The Haditha Massacre was more than horrific; it was predictable. More than predictable, it was inevitable. Equally horrific, predictable, and inevitable is the devious reporting by the supposedly liberal media. The "alleged" war crimes at Haditha might be the work of a "handful" of Marines who "snapped" and, for those reading between the lines, those Marines are guilty of something far worse than mass murder: They've soiled the pristine, courageous image of the American military in Iraq. As Stan Goff sez: "The bad apple defense is back."
Someone turn down the lights and start the My Lai slide show, please...
The date was March 16, 1968. "Under the command of Lieutenant William L. Calley, Charlie Company of the Americal Division's Eleventh Infantry had 'nebulous orders' from its company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, to 'clean the village out'," explains historian Kenneth C. Davis.
All they found at My Lai were women, children, and old men...no weapons, no signs of enemy soldiers. Calley ordered villagers to be killed and their huts destroyed. Women and girls were raped before they were machine-gunned. By the end of the massacre, hundreds of villagers were dead.
"This was not the only crime against civilians in Vietnam," Davis adds. "It was not uncommon to see GIs use their Zippo lighters to torch an entire village." Indeed, My Lai was not an aberration. On the very same day that Lt. Calley entered into infamy, another U.S. Army company entered My Khe (a sister subhamlet of My Lai) and killed a reported 90 peasants.
One of the My Khe veterans later said, "What we were doing was being done all over."
Of course it was. It had to be. To expect otherwise is to ignore the reality we've all played a role in creating. "This culture has killed a lot of people, and will continue to do so until it collapses, and probably long after," writes Derrick Jensen in his new book, "Endgame."
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"The My Lai massacre had its predecessor in the Philippines in 1906," says Howard Zinn. "The American army attacked a group of 600 Moros in southern Philippines-men, women, and children living in very primitive conditions, who had no modern weapons. The American army attacked them with modern weapons, wiped out every last one of these 600 men, women, and children." The commanding officer responsible for this war crime received a telegram of congratulations from Theodore Roosevelt.
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"Jane and Joe Sixpack are shocked," writes Ted Rall of the Haditha Massacre. "Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation and, for once, will probably get one. Political analysts worry that the Haditha massacre could hurt U.S. propaganda efforts even more than the infamous photos of torture at its Abu Ghraib concentration camp."
The Haditha Massacre™ is a PR problem. The Haditha Massacre is an opportunity for the Democrats to posture. The Haditha Massacre is yet another chance for "Jane and Joe Sixpack" to be reminded that when Iraqi rebels kill a civilian, it's further proof of their inhuman status but when an American soldier commits premeditated murder, it's an anomaly. It takes a whole lotta propaganda to condition a populace to buy into this formula...but as Goff reminds us: "They were not rogues. They were us."
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The most infamous "aberration" during the Korean War was the No Gun Ri massacre. Veterans of the U.S. Army First Cavalry Division told the Associated Press in 1999 that Captain Melbourne C. Chandler, "after speaking to superior officers by radio, ordered machine-gunners from his heavy weapons company to set up near the bridge tunnel openings and open fire. U.S. commanders had claimed there were 'infiltrators' among the villagers." Chandler told his men: "The hell with all those people. Let's get rid of all of them."
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"Those who make the political decisions that guide this culture are more interested in increasing their own personal power and the power of the state than they are in human and nonhuman well-being," writes Jensen. "They need the resources, and will get them, come the hell of depleted-uranium-induced malformations or the high water of melted ice caps."
"Those who make the political decisions," of course, should be investigated, charged, tried, and sentenced. But those who don't make the political decisions must start recognizing that even if a miracle should occur and the criminals responsible for the The Haditha Massacre face justice, it would be a hollow victory if it ended there.
Jensen continues: "Movements for peace are damned before they start because unless they're willing to unmake the roots of this culture, and thus the roots of the violence, they can at best address superficial cause, and thus, at best, provide palliation."
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How about to Good (sic) War? Any "aberrations" there? Edgar L. Jones, a former war correspondent in the Pacific, put it best when he asked in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."
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As things stand now, the long list of American military interventions will grow and the subsequent aberrations (sic) will never cease. We can-and must-fight to expose the criminals and we should take pride in every life saved, every transgression averted. But until the system is challenged (overhauled? rejected?), all we can realistically hope for is the occasional reform or indictment.
Colonel Oran Henderson, charged with covering-up the My Lai killings, explained: "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace." I'll see Henderson and raise him this: Every human has her or his My Lai hidden someplace.
Each time we chalk up atrocities to the policies of one or another political party, we commit an intellectual My Lai. Whenever we demand "stop the war," but not "stop war," we commit an intellectual My Lai. If we bring our grievances to the guardians of the very system that creates those grievances, we commit an intellectual My Lai.
Albert Einstein once said: "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it." We currently dwell in a My Lai consciousness. Even those who struggle for peace and justice exist in the Haditha state of mind. Unless we step away from a mentality that inspires us to boil the flesh off enemy skulls, our solutions are like band-aids and will only serve to validate and strengthen a cultural structure that values profits over life itself.
Where do we start? I'll quote, once again, from Derrick Jensen's "Endgame": "One of the good things about everything being so fucked up-about the culture being so ubiquitously destructive-is that no matter where you look-no matter what your gifts, no matter where your heart lies-there's good and desperately important work to be done."
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.