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The Marines Have Figured It Out: Time to Quit Iraq

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By Dave Lindorff

Over the past year, Bush has pretty much lost his entire Coalition of the Unwilling, with the British, who have already pulled back from Basra into their fortified base, now intending to quit Iraq altogher early next year

But before the Brits close the door behind them, someone else wants to leave too: the United States Marines, America's answer to ancient Greece's Spartan warriors.

According to a remarkable Wednesday article in the New York Times, the Marines have told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that they'd much prefer to leave Iraq and go take over the fighting in Afghanistan from the US Army, which has some 26,000 troops over there--just about the same number as the 25,000 Marines currently mired in Iraq.

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Very convenient.

And very telling.

The Marines have clearly looked at Iraq and have seen it for the horrific, bloddy, hopeless mess that it is. And with recruitment a growing challenge, and their reputation in tatters thanks to the baby murders in Haditha, and the massive slaughter of thousands in Fallujah, they want to go somewhere, anywhere else, where they can at least claim they're acting under UN or NATO authority, where they won't be seen as occupiers, and where at least some of the people in the host country will like them.

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Let the U.S. Army deal with President Bush's Iraq mess.

You can't really blame the Marines.

I spoke with one Marine, a young man just back from a second tour of Iraq, who had been part of the assault on Fallujah in late 2004. "It was horrible," he said. "We went in there with no rules of engagement at all. It was just kill anything that moved. We were using hyperbaric explosives that, when you threw them into a house, sucked the life out of every living thing in the building. Then you'd walk in and find old men and little boys."

The assault on the 300,000-population city Fallujah, he said (the largest single battle the Marines fought in the war), was itself a war crime--a collective punishment of a whole city for the butchering by insurgents based ithere of four American mercenaries earlier that year. Collective punishment--a tactic that was routinely used by the Nazis in World War II--was banned by the Nuremberg Charter, signed by the US, but was a stated reason for the leveling of Fallujah.

The UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other laws aimed at making war less barbaric, mean nothing to this administration.

Such a war, and such battle tactics, are not what Marines, or what any decent human being, wants to be a part of. And yet, just looking at the death toll in Iraq--over one million by one account, in a country of 24 million--and at studies that have shown the U.S. kill ratio, of enemy fighters to civilians to be 1:30, how can the Marines have avoided it?

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Secretary Gates is trying to play down the Marines' proposal, but the very fact that it has been made should show how desperate the military in Iraq is becoming.

The war has ceased to be about anything now but saving Bush's and Cheney's twin asses. They want to engineer things--and appear to be getting away with it thanks to the gutlessness and idiocy of the Democrats in Congress--so that they can leave office before they have to admit defeat and error and pull the troops out.

The Marines' leaders have obviously what they are doing, and want to get out too before losing more men and women, and before they have to be part of the inevitable disgraced exodus that lies ahead.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)

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