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A smaller scale Mai Lai in Iraq?
March 19, 2006 11:07 PM   Subscribe

According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children.
posted by jonson (56 comments total)

 
Another reason not to let Marines conduct policing duties anywhere near civilians. It's not what they are trained for.
They are trained to kill people and break things.
posted by shnoz-gobblin at 11:18 PM on March 19, 2006


Looks unconfirmed, but definitely suspicious. Considering there were no bullet holes on the outside of the houses, though, the marines' story doesn't hold up. Sounds like some blatant disregard for human life to me.

So at what level would a platoon be organized to make this attack? The platoon leader? Some captain back at base, under the table?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:33 PM on March 19, 2006


stenseng: yeesh, you are a humorless blob. And no, I will not shut the fuck up, or fuck off or what have you.

As for the story...

Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began.

So it's not confirmed? How/when will it be?
posted by tweak at 12:03 AM on March 20, 2006


" In February an infantry colonel went to Haditha for a weeklong probe in which he interviewed Marines, survivors and doctors at the morgue, according to military officials close to the investigation. The probe concluded that the civilians were in fact killed by Marines and not by an insurgent's bomb and that no insurgents appeared to be in the first two houses raided by the Marines. The probe found, however, that the deaths were the result of "collateral damage" rather than malicious intent by the Marines, investigators say."

collateral damage is a euphemism, meaning we fucked up and killed someone, at this point it is a game of who to believe, without a thrid party to say other wise each side has a vested interest to maintain their story. Very sad, but the whole cluster fuck is very sad
posted by edgeways at 12:14 AM on March 20, 2006


I have reached the point where I do not believe anything the government says. Not the White House (duh), not the Congress, not the DoD, not the DoJ, not even the owl-murdering EPA. If George W got on the TV and said that Darwin was righht and god doesn't exist, I'd fall to my knees and start speaking in tongues.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:57 AM on March 20, 2006


Mission accomplished.
posted by loquacious at 1:15 AM on March 20, 2006


I have reached the point where I do not believe anything the government says. Not the White House (duh), not the Congress, not the DoD, not the DoJ, not even the owl-murdering EPA. If George W got on the TV and said that Darwin was righht and god doesn't exist, I'd fall to my knees and start speaking in tongues.

Get over it. The history of communication is a story of half-truths and deception. Try to develop an informed opinion given the information at hand, rather than simply giving up.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:15 AM on March 20, 2006


"It's always been this way".

No, it hasn't. There are very few truisms that are less true.... at any time, under any circumstances, but particularly now.
posted by Malor at 1:41 AM on March 20, 2006


Oh thank God we have someone like b1trot to put it all in perspective for us! It's OUR fault that we haven't done something about the liars and cheats and swindlers that inhabit the high offices of this land. We're simply not informed enough. Thank goodness I now know the solution to this conundrum: I should be more learned, as our friend b1tr0t must be, and then everything would be sooooooo much better.

Because obviously realizing that everyone is LYING isn't enough.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:47 AM on March 20, 2006


Oh thank God we have someone like b1trot to put it all in perspective for us! It's OUR fault that we haven't done something about the liars and cheats and swindlers that inhabit the high offices of this land.

Erm, so who do you expect will solve the problem? The liars, cheats and swindlers themselves? China? God? Aliens? Giant radioactive beetles?
posted by chrominance at 1:57 AM on March 20, 2006


The liars, cheats and swindlers themselves?
Nope

China?
Too busy catching up.

God?
Non-interventional deities provide free will.

Aliens?
Busy in Iowa. Cows don't mutilate themselves.

Giant radioactive beetles?
Now you're being silly. You know today is pamper day: mandible wax and chitin rubs all round.


Shit. So it's our turn again. oncogenesis, come clean up this mess!
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:10 AM on March 20, 2006


I posted the link to the article that jonson has made an FPP, a couple of days ago in a comment in another thread. When I read the article, I thought about making it a point in an FPP about how this conflict in Iraq is again forcing the lessons of Vietnam on a whole new generation of Army personnel, and the American public, but I didn't, because I didn't want to take the flak, even on MeFi, for a "don't support the troops" post, and because in a war where independent sources of information are becoming increasingly hard to get, I was having a hard time coming up with credible second source links on the story.

But the behavior discussed in the Time article is heart rending, and moreover, it's the kind of thing that gets away from even a disciplined fighting force in a long term occupation against a determined insurgency. Iraq has become already a slippery slope for the U.S. Army, and one more likely to become a string of My Lai embarrassments with every passing week of IED's and increasing civilian body counts.

Where life is cheap, and no one pays a penalty for condoning and conducting acts of wanton cruelty, expect that good men will become bad actors and that good intentions will morph into worse actions.
posted by paulsc at 4:36 AM on March 20, 2006


paulsc: well said. With the length of the occupation and the primary method of insurgency attack--roadside bombs--something like this seems inevitable.

I found it interesting that the original bomb was attached to a propane tank, and in the response, a propane tank was destroyed in one of the homes by a grenade.
posted by mecran01 at 5:07 AM on March 20, 2006


What's the name of the legal principal that if you kill somebody during an illegal occupation (i.a.: a burglary), it's still considered murder regardless of whether or not it was intentional?
posted by signal at 5:36 AM on March 20, 2006


Justice.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:39 AM on March 20, 2006


From this morning's Inquirer: Iraqi report: U.S. killed villagers

It may come as no surprise that "[t]he U.S. military's version of events differs widely"
An Iraqi police document accuses U.S. troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, after a raid Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The villagers were killed after U.S. troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the parent company of The Inquirer. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals, and blew up the house, the document said.
The report did not specify how the villagers were killed, but a local police commander said autopsies indicated all had bullet wounds to the head.
So much for democracy and the rule of law.
posted by illovich at 5:50 AM on March 20, 2006


Unfortunately, I just realized that the article I cired above is about yet another alleged massacre of civilians by U.S. troops, which is somewhat heartbreaking.
posted by illovich at 5:57 AM on March 20, 2006


This is what happens in war. It's why all that "shrill" griping about the chickenhawks has validity. The guys who sent us to war know about killing pen-raised birds. They have no idea what will happen to the young men they are sending into battle.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:07 AM on March 20, 2006


"It's always been this way".
No, it hasn't.


Yes it has. From a superb history of America's history of exchanging liberty for militarism, here's a passage I just happened to read last night:
The antagonism between liberators and liberated together with the boredom and cultural contempt that American soldiers felt for the Filipinos created an unstable mixture that soon exploded. On the evening of February 4, 1899, Private William Walter Grayson from Beatrice, Nebraska, was at a guard post in an eastern suburb of Manila when four shadowy figures appeared in the gloom. They did not react as Grayson and his fellow sentry expected them to do when they were challenged. Frightened, thinking his orders had been purposely defied, Grayson leveled his single-shot Springfield rifle and fired. His comrade followed suit, and soon three Filipinos lay dead. Then Grayson shouted the alarm: "Line up, fellows, the niggers are in here all through these lines." Rifle fire broke out along the ten-mile length of American pickets. Soldiers moved through Manila and beyond with barely a semblance of discipline in an action that more nearly resembled a race riot than a coordinated military operation. Within twenty-four hours, they killed 3,000 Filipinos while suffering losses of fifty-nine dead and close to 300 wounded. The American commander, Major General Elwell S. Otis, ordered one division to the south of the island of Luzon and another to the north in the hope of quelling what promised to become a general revolt against American rule. Arthur MacArthur led the latter group into Aguinaldo's capital at Malolos. The goal, according to an American official in Washington, was to fight "without cessation until the authority of the United States in the Philippines should be, as far as the natives were concerned, undisputed.
The continuation is interesting, too:
The fighting proved tough work. Private Edwin Segerstrom of the First Colorado Volunteers complained that the enemy was "a treacherous lot" who would treat other Filipinos as the Spanish had "treated them." He guessed that "our war with them is for the best, no matter what papers far off in the states may say." Another Coloradan, Private Selman Watson, wanted his family to know that reported "skirmishes" were more than that. The insurgents were "getting to shoot straight and close and doing closer shooting every day." Watson had "had all the fighting I care for but I won't quit if a call comes as long as I feel like I do now" Segerstrom agreed; nonetheless, he wrote, despite "frequent drubbings" at the hand of the Americans, the insurgents "'bob up serenely' at different points and it seems to be quite a job to subdue them." Segerstrom had no real idea of what would happen or how long the fighting would continue; he could only hope that "it wont be long now until they give up and behave themselves."

But the Filipinos did not behave themselves, and the American troops soon discovered that no matter how many they killed, how many towns they destroyed, or how much territory they took, they could not suppress the insurgency...
You could pick out similar examples from any period in history. It's always been this way.
posted by languagehat at 6:19 AM on March 20, 2006


signal: Felony murder.
posted by solotoro at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2006


PR 101:

Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Time the involvement of the ncis does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves."
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:22 AM on March 20, 2006


There have been more of these blatant revenge killings than people think. It's sad that it took three years and the president's approval ratings tanking before stories like this could even get the light of day. I don't blame the media; the American people simply don't want to hear this. At this point the only hope is that things have gotten so bad that people will insist the truth come out.
posted by nixerman at 7:46 AM on March 20, 2006


My suggestion to people who want to know what happens in Iraq when US troops get shot at is to watch one of the many videos that are on the internet recorded by troops. Most that I have seen are set to a twat-rock soundtrack and filled with Christian (not the "thou shalt not kill parts obviously") and anti-liberal text. It will usually start with an image of 9/11 and maybe some IED victims and then basically it's a 5 minute kill brown-people/recruitment video with soldiers firing enormous amounts of ordnance with nary a care for any innocents caught in the crossfire. I have watched about five or six now and by the end I am frankly furious at the sheer stupidity, racism and ignorance I see in each one. I honestly don't know why I keep going back and watching them other than to just wake myself up from whatever news overload funk I'm stuck in.

It's a fucking horrible world but unfortunately I can't change it. Sucks to be human sometimes, just got to find that little bit of happiness where you can whilst everything else around you falls to pieces.
posted by longbaugh at 7:48 AM on March 20, 2006


I'm still reading The Dominion of War, and I can't resist sharing another bit:
In December [1900], MacArthur announced "a new and more stringent policy" against the rebels and their allies, who seemed able to move in and out of the civilian population at will. The general sanctioned tougher military patrols, purges of municipal governments, harsher treatment of prisoners and civilians, destruction of property, confinement of civilians, and starvation. Filipinos were forcibly "concentrated" in "protected zones," under U.S. military control; those who resisted relocation could be treated as rebels, just as recalcitrant Indians had been. By analogy to Indians who refused to stay on their reservations, Filipinos who tried to escape from their designated zones were presumed to be "hostiles" and shot on sight. MacArthur's troops used torture to extract information, break the will of resisters, and intimidate anyone who happened to fall into their custody. No reliable information exists on the incidence of torture because such practices were not officially sanctioned but left to the discretion of local commanders. The physical coercion of prisoners, however, seems to have been widespread. American soldiers wrote of Filipinos being "kicked and beaten" and hung by their thumbs. Prisoners who proved recalcitrant might be given the "water cure," in which "the victim [was] laid flat on his back and held down by his tormenters. Then a bamboo tube [was] thrust into his mouth and some dirty water, the filthier the better, . . . [was] poured down his unwilling throat."
Nothing ever changes.
posted by languagehat at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2006


This will end the same way the My Lai and Kent State massacres did: politicians will say that the perpetrators are the real victims, and declare them to be heroes.

The unarmed civilians who were shot dead will be forgotten.
posted by Jatayu das at 8:37 AM on March 20, 2006


Jatayu das : "This will end the same way the My Lai and Kent State massacres did: politicians will say that the perpetrators are the real victims, and declare them to be heroes.

The unarmed civilians who were shot dead will be forgotten."


Er, well, I'm a young'un, so I don't know much about My Lai or Kent State, but for my generation, the victims of Kent State and My Lai have been considered the victims, and the military and national guard to be the assholes. Of course, I suppose what's important isn't so much historical opinion as current opinion when it can make a difference.
posted by Bugbread at 9:02 AM on March 20, 2006


This will end the same way the My Lai and Kent State massacres did: politicians will say that the perpetrators are the real victims, and declare them to be heroes.

That's interesting. In my timeline (July 20 1969, Neil Armstrong), Calley did at least brief prison time and the men who threatened to kill Calley & co. eventually received medals for it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2006


I was an adult when Kent State and My Lai happened, and bugbread's assessment jibes with mine.

I expect this will end up the way My Lai and Abu Gharaib did, with low-level scapegoats punished.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on March 20, 2006


“The military has a different account of what transpired.”
And
“The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha.”

We don’t know that it happened. I dislike this sort of “but what if it did happen” heart on your sleeve weep for the ‘civilians’ (who might have been insurgents) sort of piece that gets trotted out as anti-war propaganda ( “First, they went into my father's room, where he was reading the Koran,” - I mean come on. I also dislike the pro-war propaganda, similar stripe - but that’s a whole other discussion).

That said - we don’t know that it didn’t.

I’d argue when you’re fired upon you hit back and make sure it won’t happen again -But that is all beside the point. Stuff like this does happen in war and since paulsc and longbaugh said it better than I could I won’t reiterate it.

I will add however, the current strategy appears to be “mill around.”

And while I agree with shnoz-gobblin that Marines are there to break things and kill the enemy - they can conduct police support activities. That support however must be focused and discipline must be maintained. And of course, there must be police there and policing going on. Milling around, on any level, is not conducive to discipline even down to the squad level.

Even if this particular incident didn’t happen, or even if it did and we allow for the reaction of a trained Marine, incidents like this are inevitable without far more coherence in objectives. It can’t simply be stated: “freedom” or whatnot. It must be felt in the marrow. There must be that clarity of purpose particularly in the lower ranks. Or, much like any rote, it goes to the default setting.

So in some respects I slightly disagree with folks who say this happens all the time. In essence - I concede that it does often happen, but my condemnation of such acts while cushioned by the recognition that Marines react as they have been trained to react, is I think more harsh, because it doesn’t HAVE to happen at all.
We know why it happens, therefore it can be avoided. (And has been in some engagements)
That hasn’t been avoided, that there exists an environment where something like this can happen is what is inexcusable.
Whether this particular incident occurred or not.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:17 AM on March 20, 2006


We know why it happens, therefore it can be avoided.

You know this makes no sense, right? We know why the universe will end in heat death. We know why poverty breeds crime. We know why you die after jumping off a bridge. But if you jump off that bridge, you're still going to die, and if you impoverish a population the crime rate is going to rise, and if you send troops into an area with lots of angry civilians who don't want them there it's not going to go well. And it never has. Does this ring a bell?

"From the Halls of Montezuma
to the Shores of Tripoli..."

You know that the first verse refers to the Mexican War, I presume. Here's some reading for you:
Public support for the war was further eroded by reports of brutality against Mexican civilians. Newspaper reporters claimed that the chapparal was "strewn with the skeletons of Mexicans sacrificed" by American troops. After one of their members was murdered, the Arkansas volunteer cavalry surrounded a group of Mexican peasants and began an "indiscriminate and bloody massacre of the poor creatures." A young lieutenant named George G. Meade reported that volunteers in Matamoros robbed the citizens, stole their cattle, and killed innocent civilians "for no other object than their own amusement." If only a tenth of the horror stories were true, General Winfield Scott wrote, it was enough "to make Heaven weep, & every American of Christian morals blush for his country."
And so it goes.
posted by languagehat at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2006


b1tr0t: Get over it. The history of communication is a story of half-truths and deception. Try to develop an informed opinion given the information at hand, rather than simply giving up.

I have not given up. In fact, I've been radicalized. Bushco is the catalyst that has transformed me politically from by-stander to activist.

The problem you are ignoring is that "the government" is the servant of the people here in the US. You might call it a sacred trust. A government that feeds us "half-truths and deception" (and that's being kind) deserves to be destroyed.
posted by oncogenesis at 11:23 AM on March 20, 2006


You know, I just realized that we have expanded the whole "We had to destroy the village to save the village" to "We had to destroy the country to save it."

Depressing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2006


I wonder why rumsfeild and the others belived the Iraqis would
posted by delmoi at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2006




More reading for Smedleyman:
In July 1915 thousands of Marines responded to an uprising in Haiti by occupying the country. Before they finally took their leave in 1934, the Marines had suppressed an armed insurgency, dissolved the Haitian Congress, dictated a new constitution, suppressed a second rebellion, and created a new national government that welcomed foreign investment. The cost in Haitian lives amounted to at least 3,000 (perhaps as many 11,500) killed for resisting the occupation.
I'm not attacking the Marines; my favorite uncle was a Marine and was a genuine WWII hero. If you've got to subdue an enemy entrenched on a rocky island in time of war, the Marines will do the job for you. But sending the Marines to police a hostile civilian population is asking for trouble. I hope you have the intellectual honesty to admit that.
posted by languagehat at 1:28 PM on March 20, 2006


“You know this makes no sense, right?”

Yes. Clearly knowing what the problem is cannot help us solve a problem. Any engineer can tell you that. More to the point, it is certainly impossible to influence another human being’s behavior through discipline. Of course knowledge of how humans behave could not possibly help us influence their behavior. People are just flushing money down the toilet with advertising and marketing.
Seriously - huh?
Human behavior is not an immutable law - even if it were, it can be obeyed to be commanded. If there is a problem with people in certain situations, we can alter how we react to any event in such a way that those events don’t occur and people aren’t put in that situation.
(more later)
“if you impoverish a population the crime rate is going to rise, and if you send troops into an area with lots of angry civilians who don't want them there it's not going to go well. And it never has. Does this ring a bell?”
Yes, it’s called causal reductionism.
“From the Halls of Montezuma
to the Shores of Tripoli... Here's some reading for you:”
Well there’s some substantial proof right there, clearly if some events occurred in the past it’s a general principle in all military engagements everywhere forever.
If you impoverish - if troops are sent (instead of trained riot cops) - if the civilians are angry - these things can be avoided.
If you reconsider your argument you are essentially supporting my assertion* - that there is a problem (a bunch in fact), that those problems gave rise to this situation occurring, that lethal force is misapplied in situations like these and that this gives rise to suspicions regarding the ultimate aims behind the methods used.
In short - the problems aren’t being fixed and are in fact being exacerbated in specific instances like this - why? When even corporals know this is not the correct way to achieve the objectives as they have been outlined. So either something is wrong with the tactics or with the objectives. And we know there is at least this problem with the tactics, so...
*albeit doing it poorly with the Mexican American war schtick.
I seriously doubt you’re asserting we’re better off not being aware of flaws or errors and problems with operations. I also doubt you seriously believe those problems are insurmountable.
The comparison of human endeavors we have some control over and the heat death of the universe is just silly.
I suspect you’re pointing to initial conditions as dictating the consequences - in which case I agree, I’m just working back from the outcomes to show that some of the initial conditions are disingenuous.

Milling around isn’t going anywhere.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:06 PM on March 20, 2006


“You know this makes no sense, right?”

Yes. Clearly knowing what the problem is cannot help us solve a problem. Any engineer can tell you that. More to the point, it is certainly impossible to influence another human being’s behavior through discipline. Of course knowledge of how humans behave could not possibly help us influence their behavior. People are just flushing money down the toilet with advertising and marketing.
Seriously - huh?
Human behavior is not an immutable law - even if it were, it can be obeyed to be commanded. If there is a problem with people in certain situations, we can alter how we react to any event in such a way that those events don’t occur and people aren’t put in that situation.
(more later)
“if you impoverish a population the crime rate is going to rise, and if you send troops into an area with lots of angry civilians who don't want them there it's not going to go well. And it never has. Does this ring a bell?”
Yes, it’s called causal reductionism.
“From the Halls of Montezuma
to the Shores of Tripoli... Here's some reading for you:”
Well there’s some substantial proof right there, clearly if some events occurred in the past it’s a general principle in all military engagements everywhere forever.
If you impoverish - if troops are sent (instead of trained riot cops) - if the civilians are angry - these things can be avoided.
If you reconsider your argument you are essentially supporting my assertion* - that there is a problem (a bunch in fact), that those problems gave rise to this situation occurring, that lethal force is misapplied in situations like these and that this gives rise to suspicions regarding the ultimate aims behind the methods used.
In short - the problems aren’t being fixed and are in fact being exacerbated in specific instances like this - why? When even corporals know this is not the correct way to achieve the objectives as they have been outlined. So either something is wrong with the tactics or with the objectives. And we know there is at least this problem with the tactics, so...
*albeit doing it poorly with the Mexican American war schtick.
I seriously doubt you’re asserting we’re better off not being aware of flaws or errors and problems with operations. I also doubt you seriously believe those problems are insurmountable.
The comparison of human endeavors we have some control over and the heat death of the universe is just silly.
I suspect you’re pointing to initial conditions as dictating the consequences - in which case I agree, I’m just working back from the outcomes to show that some of the initial conditions are disingenuous.

Milling around isn’t going anywhere.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM on March 20, 2006


I can't tell, is this the same incident as the one mentioned in this article (I think not as this is talking about something recent, but it sounds so similar): NYTimes Link


Police investigators in Salahudin Province have accused American troops of executing 11 civilians, including several children, during a raid last Wednesday on a house in Ishaqi, near Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. According to the investigators, the Americans lined up the civilians and shot them, then killed the livestock and destroyed the house, the official asserted.

A local police commander in Ishaqi told Knight Ridder Newspapers that an autopsy revealed bullet wounds in all the victims' heads.
posted by cell divide at 2:24 PM on March 20, 2006


Clearly knowing what the problem is cannot help us solve a problem.

Hahaha! Your sarcasm is extremely effective! Or rather it might be, if you hadn't conveniently changed what you said so that it made sense. Here's what you said, and what I was responding to (with the ridiculous bit emphasized):

We know why it happens, therefore it can be avoided.


I think if you memorize that, perhaps mull it over a little and absorb its actual meaning, and then read my response, you will realize that my response was on target and your attempted refutation is not. I entirely agree that knowing what the problem is can help us solve a problem. But that's not what you said.

clearly if some events occurred in the past it’s a general principle in all military engagements everywhere forever.


See, when you display that kind of attitude, you give rise to the suspicion that no amount of evidence is going to sway you, because no matter how much is placed before you, you're just going to sarcastically say "oh, so that proves it happens in all military engagements everywhere forever!"

You know, if you'd stop being so defensive (I almost said "trigger-happy") you might realize we're actually in agreement about a lot of this stuff. We agree "that there is a problem (a bunch in fact), that those problems gave rise to this situation occurring, that lethal force is misapplied in situations like these and that this gives rise to suspicions regarding the ultimate aims behind the methods used." If you would write a little more carefully, say what you mean, and not try so hard to attack anyone who disagrees with anything you say, you might have an easier time of it.
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on March 20, 2006


When you invade a country and steal billions of dollars don't forget your manners.
posted by srboisvert at 3:24 PM on March 20, 2006


They "might be insurgents"

Yes. Some of those kids look the insurgent type to me. Definitely.
posted by Decani at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2006


The unarmed civilians who were shot dead will be forgotten.

No they won't.

Like tens of thousands of innocent victims like them , they will be used by one or more of the homicidal factions in Iraq to recruit more killers and bombers and lookouts and snipers.

That's one reason why the insurgency never runs out of bodies, no matter how many dozens of people the Marines kill to take two (2) AK-47s off the street.

I submit to you that if armed men kicked in your brother's door and killed most of his family - and blamed it all on the dead, calling them terrorists, justifying the slaughter - you would consider whatever means at your disposal for taking revenge. If you were the revenge type.

And from everything I've read lo these four years, most Iraqis believe in revenge, as automatic and unthinking as breathing.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:06 PM on March 20, 2006


By the way possession of the AK-47's doesn't mean any of the victims were insurgents, because every Iraqi is allowed (by the US military) to have a Kalashnikov and one clip of ammunition.
posted by Devils Slide at 3:08 AM on March 21, 2006


bugbread writes "Er, well, I'm a young'un, so I don't know much about My Lai or Kent State, but for my generation, the victims of Kent State and My Lai have been considered the victims, and the military and national guard to be the assholes. Of course, I suppose what's important isn't so much historical opinion as current opinion when it can make a difference."


ROU_Xenophobe writes "That's interesting. In my timeline (July 20 1969, Neil Armstrong), Calley did at least brief prison time and the men who threatened to kill Calley & co. eventually received medals for it."


Well, you're both sorta right and you're both kinda wrong. Then as now, the country was terribly divided.

Yeah, Hugh Thompson, Lawrence Colburn, and (posthumously) Glenn Andreotta received medals for their actions to stop the My Lai massacre. But they didn't get the medals until 1998, thirty years afterward. In the intervening years they were treated pretty shabbily. Possibly in retaliation for his heroism at My Lai, Thompson was ordered on dangerous missions in which he was shot down five times, until in the last crash his back was broken.

Lt. William Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre, but was released two days later by order of then-President Nixon, pending appeal of his case. Calley eventually served only three and a half years house arrest. Captain Ernest Medina, whom Calley said had ordered the massacre, was acquitted. No one among the fourteen officers charged with covering up the massacre was convicted; most had the charges dropped.

One of the investigators of American brutality (but not specifically My Lai) by the Americal Division, of which Calley was a part, was Americal's deputy assistant chief of staff, then-Major Colin Powell, who wrote at the time "[I]n direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." In 2004, Powell, by then the US Secretary of State, explained that "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."


In the Kent State shootings, many feel the tragedy would have never happened had Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes not sent the Ohio Guard to the campus and then whipped things up with the statement that the protesters were
"worse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America."
No guardsman or state official was ever charged in the killings, although three non-student protestors pled or were found guilty for burning the campus ROTC building.

Two days after the shootings, Governor Rhodes lost the Republican primary for US Senate, and because of term limits was unable to stand for re-election in 1971. But in 1974, Rhodes ran again for Governor and won, serving from 1975 to 1983.

So in summary: one low-ranking officer, Calley, did three and a half years of house arrest on a military base. Governor Rhodes and Major Powell prospered, Rhodes as Ohio Governor for an additional eight year, Powell as a four-star General, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later Secretary of State. Thompson got a broken back, Andreotta was killed three weeks after My Lai, Coburn survives to this day, and the trio's heroism went officially unacknowledged for thirty years, after which they got medals.
posted by orthogonality at 4:20 AM on March 21, 2006


Whoa, are you saying the guy who committed the atrocity got a token sentence, the guy who ordered it wasn't punished, and the higher-ups even got promoted? Like that could ever happen.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:32 AM on March 21, 2006


Crap! I missed ROU_Xenophobe's subtle Heinlein reference.
posted by orthogonality at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2006


/Sorry for the double - rotten computer-

“But sending the Marines to police a hostile civilian population is asking for trouble. I hope you have the intellectual honesty to admit that.” -
posted by languagehat

It’d be nice not having to repeat myself ‘N’th number of times. I’ve actively defended that exact position in more than a few posts on mefi. Emphasis on the ‘police’ part with the knowlege of the American model of the military (as opposed to say the British model)

“I entirely agree that knowing what the problem is can help us solve a problem. But that's not what you said.”

What the fuck ever. Fine. I’m not an editor. I totally suck. You’re much better with words than I am, professor. Happy? Of course I did explain more clearly what I meant in the next post, so perhaps you could take it as an explaination rather than accuse me of changing what I was saying.
(I’m still not getting why ‘therefore’ is a problem. It makes sense the way I framed it - we know what the problem is - therefore we can avoid it - meaning knowing there is a problem is one of the first steps to solving it - but I don’t want a grammar lesson).

“You know, if you'd stop being so defensive you might realize we're actually in agreement about a lot of this stuff.”

I seem to be reading that I posted something similar.

“...and not try so hard to attack anyone who disagrees with anything you say...”

Because I’m the only one with a condescending attitude. Yep, ok.

I completely accept that my language use might be poor and I didn’t get my point across clearly. And that’s frustrating. Perhaps asking “does this ring a bell?” or telling me what I’m saying makes no sense then refering to the heat death of the universe in relation to human behavior wasn’t meant as an insult to my intelligence. Fine.

But it should have been cleared up by the second post - so perhaps we should recognize that I’m not the only guy with an attitude.

That and I often write from a sense of previous knowlege. I assumed that someone who’s read up on this topic on Mefi knows my position, knows the general concept behind military interaction with civilians as a policing force and would know I was arguing a nuanced point - that is - Marines can, and have, successfully supported police operations (and done some small scale police work themselves) without killing anyone. That this is a rare and limited thing (that can be done), but is best left to military police or other units trained for it.

It being the case that we have units trained to do it, we know the tactics that should be used in policing a hostile population, but we aren’t using them, that such a thing isn’t an impossibility on the order of stopping the workings of thermodynamics but can be accomplished successfully - it must then follow that the greater strategy does not involve “policing” or in fact avoiding situations like this at all.

Your point is sending the Marines to police a hostile civilian population is asking for trouble? Well yeah. But “the Marines” is quite a different thing than this bunch of Marines who obviously don’t have strong leadership. “The Marines” as an outfit are very versitile and can accomplish a wide variety of missons - they also have military police units. “The Marines” could have successfully eliminated the unfriendlies and subdued the civilians with minimal loss of lives.

This particular group of Marines didn’t do that (apparently).

Where are arguments part company is (forgive my sub-standard reading skills if I misunderstand you) - you seem to think an event such as this is unavoidable.
I think that an event such as this is unavoidable only given the circumstances which are governed and created by command - that there are a wide variety of fixes which could have avoided this problem - on the contact level sending in MPs for one.
But on the macro level command should be winning hearts and minds, they should be emphasising language skills, working with the population, getting people the supplies they need, communicating, doing basic intelligence and investigation work to identify who is willing to work with you, - etc. etc.
The problem could have and should have been avoided a long way back, we’ve been on the ground for three years now, ample time to get to know the locals. But again - even at the point of contact, orders can be given, training, etc. so our Marines don’t wind up too focused on the kill. Most of the best work is done without firing a shot. That has been true as far back as Sun Tzu.
(Yes, I know Sun Tzu didn’t have M-16s, I don’t mean it literally)

I also take issue with this Mexican War stuff. Perhaps because I honestly don’t think you actually believe this is an impossibly avoidable situation in all conflicts. If your point is that this type of aggression is a hallmark of American imperialism, then I agree. But again - I’m working from the tactical level up, not from the premise that the war in Iraq is that kind of war. I’m getting that same conclusion however, but from the other side.

The point being that the NCOs and Lt.s etc. know what tactics work and what to do in what situation. They are not simply a bloodthirsty mob of war dogs who are cut loose to kill everyone they see. I dislike that characterization. That the men who know what tactics to use aren’t using those tactics tells me that something other than winning hearts and minds is going on here.
It’s a nuance in agreement I guess.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:51 AM on March 21, 2006


Smedleyman : "Of course I did explain more clearly what I meant in the next post, so perhaps you could take it as an explaination rather than accuse me of changing what I was saying."

Just for reference, probably the best way to have handled it would be to have said "Sorry, that was misphrased. What I meant was blah blah blah". I doubt languagehat would have bit at that. The way you did phrase it, it sounded like your explanation of what you meant was a defense of what you had said previously, and that didn't make a lot of sense, and made it seem like you were surreptitiously changing what you said.

Smedleyman : "It makes sense the way I framed it - we know what the problem is - therefore we can avoid it - meaning knowing there is a problem is one of the first steps to solving it - but I don’t want a grammar lesson"

Well, I'll skip the grammar and tell you what what you said means: "We know why it happens, therefore we can avoid it" means that if you know why something happens, then it is necessarily true that you can avoid it. This is a patently untrue statement. I know why people die, but I can't avoid my death. I know why the sun will one day go out, but I can't avoid that. If you'd said "We know why it happens, which can help us avoid it", then that would be true, but what you said was a kind of silly statement, and triggered languagehat's response. It's cool, it was just a slip of the tongue, which is why instead of defending it as true later, it would have been wiser to say "What I meant was..."
posted by Bugbread at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2006


languagehat: I'll bet you think you're pretty smart, picking up on all of the parallels between our occupation of the Philippines and our present colonial adventure. But you're not: President Bush told us all about it two and a half years ago. He was smart enough all along to know what we were getting into, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, historyboy.
posted by UKnowForKids at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2006


“...made it seem like you were surreptitiously changing what you said.”

Well, I’ve ceded the point that I’m not Shakespeare. I’ll keep working on clarity and avoiding snark.
But if what I’m saying is that clearly wrong, wouldn’t it make sense to look at it in context and try to figure out what it is I mean?
I do tend to try to do that with other folks at least. And again - “languagehat.” You figure he’s better at writing than I am maybe? So why not cut those of us who aren’t language experts some slack?

“with the ridiculous bit emphasized” - that doesn’t have any attitude on it?
It’s swell and all that his uncle was a Marine, but guess who’s probably got a better handle on military affairs? Me or joe editorial?
Yes, his analysis of my sentence is correct and I said it wrong.
It doesn’t mean I’m a fucking idiot.

“it would have been wiser to say "What I meant was...”

Yeah, well, I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of being wise or particularly nice. My apologies to languagehat for taking what was said to heart. I should have more patience and you are both right about that.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2006


Smedleyman : "Well, I’ve ceded the point that I’m not Shakespeare. I’ll keep working on clarity and avoiding snark."

Yeah, sorry, that wasn't meant to be an additional pileon, just explanation. But now it's all taken care of, so, Smedleyman, languagehat, bugbread, let's just move on.
posted by Bugbread at 11:16 AM on March 21, 2006


smedleyman: What bugbread said. Also:

I often write from a sense of previous knowlege. I assumed that someone who’s read up on this topic on Mefi knows my position...

But you can't assume that. I'm sure I've read a fair number of your posts and comments over the years, and I couldn't summarize your position for the life of me unless I'd just read a bunch of your posts. Quick now, what's my position on abortion? On free speech? On sixties leftism? I've expressed myself on all these topics, but when they come up again, I express my position again, because I certainly wouldn't expect people to follow me around memorizing my views, and you shouldn't either. There's just too damn many of us.

Look, I'm sorry if I came off as condescending. It wasn't meant that way. I respect your positions; I'm just trying to get you to clarify them. And to clarify mine:

you seem to think an event such as this is unavoidable.

No, I think it's avoidable, just like you do. I thought you were saying all we had to do to avoid it was understand it, but that's not what you're saying, as you explained. So basically we agree, and that's a good thing. Peace?
posted by languagehat at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2006


On non-preview: Thanks, smedleyman and bugbread, and I agree, let's move on.
posted by languagehat at 11:18 AM on March 21, 2006


“But you can't assume that...”

Oh yeah, I wasn’t saying that it was a good thing to assume...just saying that’s kind of where I write from.
I think part of the misunderstanding springs from your expertise and my complete disregard for generally accepted practice as opposed to expecting anyone reads my posts. I internally think “well, I’ve said that already” not “they should all know...” sorta thing. I agree that we should reiterate our positions - I’m just not very good at it. And it’s easy to mistake self-deprecation for defensiveness.

“So basically we agree, and that's a good thing. Peace?”

Yep. And again, sorry for the misunderstanding.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2006


You know who else used to assume? Hitler.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:27 PM on March 21, 2006


Smedleyman : "You know who else used to assume? Hitler."

Do you know that for sure? Or are you just...you know.
posted by Bugbread at 4:12 AM on March 22, 2006


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