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Details Emerge

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   4 comments
Message Jayne Stahl
They say that truth is the first casualty of war, but the lessons of recent wars in Vietnam, and now Iraq show, if nothing else, that honor is not far behind. Despite the best efforts of those marines who ostensibly tore incriminating pages from an official logbook for Nov. 19, the day of the Haditha massacre, in order to keep word of how those 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were murdered, as well as delay release of the information, a clearer picture of what happened that autumn, 2005 in Iraq is beginning to surface. And, in the face of a new majority in what may come to be known as the Congress of accountability, may even cause us to take a closer, if painful, look at how the massacre began .

According to eyewitness accounts, in the aftermath of American casualties from a roadside bombing, five unarmed Iraqi civilians were ordered out of a taxicab by Staff Sergeant Frank D. Wuterich after which they were shot, execution-style, by another marine who "allegedly fired shots into the victims' bodies as they lay on the ground." A teenage girl, one of the only to survive the subsequent raid on her house in which she lost five of her family members, said of the marine who did the killing only: "He fired and killed everybody. The American fired and killed everybody." (AP)

The "American" to whom this teenager refers is the same one sent to Iraq more than three years ago to save that country from a dictator who was subsequently hanged, only to be replaced by another generic dictator known simply as "the American." The monster to whom this sole survivor of a genocidial act refers could be your son, my son, your grandson, his best friend, or the fellow who gives him a ride to school. This was to be an American president's one man mission to support, and nurture his fledgling "democracy," his raison d'etre for calling in more troops, and is every bit as political as targeting an innocent man for a crime he didn't commit to win a small town district attorney race. Make no mistake, the unconscionable delay in releasing this report was every bit as poliical as the efforts on the part of four commissioned officers to cover up wrongdoing on the part of the four marines who have now been officially charged with this heinous crime.

Yes, those in our military who commit acts of senseless, barbaric slaughter are in the minority, indeed, in the extreme minority. But, what is nearly as disturbing as this repulsive act of cold blooded killing itself is the appalling, and cowardly crime of attempting to destroy, and/or withhold physical proof that this crime ever happened. I say again, as I have before, that the one thing we can be sure of is that somebody high up in the food chain of command at least knew about, if not ordered the destruction of the evidence. We can also be reasonably certain that the four commissioned officers were not alone in their failure to investigate this massacre; their act of vandalism, in eliminating evidence, was, no doubt, also rdered by top military brass. But, the question remains: will Congress have the courage to climb that food chain no matter how high it goes, or will it become yet another victim of an agenda of secrecy and disgrace?

Importantly, the Pentagon stands by its story that there was no attempt at a deliberate cover-up, and that at worst "the commanders created a climate that minimized the importance of Iraqi lives." Talk about understatements. In its reporting of American casualties only, and its acquiescence with official Pentagon miscounts of Iraqi collateral damages, the mainstream media has, on balance, acted as an enabler of administration misconduct.

What can be the argument in defense of these brutal, and senseless killings? Attorneys representing the marines claim that they were only doing what they were trained to do, and responding to what felt to them like "legitimate force." What was the threat to their own safety that would compel a staff sergeant to order five unarmed Iraqi civilians out of a taxicab, in Haditha, and shoot them one after another as they stood next to the taxicab? Whose was the force here, legitimate or otherwise? And, more to the point, would Wuterich have acted this way, as deliberately, and methodically killed defenseless civilians unless he was reasonably confident that his actions would, at the very least, receive a big thumbs up from his commanding officers?

It was nearly a century ago that Senator Hiram W. Johnson said that, in times of war, the first casualty to emerge is truth, and in a hundred years from now, historians may look back upon the midterm elections two months ago today as yet another November Revolution, which rivals the one back in 1994. Still, there are a whole lot of questions that need to be answered from an administration that has, unequivocally and indefatigably, abandoned its domestic agenda to a foreign policy that was flawed from the get-go.

The irony of this recent election is not that the president retains power by veto and signing statement, not that Congress is essentially gagged where decisions of war mongering are concerned as that is the domain of the commander-in-chief; there simply isn't enough time left to investigate all the wrongdoing on the part of a runaway executive branch and its counterfeit motives for taking our country to war.

Moreover, who's going to investigate the investigators when it is clear to the naked eye, and anyone who wishes to open their eyes, that what some pundits call "execution etiquette" doesn't just apply to deposed dictators, but innocent Iraqis, as well, and that the only way we, as citizens in the demoralized zone, can ever hope to know the truth is if, and when, the ACLU, or human rights groups, take this government to court with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

It's time for both the House and Senate to connect the dots between Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, Haditha, and other insults to human rights which have yet come to light in Iraqi prisons, as well as detention centers in Afghanistan, and demand answers as to who gave the commands, who knew about the actions, and why it has taken more than two years to get a glimmer of what happened on that terrible November day.

It's also up to those elected to represent those among us who are outraged, as well as those going along for the ride that is the carnage, and moral decline that is Iraq, to stand up to the hunting down of those principles for which ninety nine percent of our men and women in uniform now give their lives, and have given their lives for generations so that we may not merely ask the right questions, but get the right answers.

We express solidarity with those who march against this war, and for justice. We express solidarity with those who fight the forces of darkness, and with those who see that the taking of even one human life diminshes us all
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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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