When dealing with a generation of media that are unable to think of an American war without reflexively placing it into a Vietnam template, you just know that any opportunity to bend events into that mold will be irresistible. Such irrational but compulsive behavior is even more compelling when the newsmen are programmed to be anti-war, anti-US military, and anti-Bush.
So when the sandstorm hit eight days or so into Operation Iraqi Freedom they shrieked about a “quagmire.” When repugnant but highly localized misconduct took place at Abu Ghraib prison they elevated it to such prominence that it became a strategic defeat for America. When Marine Lieutenant Ilario Pantano was accused of murdering two men during combat operations in Iraq they called for his head, ultimately forcing him to leave the Marine Corps despite a court-martial acquittal, to the great loss of his service and his country.
And predictably when Iraq was not a quagmire, when Abu Ghraib was determined after multiple investigations not to be a result of administration policy but of poor supervision and individual misconduct, and when Lieutenant Pantano was trying to put his life together the same sanctimonious media scolds were absent without leave. Such is the parasitic life style they have chosen to live.
Now we are facing another investigation: a report that Marines allegedly killed up to 24 Iraqi civilians in a modest Sunni Triangle town of 90,000 called Haditha. The facts as we know them are limited: Marines have been operating in Haditha for some time and face the kind of entrenched terrorist resistance that characterized Fallujah and Tal Afar before they were liberated and returned to friendly Iraqi government control. On November 19, 2005 an IED exploded early on a morning patrol blowing one Marine in half, wounding several. From here on reports vary but official reports so far seem to confirm that the Marines received small arms fire from nearby houses and returned it. At some point the Marines stormed the houses, clearing them. Twenty four lay dead in the wake. Some were women and children.
For those of us who have been exposed to combat this brief summary yields more questions and answers. Of the dead how many were men, were they armed? Who were they, Iraqis or al Qaeda foreigners? Were the women or young people armed? What was found in the houses – weapons caches, explosives, jihadist materials? What kind of fire killed the Iraqis – long range, point-blank, or grenades? Were the wounds caused by US weapons or by AK-47s? These are just a few questions and answers to them will generate many more. But the point is that we need to have an idea of what happened before we have a rush to judgment. After all, these are America’s finest, the Marines who are all volunteers and who have risked their lives on a daily basis to defend us. They deserve at least the same presumption of innocence that we give to murders in the States, don’t they?
Apparently not, at least not in the eyes of media and certain human rights organizations. CNN, Time, mainstream and global media outlets, have convicted the US troops and are calling for punishment. They strain to make comparisons to the infamous Vietnam killings at My Lai. Marc Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, told reporters recently, “What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder. The Haditha massacre will go down as Iraq’s My Lai.” When Garlasco appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show to discuss his views with Hannity and retired Marine colonel Oliver North, Garlasco immediately back-pedaled, admitting under questioning that he had “no idea of the facts” in the situation. Like his fellows he steadfastly refused to allow his ignorance to prevent him from judging the Marines. As one Marine said, “killers like O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson received more respect from the press than our fellows are getting. It’s disgraceful.”
Nor do the Marines receive respect from one of their Corps veterans. Representative John Murtha (D-PA) who has a track record of insulting and slandering our troops has hit new lows. “These were wanton killings done in cold blood,” he told reporters, thereby passing judgment on a situation of which he is woefully ignorant. The anti-American media such as al Jazeera delights in Murtha quotations which boost terrorists’ morale as they prepare for their next strike against our troops.
So what was Haditha really? A pastoral Iraqi village filled with farmers and merchants trying to go about daily business? Maybe not. According to the Guardian Haditha was a “Sunni citadel” ruled by “brutal insurgents.” Murders, the British newspaper reports, took place daily at dawn on the Haqlania bridge. Victims, local Iraqis that the terrorists claimed were Coalition and Iraqi government “agents,” were beheaded with knives. Their prone bodies were left on display, pointed in the direction of Baghdad. If you were not a sufficiently early riser to catch the executions live, not to worry, you could get a DVD that afternoon in the local market. The terrorists give them out free.
Haditha is a “miniature Taliban-like state,” where the insurgents call all the shots. Who lives or who dies today is the most terrifying decision they make. With that power little wonder that civilians cooperate either out of fear, coercion, or the desire to be on the side of the knife wielders. Insurgents set the economic rules, the social mores – totally Sharia Islamic rules, by the way, and what news the people receive. Headscarves for women are mandatory, alcohol banned, music forbidden, and relations between the sexes closely monitored. Break the rules? You have a one-way trip to the bridge at dawn.
While a local group, Ansar al-Sunna ostensibly holds power, the real force is the al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Haditha is yet another example of what the entire country of Iraq will become if the U.S. pulls out precipitately. We ignored Afghanistan after the Soviet debacle to our bitter regret. Ignoring Iraq and turning it over to the murderous thugs like Zarqawi, giving him a bright population funded by billions in oil revenues, could be a suicide pact for America.
So in the face of such hellish conditions in which our Marines must slog their way through on a daily basis until the insurgents are killed, captured, or chased from the city, would it not seem charitable at the very least (forget legalities, that seems to obsess the media when discussing civil crimes but not apply to American military charges) to give our troops the benefit of the doubt until the facts in the case are known? We owe them that much. At the moment three independent investigations are ongoing, one by the Navy, another by Central Command, and a third by the Iraqi government.
The US military has proved that it polices itself well, despite hysterical muttering from the fever swamp left. There are Uniform Code of Military Justice procedures, similar to grand jury investigations, currently underway, that must be completed, reviewed, and recommendations forwarded before decisions to prosecute are made. While we wait for those investigations we would be respectful of our brave military by avoiding inflaming an already volatile Muslim population that will ultimately kill and wound more as a result of the hysterical, accusatory publicity.
That is certainly wistful thinking in regard to willful, venal politicians eager to win power by stepping on the bodies of American soldiers, and media willing to write stories with their blood. What can we do? Switch TV channels, cancel your subscription, and vote out those politicians who are so hungry for position that they would sacrifice the welfare of our soldiers to achieve it.
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