Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha's My Lai

If you put Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha and I in a room together, we could probably identify with each other around our military experience, but we would agree on little else I'm afraid. If you accept the linear continuum model of political orientation (which I don't, but at least it's well known), then Murtha is center-right, and I am crimson-left.

That's precisely why this accolade I am about to write to his integrity can be taken seriously.

He is taking a lot of heat -- again -- for telling truths about the American war of conquest in Iraq.

On November 19th last year, a convoy fo Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines drove through the village of Haditha -- a Euphrates River farming town in northwestern Anbar Province of Iraq -- where they were hit with an impovised explosive device, killing Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas. Fifteen Iraqi civilians were then killed by the Marines, who later claimed that the civilians were killed by the blast of the roadside bomb.

But in January 2006, Time Magazine went to the Pentagon with video footage of the scene and 28 eyewitness reports that suggested something else happened altogether. Those reports, photographs, and video made an extremely strong case that the Marines of Kilo Company went on a vengeance rampage, kicked in the doors of civilian homes, and slaughtered 15 people, including men, women, and small childen, two of adults being elderly grandparents.

The Time story went public in March 2006. Subsequent inquires, outside the military -- who insists it is still investigating -- have strongly supported the eyewitness reports.

There is some kind of unwritten protocol to give troops the benefit of the doubt beyond anything that would be reasonable for anyone else. Catharine MacKinnon writes, "Manners are often taken more seriously than politics. There’s a poltics to that."

If anyone in the United States were a suspect in 15 homicides, it's a pretty good bet they'd be in custody. It's also a pretty good bet that these guys are not.

Murtha is telling the public that the Pentagon investigation will show that the US Marines massacred civilians in Haditha in November 2005.

That is why I am grateful to Representative John Murtha for not adhering to what is considered good manners. He is not only defying the spineless and oportunistic Nancy Pelosi's directive to avoid the issue of the Iraq war, when he says saying we need to get our troops out of there pronto; he is now being very explicit about why. The fact that he is a former Marine with scar tissue from Vietnam only makes his public statement, that the result of the investigation will confirm a massacre at Haditha, discomfit the war-boosters of the right and the Schumer-Pelosi sales managers of the center that much more.

They know Murtha has an inside line to the Pentagon. That's why he prefigured the rebellion of the Generals earlier this year with his declaration last year that the aggression in Iraq is a disaster that will only improve by ending it. Murtha knows what I know, and a lot of veterans who are willing to tell the truth know. Imperial occupations are by their very nature -- in the words of Daniel Ellsberg -- atrocity producing situations.

The war in Iraq is an atrocity itself -- and no Democrat who fails to oppose it deserves to ever hold public office again.

The antagonism between the Iraqi population -- over 85% of whom want the US out -- and those whose job description is to "control" that population by any means necessary, is inherent, and therefore inescapable.

Murtha is going to take some serious heat on this. Our political culture abhors a non-conformist, and saying in a straightforward way that we need to backhaul US troops out of Iraq -- even though that is now a majority position -- is about as non-conformist as you get over there these days. Pointing out that the military behaves in ways that don't conform to our chauvinistic ideals of them is even more out of the box. So let there be no doubt: Murtha is now a target.

That means it is our responsibility to get his back. We have to write and call his office to thank him for his integrity. We have to write op-eds and letters to the editor rebutting the inevitable and hateful demogogy that will be leveled at him. We have to blog our approval, speak publicly of our approval, call radio programs and C-Span with our approval, and tell our own Representatives that he is the example we want them to emulate.

Why do we need to do this (oh yuck) lobbyish thing? For the same reason we need to bear down right this second with the same members of Congress to sink the Hayden nomination.

We have a government now running an imperial war that is reeling with corruption scandals, lying scandals, spying scandals, resignations, and the popularity of a roundworm infection. But they are still very big, and they are still very powerful, so we have to hit them over the head with clubs, throw sand in their eyes, bite their fingers, scratch, kick, and otherwise pummel them until they can't get up. The loss of the Hayden nomination combined with a My Lai massacre exposure are terrific blows against this crew’s ability to govern... and not just here, but out in the empire.

Get dirty. It's time.