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I've Had Enough of Haditha

Time to Shut Up and Support the Troops

by Aaron Sussman,
Middletown, Connecticut

Aaron Sussman is a writer of satire, a performer of stand-up comedy, and a student at Wesleyan University. More of his work can be found at . Links in the article open in a new browser window to show source material quoted.

“Shit ... charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?” -- Apocalypse Now

“…Let us understand - North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.” -- President Richard Nixon, 1969

Calm down. Take a moment and think.

Now, I’m the first one to say that murder is wrong. But this incident in Haditha is a little more complicated than that and everyone needs to relax and think things over. For, if we condemn these men, we’ll be on a slippery slope so severe, it will make legalizing gay marriage look almost harmless.

Remember, this is not a normal enemy. According to Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, “in (Bush’s) official memoranda, he said ‘I want to recognize that this a different kind of enemy, al-Qaida and Taliban are a different kind of enemy. They are not conventional warriors.’
( I can see the marquee now: The Unconventional Warrior - starring the Libyans from Back to the Future as The Insurgency. It’s not even fair - these super warriors have 72 virgins and the welcoming arms of Allah; all our guys have is “stop-loss” and slashed veteran benefits.

A new kind of enemy calls for a new kind of war. According to one Whitehouse aide, “The powers of the presidency have been eroded…to the breaking point. We are engaged in a new kind of war that cannot be fought by old methods. It can only be directed by a strong executive….The public understands…that unpleasant reality, whatever the media and intellectuals say."
(The Washington Post 3/9/05) Those swishy, cabernet-drinking ‘intellectuals’ know nothing about the public! This is America, birthplace of Foxy Boxing, super-sized fries, and Toby Keith. We true Americans can speak for ourselves; you can tell the “media” and the “intellectuals” to go back to their synagogue and leave us alone.

Thank Christian God we have a strong executive who can handle this new type of war. In 2003, President Bush declared, "We are redefining war on our terms."
(Official Whitehouse website) That’s the American spirit. If we don’t know a definition, we make one up. You don’t think that war entails the legitimating of torture, massive civilian deaths, no-bid contracts, corporate pandering, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, the trampling of domestic civil liberties, and the complete rejection of international law? Well, read the redefinition.

But back to that slippery slope. We don’t want this to turn into an analysis of why soldiers are under so much “stress.” We don’t want to ask why, when Rumsfeld said the invasion would be a “cakewalk,” he didn’t anticipate a bloody religious resistance (cakewalk, Allah mode?). Or remind people of when Dick Cheney told us one year ago that the insurgency was in its “last throes.
( Or of when Bush said “we found weapons of mass destruction(Official Whitehouse website) or of when he told fellow hero Pat Robertson, “we’re not going to have any casualties,” or of when he declared "major combat operations in Iraq have ended” while he stood under the “Mission Accomplished” banner after a brave aircraft carrier landing.

The Commander-in-Chief donned his flight suit and exhibited this bravery in 2003. That same year, the number of significant terrorist attacks was the highest it has been in over two decades.
( We don’t want people thinking that our soldiers are under “stress” because their presence is opposed by vast numbers of Iraqis. We don’t want people making too much of reports like the one that says, “Recent analysis in Israel and the US suggests that a new generation of terrorist and insurgents is being radicalised by the war in Iraq.(The Australian) We don’t want people looking too hard and making the absurd conclusion that the “War on Terror” has led to more terrorism and anti-American sentiment across Muslim nations (is this what Bush meant when he called himself a ‘Uniter’?)

We don’t want to look too hard at Haditha because it shoves the issues of torture and lawlessness right under the spotlight. According to Wilkerson, "What was clearly implemented by the armed forces was a loosening of the guidelines that Geneva [Convention] creates for them….And when you do that…you open Pandora's box with regard to the armed forces." Indeed, torture is the first collision on Haditha’s slippery slope.

We don’t want people to know that at least 108 prisoners
( have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, 27 of whom the government admits may have been victims of homicide caused by "strangulation," "hypothermia," "asphyxiation," and "blunt force injuries." (ACLU) But when such aberrations occur, rest assured that the perpetrator will be harshly reprimanded. In Afghanistan, Sgt. Selena Salcedo kicked and brutally beat a prisoner (New York Times) because he avoided her questions. The prisoner died from his injuries. For her crime, Salcedo was given a letter of reprimand and reduced in rank to specialist.

There is nothing we can do about the backlash over the Abu Ghraib pictures, but it would be a shame if the incident in Haditha called attention to subsequent unpleasantness. For instance, it is probably better to keep quiet that “a Special Operations unit converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber
(New York Times) using prisoners as paintball targets….” or that an Iraqi “man said he had been forced to strip, punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited” because his father supposedly worked for Saddam.

While some irresponsible folks highlight these abuses and denounce them as amoral brutality, the mainstream media has rightfully taken a more open view on the issue. Rush Limbaugh laughed off and compared the Abu Ghraib abuses to frat “hazing.
(Media Matters) Diana West wrote that following the Geneva Conventions means “we’ll serve tea and crumpets” (Washington Times) to terrorists. Bill O’Reilly thinks that “progressives want to give terrorists condos on Miami Beach.” John Gibson described the plaintiffs in the ACLU case against Rumsfeld as “liberal, anti-war type activists….They allege a lot of stuff. And you feel like Seinfeld. ‘Yada-yada-yada.’(FAIR/Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) (You’re right, John Gibson, I DO feel like Seinfeld! “What’s the deal with murder and torture? I mean, really – whatever happened to asking nicely?”)

We need more newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, which featured an editorial
(FAIR/Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) condemning critics of torture, saying those “who threw around words like ‘torture’ so glibly…have endangered the lives of soldiers by forcing a retreat in interrogation techniques so severe that it’s hampering the U.S. ability to fight the counterinsurgency….” EXACTLY. When these liberals complain that the war isn’t going well, they don’t realize that it’s their fault. The real problem is that we’re not torturing enough.

What we need is the torture, but without all those pesky pictures making their way to those liberal blogs. When the Abu Ghraib pictures emerged, General Richard B. Myers said
( it was “probable that al-Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill.” Clearly, the ACLU and the rogue press are to blame for our problems in Iraq – and let’s not let Haditha allow people to question such clear logic.

Besides, if torture is so bad, then why is it so good for one’s career? Take Alberto Gonzales, who called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “was among the first
( to embrace the no-rules-apply approach to the 'war on terror.’” He was made Attorney General and put on the short list of considerations for the Supreme Court. Or take former General Counsel for the Pentagon, William J. Haynes, who helped circumvent laws against torture and advocated many of the most abusive tactics in Guantanamo. Bush nominated him for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Many other architects of torture, including John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and David Addington, have been promoted and given expansive power over American policy. Leave it to the ACLU to rain on the parade of these heroes on upward career paths.

Delving deeper into Haditha is bad for everyone. It is bad for Marine spokesman Jeffrey S. Pool, who told the reporter who originally asked questions about Haditha, “I cannot believe you're buying any of this….This falls into the same category of any [al-Qaeda in Iraq] propaganda.”
(Washington Post) It is bad for the Marines who are accused of offering hush money in “the shooting death of a disabled Iraqi man in the Baghdad suburb of Hamdaniyah on April 26.” (Z Magazine) It is bad for the soldiers who killed 11 civilians, including up to five children, in the village of Ishaqi. (Z Magazine) The soldiers were cleared of any illegal action, making the dead victims of “collateral damage,” not murder, but questions linger in light of Haditha.

Here is the thing about Haditha that liberals and critics will never understand: even if the families slaughtered were not harboring the terrorists who attacked our troops, they probably would have. Our troops need to find these insurgents who hide out in the houses of those who support the cause – this includes, many, many houses. This is how we fight; this is how we have to fight. It’s best to shrug this incident off as an aberration and move on, because when people realize that the “few bad apples” are really just normal apples from a diseased tree, there will be problems. Haditha is the war in Iraq. The white phosphorus
(BBC) used in Fallujah is the war in Iraq. Torture is the war in Iraq. And that’s okay. Liberty has a price. And unless you want to see outrageous accusations against the liberators in the Bush administration, unless you want to see the term “war criminal” thrown around by dangerous radicals, and unless you want the nation to see the shameful truth that lies in shards at the bottom of that slippery slope, then it is best to just support our troops, and let this be the last time we mention Haditha.

Published in In Motion Magazine June 30, 2006.

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