The Lighter Side
In support of our troops at Haditha
By Aaron Sussman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 15, 2006, 00:45

�Shit . . . charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?� Apocalypse Now

� . . . Let us understand - North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.� � President Richard Nixon, 1969

Calm down. Take a moment and think.

Now, I�m the first one to say that murder is wrong. But this incident in Haditha is a little more complicated than that and everyone needs to just relax a little and think things over. Make no mistake: if we condemn these men, we�ll be on a slippery slope so severe that it will make the legalization of gay marriage look almost harmless.

But before we explore that perilous path, let�s look at who we are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not a normal enemy. According to Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell,�in [George W. Bush�s] official memoranda, he said �I want to recognize that this a different kind of enemy, al-Qaida and Taliban are a different kind of enemy. They are not conventional warriors�� (VOA News, 12/8/05). I can see the marquee now: The Unconventional Warrior - starring the Libyans from Back to the Future as The Insurgency. It�s not even fair - these super warriors have 72 virgins and the welcoming arms of Allah; all our guys have is �stop-loss� and slashed veteran benefits.

A new kind of enemy calls for a new kind of war. According to one White House aide, �The powers of the presidency have been eroded and usurped to the breaking point. We are engaged in a new kind of war that cannot be fought by old methods. It can only be directed by a strong executive. . . . The public understands and supports that unpleasant reality, whatever the media and intellectuals say" (Washington Post, 3/9/05). Those swishy, cabernet-drinking �intellectuals� know nothing about the public! This is America, birthplace of Foxy Boxing, super-sized fries, and Toby Keith. We true Americans can speak for ourselves; you can tell the �media� and the �intellectuals� to go back to their synagogue and leave us alone.

Thank Christian God we have a strong executive who can handle this new type of war. In 2003, President Bush boldly declared, "We are redefining war on our terms." That�s the American spirit right there. If we don�t know a definition, we make one up. So you don�t think that war entails the legitimating of torture, murder, massive civilian deaths, no-bid contracts and pandering to corporate interests, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, the trampling of domestic civil liberties, domestic spying, and the complete rejection of international law? Well, read the redefinition.

In addition to redefining war, this administration has bravely redefined the notion of �the press,� with the assistance of brave corporate media. This new definition includes government-produced news segments, jailed reporters, fake reporters, bribed columnists, censored stories, severely restricted access, and a media that�s really just happy to be invited to the press conference. But some journalists, when it comes to matters as grave as Haditha, are willing to roll up their sleeves and take a moral stand. Christopher Price of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is one such journalist, who points out that �some of these Marines may have gone too far in response and investigations are under way� (6/6/06). You know how it can be � your buddy plays a little joke on you by putting a fake ticket on your car, so you let the air out of his tires� you�ve gone too far. And then your buddy paints crude pictures on your car in retaliation, so you massacre three houses worth of families and then cover it up � you�ve gone too far. The Boston Globe�s headline read, "Killing of Civilians in Iraq Highlights Stress on Troops." Indeed it does, and I am glad that when things like this happen, the press understands that any pain and suffering experienced by foreigners is just a backdrop for the real story of American anguish.

But back to that slippery slope. We don�t want this to turn into an analysis of why soldiers are under so much �stress.� We don�t want to ask why, when Rumsfeld said the invasion would be a �cakewalk,� he didn�t anticipate a bloody religious resistance (cakewalk, Allah mode?). Or remind people of when Dick Cheney told us one year ago that the insurgency was in its �last throes.� Or of when Wolfowitz said to the House Budget Committee, �It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself. . . . Hard to imagine" (2/27/03). Or of when Tenet called WMD �a slam dunk case� (12/21/02) and Bush said �we found weapons of mass destruction� on Polish television (5/29/03). Or of when Bush told fellow hero Pat Robertson that �we�re not going to have any casualties� and when Bush bravely declared "major combat operations in Iraq have ended� while he stood under the �Mission Accomplished� banner after a brave aircraft carrier landing.

The commander-in-chief donned his flight suit and exhibited this bravery in 2003. That same year, the number of significant terrorist attacks was the highest it has been in over two decades, according to State Department figures. We don�t want people thinking that our soldiers are under �stress� because their presence is opposed by vast numbers of Iraqis, many of whom hated Saddam far more than we did. We don�t want people making too much of reports like the one that says, �Recent analysis in Israel and the US suggests that a new generation of terrorist and insurgents is being radicalised by the war in Iraq� (The Australian, 12/10/05). We don�t want people looking too hard and making the absurd conclusion that the �War on Terror� has led to more terrorism and venomous anti-American sentiment across Muslim nations (is this what Bush meant when he called himself a �Uniter�?)

We don�t want to look too hard at Haditha because it shoves the issues of torture and lawlessness right under the spotlight. According to Larry Wilkerson, "What was clearly implemented by the armed forces was a loosening of the guidelines that Geneva [Convention] creates for them, a loosening of the Army field manual guidelines. And when you do that . . . you open Pandora's box with regard to the armed forces." If the incident at Haditha did indeed leap from this Pandora�s box, the responsibility extends all the way up the chain � Haditha is then not an aberration, but a symptom of the disease, one of the many chapters in the Bush authored �Imperialism for Dummies.� Indeed, torture is the first collision on Haditha�s slippery slope.

We don�t want people to know that at least 108 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report by Human Rights First, 27 of whom the government admits may have been victims of criminal homicide, caused by "strangulation," "hypothermia," "asphyxiation," and "blunt force injuries" (ACLU, 4/27/06). But when such aberrations occur, rest assured that the perpetrator will be harshly reprimanded. In Afghanistan, Sgt. Selena Salcedo kicked and beat a prisoner, then slammed his head against a wall multiple times because he avoided her questions. The prisoner later died from his injuries. For her crime, Salcedo was given a letter of reprimand and reduced in rank from sergeant to specialist (NYT, 5/21/05).

There is nothing we can do about the backlash over the Abu Ghraib pictures now, but it would be a shame if the incident in Haditha called attention to subsequent unpleasantness. For instance, it is probably better to keep quiet that �a Special Operations unit converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber . . . using prisoners as paintball targets, in its frenzy to counter a widely predicted insurgency for which Mr. Rumsfeld had refused to prepare� or that an Iraqi �man said he had been forced to strip, punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited� because his father supposedly used to work for Saddam (NYT, 3/23/06).

While some irresponsible folks try to highlight these abuses and denounce them as amoral brutality, the corporate media has rightfully taken a more open view on the issue. Rush Limbaugh and others laughed off and compared the Abu Ghraib abuses to frat "hazing." Diana West wrote in the Washington Times that following the Geneva Conventions means "we�ll serve tea and crumpets" to terrorists. Bill O�Reilly thinks that "progressives want to give terrorists condos on Miami Beach.� Fox News�s John Gibson described the plaintiffs in the ACLU case against Rumsfeld as �liberal, anti-war type activists. . . . They allege a lot of stuff. And you feel like Seinfeld. "Yada-yada-yada." (You�re right, John Gibson, I DO feel like Seinfeld! �What�s the deal with murder and torture? I mean, really � whatever happened to asking nicely?�) Torture has been wisely rationalized and excused by Brit Hume, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, and countless others.

We need more newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, which featured an editorial condemning those who would oppose torture and saying that people �who threw around words like �torture� so glibly are worse than wrong. . . . they have endangered the lives of soldiers by forcing a retreat in interrogation techniques so severe that it�s hampering the U.S. ability to fight the counterinsurgency in Iraq.� EXACTLY. When these liberals complain that the war isn�t going well, they don�t realize that it is their fault. The real problem is that we�re not torturing enough.

What we need is the torture, but without all those pesky pictures making their way to those liberal blogs. When the Abu Ghraib picures emerged, General Richard B. Myers, according to an AP report, said that �releasing photos and videotapes of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and incite riots against U.S. troops. . . . Myers wrote in recently unsealed court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that it was �probable that al-Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill.�� Clearly, the ACLU and the small-wing of the rogue press are to blame for our problems in Iraq � and let�s not let Haditha allow people to question such clear logic.

Besides, if torture is so bad, then why would it be so good for one�s career? Take Alberto Gonzales, who called the Geneva Conventions �quaint� and, according to Human Rights First, �was among the first to embrace the no-rules-apply approach to the 'war on terror.�� For his efforts, he was made attorney general and put on the short list of candidates considered for the Supreme Court. Or take former General Counsel for the Pentagon, William J. Haynes, who helped circumvent laws restricting the use of torture, promoted indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without due process, and advocated many of the most abusive tactics in Guantanamo. Bush rewarded him by nominating him for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Many other architects of torture, including John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and David Addington, have been promoted and given expansive power over American policy. Leave it to the folks at the ACLU to rain on the parade of these heroes on upward career paths.

Delving deeper into Haditha is bad for everyone. It is bad for Marine spokesman Jeffrey S. Pool, who told the Time Magazine reporter who originally asked questions about Haditha, "I cannot believe you're buying any of this. . . . This falls into the same category of any [al-Qaeda in Iraq] propaganda." It is bad for the Marines who killed three civilians, a 60-year-old woman and her two children, in Samarra (The Guardian, 6/7/06). It is bad for the Marines who are accused of offering hush money in �the shooting death of a disabled Iraqi man in the Baghdad suburb of Hamdaniyah on April 26� (Tom Engelhardt, 6/7/06.) It is bad for the soldiers who killed 11civilians, including up to five children, in the village of Ishaqi. The soldiers were all cleared of any illegal action, making the dead victims �collateral damage,� not murder, but questions linger in light of Haditha.

Here is the thing about Haditha that liberals and critics will never understand: even if the families slaughtered were not harboring the terrorists who planted the IED and attacked our troops, they probably would have. Our troops need to find these insurgents who hide out in the houses of those who support the cause � and this includes, many, many houses. This is how we fight; this is how we have to fight. It is best to shrug this incident in Haditha off as an aberration and move on, because when people realize that the �few bad apples� are really just normal apples from a diseased tree, there are going to be problems. Haditha is the war in Iraq. The white phosphorus in the chemical weapons used in Fallujah is the war in Iraq. Torture is the war in Iraq. And that�s okay. Liberty has a price. And unless you want to see outrageous accusations against the liberators in the Bush administration, unless you want to see the term �war criminal� thrown around by dangerous radicals, and unless you want the nation to see the shameful truth that lies in shards at the bottom of that slippery slope, then it is best to just support our troops, and let this be the last time we mention Haditha.

Aaron Sussman is a 21-year-old student at Wesleyan University. He is currently working with Globalvision, Inc/MediaChannel and in the past have been affiliated with the ACLU(internship) and Revolution Books in NYC (volunteer).

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