Months after Time magazine reported that U.S. Marines had allegedly carried out a My Lai-style massacre of at least two dozen innocent Iraqi civilians, the average “support our troops” American is waking up and smelling the butchery.
As usual, the U.S. government tried to cover up the mass murder—it initially claimed that the victims were blown up by an insurgent IED. But, as Time reported in March, the “civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children.” As at My Lai, the bloodlust was not easily sated. “The raids took five hours and left at least 23 people dead.”
Jane and Joe Sixpack are shocked. Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation and, for once, will probably get one. Political analysts worry that the Haditha massacre could hurt U.S. propaganda efforts even more than the infamous photos of torture at its Abu Ghraib concentration camp.
So far reaction to Haditha has been the reverse of what you might expect. Republicans and other pro-war types are running around like it’s the end of the world. Meanwhile the streets of Arab capitals, recently ablaze over the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, are quiet.
The reason is simple: For Iraqis, American atrocities are old news, dating back to the invasion in March 2003 and a full decade earlier.
“As the war in Iraq rages on,” CBS News’ Dotty Lynch asks, “Where are the young people this time around? Where are the campuses? Where are the new Tom Haydens and Sam Browns and where are the Noam Chomskys, William Sloane Coffins and Daniel Berrigans?” Well, Chomsky’s still around. Over a million young Americans, many of them college students, protested Iraq. They certainly had allies in the media.
But The System is even less responsive to protest now than it was during Vietnam. State-run media made fun of antiwar activists as tattooed neo-hippies, called them treasonous and refused airtime to Administration critics. When is the last time a hard-hitting opponent of the Iraq war showed his or her face on national TV? Those of us who raised our voices against this war from the start, having fruitlessly complained about stories of battlefield abuse reported by the European media, are suffering from marginalization fatigue.
Meanwhile, in the “new” Iraq, Abdel Salam al-Qubaisy of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim Scholars Association says, U.S. massacres of civilians occur routinely. “The American soldier has become an expert in killing,” he shrugs. Like many Iraqis, Baghdad shopkeeper Mohammed Jawdaat says that U.S. troops have never shown respect for the lives of Iraqi civilians. “Six months ago,” remembers Jawdaat, “a car pulled out of a street towards an American convoy and a soldier just opened fire. The driver was shot in the head. There were no warning shots and the Americans didn’t even stop.”
Abd Mohammed Falah, a Ramadi attorney, says: “U.S. forces have committed more crimes against the Iraqi people than appears in the media. The U.S. defense secretary and his generals should be sent to court instead of two or three soldiers who will be scapegoats.”
Rami Khouri, editor at The Daily Star in Lebanon tells NPR that Haditha is “not a huge story [in the Middle East]. It’s getting a lot of coverage in the United States, obviously, but most people in the Arab world are against what the United States did in Iraq… They say look, this was a catastrophe from the beginning and they’re not surprised that this is happening. They kind of take it in stride because everything the United States is doing in Iraq is seen as morally and politically unacceptable.”
The morality-come-latelies still don’t understand that nothing good will ever come out of the U.S. war against Iraq. Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that massacres of civilians by U.S. soldiers do “not happen very frequently, so there’s no way to say historically why something like this might have happened.”
Actually, similar incidents have taken place in every war, including World War II. Pace’s statement is either a dazzling display of historical ignorance or a bald-faced lie—take your pick. Pace adds that if some of his men committed an atrocity at Haditha, they “have not performed their duty the way that 99.9 percent of their fellow Marines have.”
That’s not what the Iraqis say. MTW