Haditha Inspires Immoral Justification


DAMASCUS - It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to blame the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November, or the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians in the village of Ishaqi back this March, on the "stress of war". After Abu Ghraib and other US "mistakes" since 2003, people are much less likely to buy such an excuse from the Americans.


Haditha Inspires Immoral Justification
JP at Blog and Tan

The incident in Haditha is beginning to weigh more heavily on the American anti-terror campaign in Iraq. We're beginning to find out more details of the incident, the content of which drastically contradicts the official military story.

Investigating what was described as a roadside-bomb incident by the Marines, the truth as discovered by the team collecting the civilian bodies was far more horrific:

The unit that arrived in the farming town of Haditha found babies, women and children shot in the head and chest. An old man in a wheelchair had been shot nine times. A group of girls, ages 1 to 14, lay dead. Everyone had been killed by gunfire, according to death certificates issued later.

In Iraq, this incident (and other simliar ones) is playing into the complicated politics of the young government:

Maliki has announced an independent Iraqi investigation into the Haditha incident and called on the United States to release the findings of its own investigation. Yet his responses to questions about Haditha on Friday appeared to be more restrained than they were the day before, when he criticized what he called "the practice" of abusing civilians.

Some urge that we not pre-judge the soldiers, as they are entitled to a fair military trial--and I applaud these efforts. Others go further, and begin to undermine the morality of the "war on terror."

Conservative bloggers and commenters here on Blogcritics are arguing that the mere suggestion that killing of civilians is unacceptable--despite that "terrorism," that which we are allegedly fighting, is in its essence attacks on non-military personnel--because in fighting a war, the deaths of civilians is part of the exit criterion of destroying the enemy's will to fight. This is not specific to the incidents alleged in Haditha, but rather is an implied ethical approval of any such incident:

In order to win a war, you must destroy the enemy’s will to fight. This is accepted fact. The terrorists know this, and they are well on their way to destroying our will. Even while they attack our cities and kill our innocents, we scream that “American troops must take the high road! We must not torture! We must not strike the enemy preemptively! We must only react to them if fired upon!”...And then you wonder why we’re still in Iraq.

The question of why we're in Iraq in the first place is supremely important here, and the facts point to a premeditated effort by the Bush administration to engage Iraq before they even took office. A quick review:

* Involvement in the Bush administration of members of the Project for the New American Century; and that project's stated goals of removing Saddam Hussein from power;

* Donald Rumsfeld's immediate request on 9/11 (five hours after the attacks) for "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. at same time. Not only UBL"

* Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, in Spring 2001, produced documents containing maps of Iraqi oil fields.

Though it appears 9/11 provided an excuse for a declaration of "War on terror"--or even a distraction--for the sake of argument, let's assume Bush is honest in describing our mission as ridding the world of terror. Unlike World War II and other wars between nation-states, this "war" effort is directed towards those who sponsor and commit terrorist acts; thus, unlike those previous wars, the importance of avoiding civilian deaths is more paramount in this conflict than in the past. If we are guilty of killing civilians ourselves, in effect terrorizing civilians, then how can we possibly call this a "War on Terror"?

Sadly, some don't see it this way. They make vague comparisons to the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima, alluding to the idea that by displaying immense firepower and coincidentally killing thousands of civilians, we broke the enemy's will to live. But during those conflicts, we were opposing an identifiable nation with locatable citizens. Some suggest that because terrorists don't follow the Geneva convention, we shouldn't be required to either. But if we fail to do so, aren't we putting ourselves on the same level as the terrorists we oppose?

All that said, we must return to the idea of the genesis of the war in Iraq. There is no morally consistent way to fight a "war on terror"--if we're going to keep arguing that's what this really is--and be at peace with the idea that civilian deaths, while regrettable, are a necessary evil on the path to victory. Keeping civilians in fear is exactly what a terrorist does, and by engaging in simlilar behavior we lose any remaining sympathy from the rest of the world for what happened on 9/11. The Nation summarizes this thought:

Even in this context there remains a distinctly sickening horror in close-up systematic killing of civilians that's at odds with the declared US mission in Iraq and is repugnant to our national ideals.

If our stated objective is the fighting of terror, this type of incident is entirely counter-productive. If the objective is otherwise--control of oil, dominance of the Middle East, etc.--it's even more abhorrent.

Care to share your thoughts?

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