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"Consider the Mindset"

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Message Jayne Stahl
Had enough of Jon Benet Ramsey's killer's most irregular confession to an egregious, and sensational crime? Well then, consider this: Marines Lt. Colonel Jeffrey A. Chessari saw nothing irregular, or out of the ordinary, in the murder, last November, of 24 Iraqi men, women, and children in the village of Haditha. To the lieutenant, this wholesale act of slaughter can be seen only as "a large combat action that had been staged by the enemy." (WaPo)

It boggles the mind to think that any key commander, whether it be in the marines, the army, or the air force, can be so audaciously complacent, and nonplussed, about any operation, under his auspices, that involves the gunning down of civilian "enemy." That there is no sense of responsibility, or desire to pursue at least the prospect of culpability, for what is clearly a shameful act that falls outside of the Geneva Conventions, as well as any civilized notion of battle, makes the notion that any country to whom we claim to export democracy, and/or respect for law and order, patently and grossly absurd. Such open, and provincial, acceptance of "collateral damage" constitutes blatant conceptual butchery, and far surpasses anything that can be accomplished by a mere bullet.

While testifying, in Iraq, in preparation for a larger military trial in the Haditha matter, it appears that the good lieutenant didn't even bat an eyelash. According to the statement made, under oath, last spring, Chessari said that he did not think what happened in Haditha was in way, shape, or form out of the ordinary nor that it warranted an investigation on his part. Instead, he suggested that the killing of these 24 civilians in late November, in Iraq, was nothing more than a routine combat action. (WaPo)

It will be interesting to see who will walk away from the inquiry into Haditha with a slap on the wrist, what the Lt. Colonel's peers think, and the penalty, if any, this commander, and his subordinates, will face for what can only be seen as criminal acts. Moreover, what price will society at large pay for training, arming, and rewarding the kind of mindset that unilaterally, and universally, abnegates responsibility both as a critically-thinking commanding officer, and as a moral human being. What example can our military hope to set for an evolving Iraqi military?

Arguably, the larger question is what kind of skewered logic finds value in a preemptive military action that comes about from leadership that demonstrates no knowledge whatsoever of what the word "proactive" means. Is that what the enemy is to be used for, to cover our collective ass? Or, better still, has the truth itself become our biggest enemy?

More importantly, why is it that the press, in this country, as well as those born again neo-con artists aren't asking the hard questions about over the top, behavior routinely practiced, ignored, and/or sanctioned by commissioned officers in our armed forces? If we don't ask these questions, you can rest assured history will ask them for us as, indeed, with regard to Haditha, Abu Ghraib, and other travesties, we have met the enemy, and it is not terror, it is passive acceptance, blind compliance, and noxious insensitivity to the collective, and unequivocal, value of human life.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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