As we hear ever more disturbing testimony in the Haditha case, it is important to remember that we all bear some responsibility for this event, especially those with yellow ribbons on their bumpers. Those that gave unquestioning power to Bush and Cheney to make war need to own up to their horrific mistake. Supporting the troops sometimes means criticizing the leadership. Military men are prisoners to the chain of command and cannot always speak out. Their duty is to serve, not to question. It is sometimes necessary for private citizens to speak out to prevent bad decisions from costing men their lives, limbs and sanity. These soldiers in Haditha were put in an untenable situation. Bad decisions by those above put them on a street surrounded by enemies they could not identify. As is usually the case with an insurgency, the enemy is so embedded within the population identifying them is very difficult. Soldiers live a high-stress life for sure, but poor planning by the top brass adds to it.
There they are walking down the street and one of their own, perhaps a very popular member of the group, is blown to smithereens. Their emotions might have taken control of them. The horror and tragedy of losing someone close to them can sometimes cause people to lose their reason. This is a fact that military discipline is meant to overcome. These soldiers may have lost their minds and not really known what they were doing despite that training. Their vision, so clouded by rage, horror and sadness at the loss of their comrade, vengeance is all they can see. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine the emotional pain that could have blinded these soldiers.
Of course, similar emotions are evoked when I think of the women and children that were killed in the incident. They are innocents that were effectively slaughtered. One can also try to imagine the sinking feeling that those Iraqi men in the work crew must have felt as they realized they were going to be killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A crime, a massacre, is the true nature of the acts if the allegations are borne out.
Even if this was a massacre, we should still have pity on these soldiers. Yes, they must be tried and those that killed innocents must suffer the consequences of their actions, but we must keep in mind the circumstances. I do not believe any of them is guilty of 1st degree murder. These were crimes of passion, rage and sadness. Many of them will be haunted by their actions for the rest of their lives. Second-degree murder or manslaughter should be the most any should face in my opinion. In the spirit of the free society, America has strived to be, these men will be tried, convicted and likely imprisoned, but they should not face a death penalty.
They deserve more than our pity though, these men's suffering must not be in vain. The Boys of Haditha deserve action. We as Americans must make sure their sacrifices are not in vain. They have been sent to invade and occupy a nation that does not want them, despite the predictions by the neo-conservatives that "We would be met by flowers in the streets!"
What happened in Haditha is no surprise to men like: Colin Powell, Jack Murtha, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry or John McCain, but Cheney and Bush have all expressed shock. The "Fog of War" can cloud one's own mind at any moment. Cheney and Bush deny such fallibilities exist with themselves and therefore cannot see reality clearly. AND WAR IS ALL ABOUT REALITIES!!!! I must also single out John Kerry, because I voted for him. It was with much reservation that I cast that vote, I might add. I had voted Libertarian for the previous 20 years and found it hard to turn away from my party. In the end though, I held my nose and voted for Kerry in 2004. I held my nose, because he just did not seem honest about his Vietnam and post-Vietnam experiences.
On these issues, real honesty from those that were there is more necessary than ever as the revisionists have begun to work on the 1960's and 70's. I felt that Kerry needed to admit he had thrown his medals over the White House fence. He needed to explicate in greater detail on what he meant when he talked about "atrocities" in Vietnam. He had been there on the ground. Fresh from his service there, the ugly truth of it compelled Kerry to speak out in an effort to save his comrades in arms from being sentenced to an endless Hell. I felt that in 2004, he just wanted to be president too darn bad to tell the ugly truth of it.
The killings at Haditha are atrocities of a kind. A kind of atrocity that likely also occurred in Vietnam, where men are faced with death from a hidden enemy within the populace and begin to see all in the population as a potential enemy combatant that must be killed. Kerry did a disservice to the men in the Iraqi theater for not standing up and telling it like it was, and is, in spite the Swift Boat Veterans and their ilk. Now more than two years later, we have Haditha, along with continuing claims of torture and abuse by American soldiers and no end in sight to the violence for the boys on the ground.
The power to make war resides with the people represented by their Congress. Americans must take back the apparatus of their government and specifically the war powers our Congress has bestowed upon men without combat experience. Where is the required declaration of war for this invasion and long-term occupation? The Iraq Resolution did not formally make such a declaration, yet a state of war surely exists. The men who engineered this nightmare in Iraq must also be tried. If the Boys of Haditha must suffer, so should those responsible for damning these men to Hell. They must also be prosecuted. There is much more than just mistaken intelligence at work here. If mistaken intelligence really was the root cause, then how does George Tenet warrant the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
The Boys of Haditha had no chance, because the decision-makers at the top had no clue. This has been a poorly conceived war plan from the beginning and to send men and women off to die with no real plan is surely criminal. To have "pretended" to have a plan based upon the scheming of an Iranian intelligence agent, Akmad Chalabi, is an atrocity of some kind. Looking back over the last four years, everyone can see that a crime has been committed, even if it is simply "criminal incompetence".
Those in harm's way deserve competent leadership and in America that is supposed to be us, the people! We the people have got to take control of this situation. We must elect a Congress that will rein in the power of the Executive Branch. The President and his Cabinet cannot send our young men and women off to die without our approval on poorly planned and ill-defined missions. As the Boys at Haditha must be tried and perhaps be convicted, so must the men and women who ordered them there.