Monday, March 20, 2006

My Lai Every Day

A massive roadside bomb kills a Marine in the city of Haditha. In response, his fellow soldiers rush into three nearby houses and start shooting. They kill 23 people. By the marines own account, 15 of the dead are non-combatants (although it's questionable if any of them were). Of those fifteen, most are women and young children.

Could you imagine the response if something like this happened during a police raid in the U.S.?

In the end, all the police recovered from the houses were two AK-47's, a gun that is probably found in most Iraqi houses these days (how else to protect yourself from the lawlessness of the streets?). Maybe the most incriminating evidence is the simplest. The raid happened right after dawn. Most of those shot dead were still in their night clothes.

At first the Marines claimed that the dead were killed by shrapnel from the bomb, blaming the toll in the insurgency. But when Human Rights Watch acquired evidence to the contrary, including a video of the bullet-riddled bodies, the Pentagon changed the deaths to "collateral damage". No chance that it was just some pissed off young men paying back the death of their 20 year old comrade.

What's going to happen, five years from now, ten years from now, when those young Americans are trying to live with what they did in our "war of choice?" Jay Elias wrote this on Saturday on his Daily Kos journal:

But usually, we think little of the cost to the men and women who are ordered to commit those acts. We think little of what has been done to them in our name, and what they have done in service of us.

They were soldiers once. They were proud and honorable men and women who took it upon themselves to protect all of us and our way of life. Do you think they are proud today? Do you think they will come home with their honor intact?

Nearly everyone here despises our leadership for many reasons. But I would like to add this one to the list of grievances: do you suppose our leaders have thought hard about what they were ordering our young men and women of the armed forces to do? Do you suppose they thought about what they were asking from our soldiers, and what it cost those soldiers to do as they were ordered?

There are many in America today who have little sympathy with those we torture and torment. They are our enemies, they say. They would do worse to us if the situation was reversed. Maybe so. But those young men and women who we have turned into torturers and inquisators, they were soldiers once. What are they now?


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