Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Haditha is the result of your battlefield ethics

I can't stop thinking about the children executed by US forces in Haditha in November last year. What were they doing right before they were killed in cold blood? Where they playing or sitting on their doorsteps watching the world go by?

What must they have thought of the world they lived in? How scared they must have been when they saw the marines aim directly at them? How much pain did they feel? How long did it take for them to die? Did they die alone or in their mothers' arms?

And how did their mothers feel - helpless to save the lives of their precious little ones?

News of Haditha has driven me insane with rage. If you have still not felt it – numbed by the daily news of killings in Iraq - just try putting the faces of children you love, maybe your own or those of your siblings or close friends, in the places of those beloved who were murdered that day. Beloveds who will be missed; who will never be kissed or kiss again; who will never be tickled, or cuddled. Who are no more...


In response to this outrage, attempts at covering it up, along with reports of other such outrages, the US government has ordered troops to undergo a crash course in battlefield ethics.

Please; have some respect for our intelligence.

Haditha is the result of your battlefield ethics – one that similar to Islamic terrorism – indiscriminately targets civilians.


For those who think that US militarism is more palatable than Islamic terrorism, think Haditha...

Maryam Namazie


beatroot said...

It is utterly revolting and, from a neo-con type view, completly undermines the whole point of what they are doing. How can we show to people in the middle east that, in many ways, western values are better than the preindustrial, pre-Enlightenment values many of those societies are stuck with when we are doing that sort of thing. Everyone seems shocked by it except Iraqis who have now come to expect such things.

But it seems to happen to 'our boys' when they are sent on a hopless trip to export democracy somewhere. It happened in Vietnam, it's been happening in Iraq since they got there. It happens to 'our boys' when they are told that Iraqis will welcome them with open arms...and then when they do get there they are welcomed with improvised explosive devices and hatred. 'Our boys' get frustrated. They realise that they are fighting a war they can't win (you can't fight and win that type of astymetric war. It happnes to 'our boys' when they just want a way out but can't see one.

Wars such as these de-humanize everyone involved.

Intrepidflame said...

Seeing the images coming out of Iraq, on a daily basis, for the last three years now, leave me almost numb with pain. I know that sounds oxymoronic, but I cannot fully grasp what is happening. I am not so sensitive to be shocked by the depravity of man, the American man particular, but I am shocked by how readily it is accepted world wide.

Both people and governments let the crimes continue. I am at a loss what we can do, but it feels like WWII. Will we look back in fifty years and ask, “Why didn’t anyone do anything, as the Americans and Brits destroyed one of the earliest civilizations? And killed thousands in the process.”

I too feel the rage you are talking about, but I feel that violence breeds violence and your rage is not doing any good. We must learn to transform that rage into some kind of positive action for change. In whatever ways we can, each one of us in our lives. I am a teacher, so I talk to my students trying to get them to see the world in new ways. It is all I can do, not to cry myself to sleep every night.

maps said...

Gee beatroot, you've got me weeping for 'our boys', who were only trying to 'export democracy' and the 'Enlightenment', just liked they tried to do in Nam. If only the ungrateful natives had been ready for those lessons in Voltaire.

Here's a tip: if you want to be racist, have the balls to wear a white hood, or at least go and hang about Little Green Footballs. Don't try to pretend that your Eurocentric rubbish has anything to do with the left...

billie said...

i think that we do need to have some sympathy for our troops. get this- i am not condoning their actions. period. i just think that their lives have been ruined too- by the endless tours; by the orders to kill anything or anyone who even looks remotely muslim. i do feel for the iraqi people because they didn't ask for this war. but i also feel for the countless americans who will have to live with themselves as agents of needless death. they are mostly just kids at this point and will have to live in hell for a long time after bushco leaves office. not a nice place to be. that in no way detracts from the horror and injustice of killing innocent people. the two are not mutually exclusive.

John Brown said...


I would have agreed with you 12 or 18 months ago, but not anymore.

I support Uncle Sam's little jackbooters if they refuse to go to Iraq, and I worship anyone who shoots their officers.

But the bulk of them are savages hyped up on speed and racist propaganda.

By now, they've made a choice. So must we.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

All I'll say is, I've spent a lot of times working with veterans, from many wars, including the current Iraq war.

It's easy for people on the other side to judge the acts of people in desperate conditions, soldiers experience terrible situations and these effect behaviour.

I'm not sure that I'd be able to control myself in a war environment, I find it hard enough in peace time Britain.

Frank Partisan said...

Reading: I think you are wrong about Beatroot. He was consistently against the occupation. Reread his post.

Maryam's point is important. It is a shoot first policy. The other point is that imperialism and Islamism share tacticss.

I wouldn't put the Vietnamese National Liberation Front in the same sentence as the various sects in Iraq.

During the Vietnam War, antiwar activists, made direct appeals to soldiers, to join the antiwar movement. They had coffeehouses outside the bases etc.

It is a losing strategy to view the troops, as enemy. Many will fill the antiwar ranks.

beatroot said...

Thanks Renegade for pointing out to maps the rather silly comments.

The bit maps didn't like was the bit about western values being better than in, say,Afghanistan. But I think that is just too obvious to have to explain.

ramo said...

Haditha is unfortunate. But the it was bound to happen. In urban war where regular soldiers don't see the enemy and enemy mingles with civilians, soldiers will be frustrated, angry and afraid. Such type of things happen in all wars. No point in blaming troops in general.

US troops don't understand Iraqis, thier culture and consider them inferior. These kind of insensitivities will alienate more civilians there. One more thing is there may be many more Haditha's that won't be found because nobody taped them. But the confidence with which US and its establishment tells lies is truly funny.

roman said...

It is amazing to me how quickly opponents of the coalition's actions in Iraq have jumped at the chance to condemn the service men. Immediately passing judgement on the soldiers accused.
There has been no trial/hearing and hence no evidence has been presented but as the comments here clearly state.."They are Guilty".
Remember.. anything could have happened there. We were not there!
I suggest that until such time as all the facts have been examined that we give "our boys" some consideration in the form of "the benefit of doubt".

billie said...

i have to agree with waiting and seeing before jumping to conclusions. these folks could have been ordered to shoot- we don't know. maybe we never will. nevertheless- these troops have to come home- and my concern is what they will be like once they get here. if they are killing indicrimantly in iraq- how are they suddenly going to adjust to civilian life?

most people don't realize that the troops don't have radio like we do. they have recently asked their commanding officers to be able to listen to music. why? well, the get at least an hour a day of rush limbaugh- and other right leaning talk radio. yes, these people are being inundated with the conservative propaganda. not all fall for it- but day after day- and i am sure that stockhom syndrome sets in. let's wait for the facts and hope that the people responsible for this- and the untold other horrible crimes are punished.

i don't know that you or i would obey a direct order in a foreign country with our lives hanging in the balance either.

? said...

thanks for this post.

In the first instance, Haditha is a truly horrific crime and likely to be one of a great number of atrocities that will remain unknown, or emerge long after the event. Maryam Namazie's post is a useful reminder of the senselessness of war of any kind in which the innocents inevitably suffer and I wholeheartedly share her pain and rage. But Haditha is important because it can and will force people to think more. Let’s face it, what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you, and if you don’t know, you don’t think.

It is in precisely this context however that I am somewhat disappointed in reviewing subsequent comments on Maryam's post that focus primarily on whether the perpetrators of such ridiculously barbaric and heinous crimes should or should not be defended. Moreover, as Maryam so aptly points outs, the “battlefield ethics” are likely shared among both parties.

Surely, the point is that innocent people are suffering and something must and will be done. I would like to appeal to comments to this effect. What is the first step? Could it be a collective attempt to make the organ-grinders listen?

maps said...

Those who perceive some sort of struggle between a monolithic Western 'civilisation', aka 'the Englightenment', and a monolithic 'backward' Middle East, are fighting Bush's war in their heads, even if they want to oppose it on the ground.

They are actually more dangerous than Bush, because as the support for his war disappears they can offer more 'reasonable' ways of enforcing 'our values' in places like Iraq and Iran, 'alternatives' which will be accepted gratefully by a ruling class desperate for new ideological cover for its depredations. The whole 'bring democracy to the Middle East' cant that Bush and Blair resorted to after the WMDs fiasco was playtested by the liberal left.

maps said...

I'm not opposed to propagandising troops - in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq I was involved in these activities myself. For instance, I organised the leafleting of an air base from which Orions were flying out to support the invasion.

But it's one thing to propagandise the troops - to urge them to leave the force or mutiny - and another to refuse to take the side of the people fighting them. I think the soldiers in Iraq have had plenty of warning about what they've gotten themselves into, but even if they hadn't Marxists always take the side of the people defending their country against imperialism.

The anti-war movement could have stopped Bush's invasions - it had the numbers and the momentum. But the leaders of the movement refused to choose tactics that could stop the war - on the whole, they organised peaceful and useless marches when what were needed were mass pickets of military facilities and industrial action. Now these same liberal and social democratic leaders want to condemn and isolate those of us who support the Iraqis' right to defend themselves in the only way they can. Par for the course.

Let's face facts: the war has only re-entered political discourse in the US and become a liability to Bush because the Iraqis and their foreign allies have killed so many Americans. And I'm very pleased this has happened, because for every American killed the end of the occupation becomes more likely, and in all likelihood hundreds of Iraqi lives are saved. It's not a bad trade-off, especially when the Americans unlike the Iraqis chose to come to Iraq.

Frank Partisan said...

I think the problem the mass mobilizations against the war, was the leadership. Unlike the antiwar movement against Vietnam, where the demonstrations were organized around the concrete demand, "Bring the Troops Home Now." Demonstrations need a focus. The problem wasn't the form, but the content.

I agree with you, it's not the clash of civilizations nonsense, that should be supported by progressives.

I agree with you, in the abstract; about the more Coalition troops that die, the better it's for the rest of the world. It is a benefit for Venezuela, that the US is bogged down in Iraq. I don't think, we gain anything in organizing, calling for the death of US/UK troops.

With elections coming in the USA, the fake antiwar Dems, will be crawling all over.

The form of mass street demo is correct. We need to change the content.

Tina said...

How can anyone be shocked that our troops have committed these acts when our own President and Att General have zero respect for the Geneva Conventions, human rights, international laws, and Muslims? Bush and Abu Ghraib Gonzales don't believe that the Iraqis are worthy of such consideration, so do we honestly think that the policy in Iraq encourages otherwise from our military?

I am the daughter of a Marine who served two tours in Vietnam, and the friend of a Marine who got back in November from serving in Iraq.
Both said nearly identical statements about serving during guerrilla warfare: They went into the military b/c college was not a possibility, and they wanted to serve their country, BUT they didn't sign up to kill civilians, and they weren't trained to shoot women and children. They were trained to shoot at other troops and they didn't expect their govt to put them in that horrific situation for absolutely worthless reasons, but the govt did... twice. When you view the inhabitants of the nation you occupy as less than human, you yourself become less than human.

Anonymous said...

When the history books are written, Haditha will be remembered as the tip of the iceberg of uncovered war atrocities..much like the videos of Bosnian war crimes against Kosovars are being uncovered and its perpetrators actively prosecuted. This may not be possible in the near term so long as the U.S. believes it is universally exempt from the ICC.

Numbness to the death of foreigners is the way of our pop culture. Our short memory and attention spans are only attuned to tits, ass and money.

beatroot said...

Roman said: I suggest that until such time as all the facts have been examined that we give "our boys" some consideration in the form of "the benefit of doubt".

Problem is, Roman, that 'our naughty boys' (these inverted commas are ironic, by the way - I know Americans are not meant to 'get' irony. 'Our boys' is what they call them in the UK Sun tabloid newspaper) have been trying to cover the whole thing up...so getting evidence is very difficult. And the fact of the cover up - and it is a cover up - suggests they have been very naughty indeed...

Ren: I know what you mean about the content of the anti-war protests...the leading slogan was 'Not in my name' which is not a political demand at all but a cop out.

But demos don't by themselves do anything. It has to be part of a political movement with demands and clear arguments about principles...I don't see that in the anti-war movement at all.

Anonymous said...

This is so strange. Today, I was watching the BBC news, and started to feel really depressed about the idiotic mayhem in Iraq that was played in front of my eyes. Why, after all this time instead of getting numbed by the steady flow of these raw footages of blood and gore, exactly the opposite is happening? I guess, this is what Rummy calls being a bleeding heart.

roman said...

Thank you for the lesson in irony but the term "our boys" in my comment was meant only in its true and single sense and is a genuine term of endearment.
Your comment "it is a cover up" is preliminary.
Let me give you my version of speculation as to what might have happened.
Soldiers receive fire from a house from some distance. They in turn return fire with overwhelming force not really knowing who is in the house and knowing only that hostile fire was emanating from it. They secure the site and find the results upon entering the house.
It is tragic and is probably not unique during modern day warfare. What makes it unique in this case is that the insurgents/ hostiles in the house had absolutely no regard for the family that lived there.
Just like your description "our naughty boys" I remind you that the insurgents have their own "naughty boys" and are able to use events like these to further their aims.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis Maryam... thank you!

beatroot said...

Roman: that this has been 'covered up' is not really in dispute. Naughty boys.

Graeme said...

it was a great piece.

Montmarcey Brown said...

This may interest you.

I regularly do a stop the war stall on Hounslow High Street. Several weeks ago we were approached by a US soldier who was between tours in Iraq. He was extremely confrontational, but also argumentative in the sense that he was interested in our point of view. We covered everything in our arguments, but after half an hour he wasn't convinced and threw our table over, before running off.

Two weeks later he came back and we argued some more. What we had said before had been ringing around his head. He didn't agree with us fully, but was ready to listen a bit more. Some soldiers come from a background that sits very easily with the positisions they expect to find themselves in. He was one of them. His base motivation for being in the Army was the belief that America was acting as an umbrella of protecton for the western world.

You can imagine how popular culture and right wing media have firmed this point of view up in his head over the years.

The point is that he had been to Iraq and felt uneasy about it. He had probably had freinds killed, and didn't like the fact that people were questioning it. That is why he threw our table over.

When he came back he appologised. He had an erge to throw the table over again the second time, but left before he did. We are not phsychiatrists, but we managed to turn his point of view around significantly within the space of about an hours conversation over two meetings.

This only happened because of certain factors.
1./ The military families speaking out against the war.
2./ The proven moral bankruptcy of the war, brought about by a campaign against it that included everyone who could march.
3./ Massive demoralisation of troops, who see the stop the war movement as generally supportive in the sense that they don't want the troops out there in the first place.

I support the Iraqi resistance, but I also fight for an atmosphere whereby troops feel that they can disobay orders with support from movements at home. This soldier only spoke to us because we weren't judgemental. You only got fragging in Vietnam after the anti war movement was indelibly linked to the veterans movement.

beatroot said...

M Brown: how do you feel comfortable supporting the Iraqi 'resistance'? This isn't your old fashioned national liberation struggle, you know. This is a mish-mash of all sorts of groups, most with 'political' message at all.

Much as I hate the war, the 'resistance' has become dominated by jihadists. Would you be pleased if they won? I wouldn't.

That's the problem for us anti-war people. Who to support?

? said...

A senior officer who served in Iraq worries "the combination of Haditha and Abu Ghraib will be the My Lai of this generation"

The pictures in time of next week are horrific and include bodies of the dead including a small child, and that of blood on the floor at one of the houses, blood-splattered walls inside a family home.

This is being compared with the 1968 "My Lai" massacre in which US soldiers murdered more than 500 Vietnamese.

troutsky said...

The question of how and why we on the left might want to support a "resistance" is so complex that it would require a much larger space than a comments column.Thrust into an abyss where non-violent resistance is no longer feasable there are no good options but carefully selecting the "least worst" is crucial.Long after the US military has jumped desperatly on the last helicopter leaving Baghdad, our generation will grapple with the blowback from this insane "experiment"of neo-liberal militarism.Im sure there are some forms of Iraqi resistance we should support and others we must reject.It is not monolithic.

MC Fanon said...

Perhaps justice will be served. It appears the marines' involved gave a false story about the deaths being largely accidental and the result of shrapnel from a bomb/grenade.

Interestingly enough, some footage/photos were uncovered that proves that many of the shootings were at a close range, some even in people's homes. Needless to say, I think we can rule out the 'accident' option.

Truly though, I'm surprised this sort of thing hasn't happened more often. When I heard about this I immediately thought of that scene from Platoon in the village. When soldiers are on the field too long you start to get more incidents like this.

If anything, this is a testiment that we need to pull out now.

Great entry, Renegade Eye. If you're at all interested, I recently wrote about the same thing in my blog, 'The Red Mantis'. It would be cool to have you stop in and comment sometime.


beatroot said...

But Troutsky - what part of the insurgency would you support?

Sunni nationalists (who are bombing shias)? Ex baathists who are bombing shias? Or maybe al-qaeda? Shia Islamic malitia?

That's the long and short of the armed struggle. Ordinary Iraqis want nothing to do with these people.

So why support the armed srtuggle if a victory for the armed stugglers is not in the Iraqis' interest?

I would support secular non-sectarian Iraqis who have a political program to get the occupiers out.

SugarBitz n MilkyBar said...

I totally agree. In every war, its the innocents who suffer the most.

Frank Partisan said...

Maryam's comrades in Iraq, are secular, socialist and "Third Camp", opposing both imperialism and Islamism. See: Left Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, The.

Graeme said...

Thanks for the link Ren. I have been looking for a group in Iraq to support that is anti-imperialist and anti-Islamist.

sonia said...


Long after the US military has jumped desperatly on the last helicopter leaving Baghdad

Is this an allusion to Vietnam ? The same Vietnam that now welcomes all capitalist investment, including American one ?

I agree brute military force isn't the most effective way to spread American domination. There are other, more effective methods...

Agnes said...

"I would support secular non-sectarian Iraqis who have a political program to get the occupiers out" - good point.

The problem is that since the Balkan war, these wars have been fought against civilians. Bosnia was not less horrible, but with less coverage. Just reading that new mass graves were discovered near Kamenica.

But the issue is that the victims are mostly or exclusively civilians: and this is not a US strategy. Such is the world nowadays, it seems.

John Brown said...


I support the Iraqi Mujihadeen bombing and killing Uncle Sam's little StormTroopers as well as the collaborator Iraqis working with them.

As they did in Vietnam, Uncle Sam uses PsyOp 'terrorists' (Zarqawi) to create a picture of the resistance so that they don't gain the full-throated support of those living here in Disneylandia.

Don't believe the Pentagon hype about the resistance. Their mission, objective, and tactics have been clear an open since they began the guerrilla war.

Read the Resistance Reports.

John Brown said...

How can you have a political program - without arms - calling for the removal of the occupation when the political system itself grows out of the occupation.

That seems impossible to me.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

I will call to you when the shredded spirits
On this day’s light gaze back at slaughter
And thunder their liquid wheels to the moon.
And I will ask you to kill yet again and again.
I will call to you from the arid cusp of charity,
And when the slaughtered fortitude cries out,
Howls to the moon sipping of the sun’s blood,
You shall collect tokens on the streets of Haditha.
Do not speak weary soldier!
Your ears are not yours!
Your mouth no more!
Your eyes are not your eyes!
Your feet are not your feet
They each belong to me!
Traded for your sweat and tears,
Bartered for your flesh and bone,
Given me by men of bold vision!
I will call to you when the tattered spirits
Upon the diminishing light stare back at murder
And thunder their liquid wheels to the moon.

Jae said...

I agree wholeheartedly that this is not "collateral damage." These are babies being murdered. It seems we learned nothing from My Lai.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian said...

Haditha, assuming it's true, is not a result of specific battlefield ethics of particular soldiers or even of a branch of the military. It's a result of a broader mentality whereby Iraqis are essentially disposible. This mentality drove the Iraq aggression in the first place ("We going to 'liberate' them whether they like it or not. And then stay as long as WE, not they, feel like.")

What Iraqis want is completely incidental to the policy. That's the mentality: the wants, hopes, desires and ultimately lives of Iraqis are incidental.

I mean how else to explain that when one American soldier dies, our nation weeps. But when dozens of Iraqi civilians dies, we shrug. I'm sorry, but if I have to choose between pulling for the GI with the massive weaponry and protection or the woman/child who is unarmed, the latter will get my sympathy every time. I'm a human being first, American second. Too many of my countrymen have that backward.

I've said for years that when you put people in an unreasonable situation, there's a good chance they will act in unreasonable ways. It's human nature. The great failing of Americans is to believe all of our soldiers are completely exempt from human nature.

That is why you should only put soldiers in unreasonable situations unless it's absolutely necessary, not simply because some dictator says our president's mama wears combat bootms.

Anonymous said...

I am so late to take a part in commenting about Haditha that propably no one will ever see it. However, I just got to do it, because I just visited a site called Mike's America and it brought me on a verge of a depression. I am so glad that there still are Americans like you whom haven't totally lost their humanity.

Anonymous said...