Saturday, June 03, 2006

Haditha in context

Haditha. Ishagi. And there are other horrors we have yet to learn about.

Why? I don't mean why do these things happen -- in a hostile occupation like this, the fact that such brutalities will eventually occur can be predicted with almost mathematical certainty. The job our soldiers have been forced to attempt is not mrely difficult. It is simply impossible under the best of circumstances. We have to punish the bloody hands, but we also need to acknowledge that they were set up to fail.

But why has the Administration done so little to prevent and deal with these nightmares?

Part of the answer is simple refusal to admit reality in any form. But there is also this, which I wrote six months ago:
The terrible lesson the neoCons learned from Vietnam – the way they are seeking to fight a symmetrical war – is to fight terror with terror.

Thus the new calculus: the insurgents become suicide bombers; we level cities the insurgents have already abandoned. The insurgents behead; we waterboard and crucify. The insurgents plant roadside bombs; we incinerate civilians with white phosphorus. For every indiscriminate, random horror they perpetrate, we offer our own in response.
We all have the capacity to become raging, inarticulate beasts in the heat of battle. That is why we expect those who send troops into battle to think long and hard about how and when to do so. The real crime is that the those who command from afar have been guided by the same reflexive, reptilian thought process as those who have to live with the horrors created so far away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would prefer to believe that our armed forces represent the best in us, with the worst held in check through training and discipline. Every now and then, however, I have to acknowledge that no matter how you dress it up, our armed forces are the foremost representatives of the worst in us: our capacity for violence. They know this. It's also part of their training.

Haditha could be an aberration, or it could be an example of what has been going on elsewhere without being photographed. Its context is not complex. The war on Iraq, from the intial softening up of the air defenses to the first "decapitation" bombing, which missed Saddam Hussein, discounted the lives of Iraqi civilians -- citizens of a country that was no threat to us. Even before the war, sanctions were killing children in numbers that Madeline Albright found acceptable. How great a step is it from callous disregard (Just how does it feel to look up and see the bomb coming down? Does it feel better to know that you're just collateral damage, and not a specific target?) to massacre?

I feel for the troops on the ground. They are in an impossible situation. But they are the angry, brutal fist of a small group of small men (and maybe a woman or two) with imperial ambitions and bunkers outside Washington. Done right or done wrong, the job that the troops are doing is a dirty one. The objective is to take and hold what belongs to someone else, killing anyone who gets in the way. They're leaving a terrible mess in their wake.

Perhaps if their mission were defense of the homeland, rather than conquest and occupation, they would be less likely to lash out at those who are defenseless.

12:06 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Thank you, A. Your comment puts my original post to shame. Well said.

Like Frank Rich says, we're supporting our troops over a cliff.

3:03 PM  

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