Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What? My Lai?--Alfred E. Neuman

The reporter on this story was on Democracy Now! yesterday. I haven't seen any mention of it among the blogs yet, but it deserves wider discussion:

But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, 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. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began.
There is, of course, a controversy over precisely what happened:

In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (ncis), which will conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians. Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Time the involvement of the ncis does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves."
But read the article. This is what life is like in a war zone, for the warriors, and the civilians. And this is how we are conducting it:

AMY GOODMAN: You say the U.S. has paid relatives of the victims $2,500 for each of the 15 dead civilians, plus smaller payments for the injured?

APARISIM GHOSH: Yes. That is commonplace in cases of innocents being killed in combat.
And consider this, and contrast it with what George Bush said he "understands," yesterday:

AMY GOODMAN: You end, in a very touching way, the piece that you wrote along with your colleague who is -- who has just left Baghdad also.


AMY GOODMAN: Tim McGirk. “Nothing can bring back all that was taken from 9-year-old Eman Waleed on that fateful day last November. She still does not comprehend how, when her father went in to pray with the Koran for the family's safety, his prayers were not answered, as they had been so many times in the past. ‘He always prayed before, and the Americans left us alone,’ she says. Leaving, she grabs a handful of candy. ‘It's for my little brother,’ she says.” Her brother, very terrorized, very traumatized.

APARISIM GHOSH: As are thousands of young people in Iraq today, but this family, in particular. She's now an orphan. There is an extended family that will look after her, but she will never -- any hope of a normal life for her now over.

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