The headline in Friday's Washington Post says it all: "No Murder Charges Filed in Haditha Case."
Two years ago, a group of Marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians – including women and children cowering in their own homes – in a revenge rampage in Haditha. Once the story emerged from the usual layers of lies and cover-up, the atrocity flared briefly on the public stage and eight of the Marines and their officers were charged "with murder or failing to investigate an apparent war crime," as the Post reports. But public attention moved swiftly on, and over the past few months, the Pentagon's "military justice" system has quietly reduced or dropped charges against most of the men. Yesterday's announcement signaled the final climb-down in the case, leaving only a single Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, facing a charge of voluntary manslaughter, and lesser charges against one other enlisted man and two officers.
Two dozen civilians slaughtered, as confirmed by the Pentagon itself – and yet there was no murder. Indeed, Brian Rooney, the lawyer for one of the officer charged with failing to investigate the ki llings, now says "it's clear now that no massacre occurred, yet this legal fiction is moving forward." Twenty-four actual, physical dead bodies in the ground – yet the incident was a "legal fiction" – "no massacre occurred."
The Pentagon has decided that the beserkers who killed two dozen innocent civilians were essentially following the accepted rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Iraq – a revealing fact in itself. As the Post notes:
Investigating officers in the cases have recommended lesser charges because they have found that the Marines determined the houses were hostile and believed they could kill everyone inside, more likely a case of recklessness than intent to commit a crime.
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Even the indictment of Wuterich contains mitigating circumstances in the charge itself, which, the Post notes, alleges "that he had an intent to kill and that his actions inside a residential home and on a residential street in November 2005 amounted to unlawful killing 'in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation.'"
"Adequate provocation" to kill twenty-four unarmed civilians in cold blood – or rather, as the indictment terms it, in hot blood, "the heat of sudden passion."
There is little I can say about this case beyond what I first wrote about it in 2006 in this post: The Line of Atrocity: From the White House to Haditha (see the original for links):
Many observers have compared the methodical murder of 24 innocent civilians by U.S. Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha – now confirmed by Pentagon and Congressional sources – to the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when American troops slaughtered hundreds of civilians in a bloody rampage. But this is a false equation, one that gravely distorts the overall reality of the Coalition effort in Iraq.It is also the historical legacy of every single public figure and presidential candidate who fails to stand up – right now, today, and every single day – and demand that this abomination come to an immediate end, and that its perpetrators face the full measure of justice for what they have done. Who gives a damn about Obama's "elevating rhetoric" or Hillary's "tough fight-back" in New Hampshire – or any of the other soul-rotting bullshit of the presidential campaign – when this innocent blood drenches us all, day after day after day? Moral insanity has gripped this nation – and we are all of us, every single one, tainted and corrupted by it...and are passing it on to our children. Who will break this chain of madness? And where will we find mercy for these crimes?
For it is not the small-scale Haditha atrocity that should be compared to My Lai: it is the entire Iraq War itself. The whole operation – from its inception in high-level mendacity to its execution in blood-soaked arrogance, folly, greed and incompetence – is a war crime of almost unfathomable proportions: a My Lai writ large, a My Lai every single day, year after year after year.
....Photos taken afterwards by U.S. military intelligence document the carnage [at Haditha]. "One portrays an Iraqi mother and young child, kneeling on the floor, as if in prayer," the Sunday Times reports. "They have been shot dead at close range. The pictures show other victims, shot execution-style in the head and chest in their homes." The victims "included a 76-year-old amputee and a four-year-old boy," the Observer reports. "In one house an entire family, including seven children, were attacked with guns and grenades. Only a 13-year-old girl survived." A U.S. government official told the Sunday Times that the attackers had "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership."
Take special note of that last statement: it may be the first time that a Bush Administration spokesman has ever told the truth about the war. There has indeed been a "total breakdown in morality and leadership" in Iraq; but it's not confined to the Haditha killers. They are just the inevitable end product of the culture of lawlessness, brutality, and aggression deliberately manufactured by the White House to serve its predatory geopolitical ambitions and its dirty war-profiteering schemes.
This fish has rotted from the head, and the corruption has eaten through the entire body politic. It was bound to find its most extreme manifestations in those whom Bush has armed with lies – a majority of U.S. soldiers believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11, polls show – and sent off to kill and be killed in an illegal war of aggression based on knowingly false and tricked-up evidence. If atrocity is the foundation of your enterprise, if atrocity is the atmosphere you breathe, why then, you are bound to produce atrocities, over and over, despite the many individual soldiers and honorable officers who struggle against the infected tide.
These massacres aren't just momentary outbursts of revenging anger; they're learned behavior. The Marines who killed at Haditha were veterans of the much larger atrocity at Fallujah the year before. There they took part in one of the most savage demolitions of a city since World War II. Eight weeks of relentless bombing was followed by a cut-off of the city's water, electricity and food supplies. a clear war crime under the Geneva Conventions. More than two-thirds of the city's residents, some 200,000 people, fled the coming inferno, refugees in their own land. Those who remained were considered fair game in the house-by-house ravaging that followed. Among the Americans' first targets were the city's hospitals and clinics, as U.S. officers freely admitted to the New York Times: another blatant war crime. They were destroyed or shut down, with medical staff killed or imprisoned, to prevent bad publicity about civilian casualties from reaching the outside world, the officers said. Later, an investigation by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government found credible evidence of the use of chemical weapons against the city; yet another war crime. Up to 6,000 people were killed in the attack, most of them civilians.
The few hundred Fallujah-based insurgents who had been the ostensible target of the assault had escaped long before the onslaught began. Thus there was no real military purpose to the city's destruction, which had been ordered by the White House; it was instead an act of reprisal, a collective punishment against the Iraqi people as a whole, non-combatants included, for the armed resistance to the Coalition conquest. The Marines of Kilo Company simply took what they were taught by their eminently respectable superiors in Fallujah and applied it in Haditha.
...Like Abu Ghraib, Haditha is not an aberration by a few "bad apples" but the emblem of a wider, systemic crime, the natural fruit of an outlaw regime that has made aggressive war, torture, indefinite detention, "extrajudicial killing," rendition and concentration camps official national policy. This moral rot is Bush's true historical legacy.
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