Revolution #91, June 10, 2007
The Ugly Logic Behind the Haditha Massacre
In May, hearings to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with full court-martials were held for two of the seven U.S. Marines facing charges relating to the killings of Iraqis in Haditha, a city in western Iraq. To millions of people across the world who know the name, Haditha brings to mind the massacre of November 19, 2005, when U.S. Marines from Kilo Company went on a bloody rampage after a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. The U.S. troops ordered young Iraqi men out of a taxi and summarily executed them. They killed whole families as they went house to house, tossing grenades and spraying rooms with machine gun fire. When it was over, 24 Iraqi men, women, and children lay dead. Victims ranged from small children to an elderly amputee in a wheelchair.
The Marines photographed the corpses and took them in body and trash bags to the local morgue. In a testimony at the May hearings, a Marine who had dropped off the bodies from Haditha at the morgue said that his orders were to deliver a warning to the Iraqis: "We were to explain to the Iraqis that the Marines were very sorry about this, but this is what happens when you allow terrorists to use homes to attack Marines." The next day, a Marine spokesperson claimed that 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by a roadside bomb and that afterwards, eight insurgents died in battle after firing on U.S. and Iraqi troops. Allegations of a massacre were dismissed by the Marines as enemy "propaganda." The squad commander, Sgt. Frank Wuterich was promoted.
The Marines launched no immediate investigations—the U.S. military considers civilian deaths as routine "collateral damage." Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, commanding general of the Marines in western Iraq, told military investigators, "It happened all the time," It was nearly three months after the massacre that the military began “investigations”--after an Iraqi video surfaced showing blood-stained and bullet-ridden walls inside homes and bodies lined up in the Haditha morgue, and after a Time magazine reporter began questioning officials about a massacre.
On December 21, 2006, more than a year after the massacre, charges were brought against eight Marines: four officers for failing to investigate or accurately report on the killings; and Staff Sergeant Frank D. Wuterich and three others for "unpremeditated" murder. In April of this year, the military granted immunity to Sgt. Dela Cruz, one of those charged with murder, in exchange for testifying in the case and dropped all charges against him. During May, hearings to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial were held for Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani and Captain Randy Stone.
When Bush administration and military officials could no longer simply ignore the truth of the mass killing in Haditha, they said that this does not reflect the actions of "99.9%" of their troops. At the same time, right-wing veteran groups and Christian fascist forces and organizations have rushed in to support what they call "the Haditha 8." They are trying to turn Haditha from the scene of a war crime into a symbol of "“injustice"” against "heroic" American soldiers. Networks of blogs and websites sporting banners like "God Bless Our Troops and God Bless the United States of America!" have been soliciting funds and support for Wuterich and others. The right-wing freerepublic website said that the money raised has included $220,000 from the "Military Combat Defense Fund" for the defense of four of the Marines. Chessani's case has been taken up by the Thomas More Law Center, whose motto is "the sword and shield for people of faith." This Christian fundamentalist outfit’s legal battles include pushing for school prayer and opposing gay rights and abortion rights in the name of defending the "religious freedom of Christians." One of the center's founders is Tom Monaghan, the former CEO of Dominos Pizza and long-time financier of anti-abortion groups.
These Christian fundamentalist supporters of the U.S. troops involved in the Haditha massacre present themselves as being victimized by the military establishment. But, in fact, their campaign is about maintaining and rallying support for the war and the military, in the name of “supporting our troops.” And it is about increasing the already considerable Christian fascist influence in the U.S. military, including among top-ranking officers. In 2003, U.S. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin went around the country giving talks, dressed in his uniform, declaring that “We are hated because we are a Christian nation.” He said, “The enemy is a guy named Satan. Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army. I’m here on a recruiting trip. I’m asking you to join this army.” Boykin also claimed that George Bush was “in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” After this, Boykin was promoted to the position of deputy undersecretary of defense.
The Christian fascist defenders of the accused Marines don’t deny that Iraqis were killed in Haditha. They do not dispute that most of the dead were women and children. They don't deny that it was American soldiers who killed them. What they are trying to do is to repackage a purposeful massacre into a military operation with “unintended” casualties, where “heroic” soldiers were trying to do their "jobs" and followed the "rules of engagement," and the dead were merely "collateral damage."
Think about what the government/military officials and these Christian fascist forces are saying:
What does it mean to say that "99.9%" of the soldiers are doing a good "job"--when even the military admits that U.S. troops kill Iraqi civilians “all the time”?
What kind of "job" is it that leaves two dozen innocent people lying in a pool of their own blood?
What kind of ideology and political outlook would consider such things justified actions and part of a “noble cause”?
The reality is that the “job” of U.S. troops in Iraq is to carry out a deeply unjust and oppressive occupation of a country and its people—as part of the U.S. imperialist moves to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable worldwide empire. After four years of air assaults, mass arrests, heavy bombardment of "hostile" cities and towns, the use of weapons such as depleted uranium and flesh-burning white phosphorus, there is widespread hatred of the U.S. occupiers among Iraqi people. In order to enforce U.S. rule over this hostile population, the American troops treat the masses of Iraqi people as potential enemies, “expendable,” and less than human.
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