parties themselves. Which leaves the Times and its constituents double-bound: not only does it force them to acknowledge that American soldiers (volunteers, no less) do in fact have moral agency and therefore are partly responsible for the war the left hates so much, but it offers them no way to exploit the incident for political purposes. How can they call for a pullout if the plague of renegade soldiers going berserk from exhaustion isn’t a plague? How can they blame Bush or Rumsfeld for creating a “climate of impunity” (in the Nation’s words) if there’s no climate of impunity? The actions of the other 99.9% of U.S. forces in Iraq should count as evidence on that point, no?
My ignorance of military culture prevents me from answering the following myself so I’ll throw it open to milbloggers and our readers in the armed forces. Have you “gotten the message” that you should feel free to shoot Iraqi infants in the head if it pleases you to do so? Has the torture at Abu Ghraib created a “climate of impunity” in your mind that leads you to believe gunning down Arab civilians in cold blood is appropriate, and will result in no adverse consequences to yourself? Let me know in the comments or by e-mail and I’ll print the responses, because I have a crazy hunch this “green light” argument is so much bullshit manufactured by Bush-haters as cover for their agenda.
We end with our friend Andrew, who seems to think either (a) American soldiers have it tougher in Iraq than they did in World War II, or (b) American soldiers today just can’t quite resist those impulses to massacre the way their forbears in Germany and Japan could:
He cannot acknowledge that his own war policy — of just enough troops to lose — has created a war of attrition in Iraq in which soldiers are often overwhelmed and demoralised and stretched to the limit, and so more than usually vulnerable to the psychic snaps that sometimes lead to atrocities.
Couldn’t wait for the charges to be filed, I guess.
Update: Steyn on Haditha:
I would hazard that Martin Terrazas is far more typical of the families of American forces in Iraq [than Cindy Sheehan]: A man who can’t bear to pick up an American newspaper, or listen to a radio news bulletin, or watch a political talk show, because every square peg of an event is being hammered into the round hole of the same narrative, the only narrative our culture knows: This is Vietnam, it’s a quagmire, we can’t win, and the longer we delay losing and scuttling and getting the hell outta there, the more wicked things we will do. And, lookie here, whaddaya know, here comes the Sunni version of the My Lai massacre.
If you haven’t watched it yet, set aside some time for KING5 Seattle’s interview with Lance Cpl. James Crossan. Crossan was with Kilo Company in Haditha on November 19, 2005; he was grievously injured by the same bomb that killed Martin Terrazas’s son. He knows the Marines being investigated for the alleged massacre and claims to have spoken with them only recently. He has every reason to push the blame off of his friends and onto the brass or the president himself. But when asked for his theory on what happened, what did he say?
“I think they were blinded by hate . . . and they just lost control.”
No matter. It’s Bush’s fault. It has to be.