Whatever happened at Haditha, it was horrendous. A tape made shortly after the incident has surfaced and has been broadcast on the beeb. [here]
The BBC account is interesting for a number of reasons. They clearly identify the source of the tape, which seems to contradict official Marine statements, as being hard-line Sunni activists, and therefore suspect. They also note that the tape was not shot close-up as the sources and "witnesses" say it was. The BBC also confirms that there was, as Marine sources claim, a "firefight" not just a bomb blast, and states that a major resistance figure was reported to be in the house under attack. There is no support in the BBC account for the allegation, widely broadcast, that US troops were going house to house on a killing spree. It does, however, seem clear that everyone in the house under attack, including three children, was killed and that their deaths preceded the collapse of the structure. This contradicts marine accounts which claim that the deaths of the children were caused by the collapse.
Right now there is little hard and fast information for the public, both national and international to digest. Already the various interested parties are trying to put their spin on the situation. So long as we are operating mainly on speculation rather than facts the spinners will be defining the situation.
The only appropriate response here is clear and aggressive action and statements from the administration. The President should be on TV right now stating his determination to get to the bottom of this and to punish to the full extent of the law any miscreants. Secondhand reports that Bush is "upset" or "disturbed" by the incident are not enough.
We also need complete transparency. Get all the evidence out. The current line of waiting until the military finishes its interminable investigation of the incident will not do. Get all the information out now. Do it!
AP is reporting that the Iraqi government is launching an independent probe of what went on here. This is a good opportunity for them to build legitimacy through an impartial assessment of the evidence. Let us hope that they follow through.
So far the military response, that they will require "ethics courses" of all troops, is woefully, pitifully inadequate.
So far Bush has been reluctant to interfere with field commanders' handling of the innumberable crises that ensue in the course of military operations. But this is a time that cries out, loudly, for political interference. The administration has to get on top of this thing before it mushrooms, as it already is starting to do.
Read it here.
Bush has adopted a decidedly passive tone. According to Reuters,
Sorry George, that is not good enough.
Bush has vowed to punish those responsible if a military inquiry verifies allegations that U.S. Marines rampaged through houses in the Iraqi town of Haditha on November 19 and fatally shot two dozen civilians, including women and children.
"I'm not involved with the investigation," Bush told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "And you shouldn't expect me to be. I expect this investigation to be conducted independent of the White House, with a full and thorough investigation."
Read it here.
Jeffrey Barnett, a Marine lieutenant, raises the question of just how innocent those victims were.
Examine the following hypothetical example: During a vehicular patrol, you drive though a small neighborhood of four houses around 0800. Everything is kosher. Women are making breakfast, children are playing, and men are talking to each other near the road. You drive through the same area two hours later at 1000 and things are vastly different. Nobody is outside. As the second vehicle in the patrol rounds a corner just past the four houses it is hit by an IED....
you can’t dig a hole in front of someone’s house and plant an IED without them noticing at some point during their daily routine. The people around know something, and it’s evidenced by the fact they were conveniently inside to avoid the explosion. However, they didn’t outwardly aggress on you, and you don’t have a clear target, so you can’t retaliate. Repeat this sequence of events a few times over the course of 6-7 months of combat. Perhaps you bury a few friends as a result. The same scene manifests itself in a myriad of locations and situations. Your friends keep dying, and you have never so much as seen the face of your enemy.
This is the unfortunate reality that Marines on the ground live with everyday....
When does passive approval become active aggression?Good question!
Read it here.