Monday, June 05, 2006

Haditha Massacre

I just wanted to write a few thoughts on the Haditha massacre. I don’t want to simply assume the Marines committed this atrocity before a court martial finds them guilty or not guilty. However, the facts seem to point that way, and more importantly, the Iraqis seem to feel that way. To send a message that we are sincere in our investigations and punishment of war crimes I think we should turn the Marines in question over to the Iraqi courts. Let them investigate and prosecute the crime committed on their own soil. It only seems just.

I know this idea will offensive to many people. For one thing, it’s traditional that the U.S. tries to protect its citizens from prosecution in foreign countries. Still, when it comes to serious crimes such as murder, or mass murder, the U.S. is often obliged to let the host nation take charge of the investigation and come to its own conclusions. I see no reason why this case should be any different. It would show the new Iraqi government that we have faith in them and that we’re willing to punish all war crimes, not just the ones that Saddam committed.

As reasonable as this seems to me, I know that it’s not likely to happen. What is happening, however, is one of the silliest things I’ve heard of in a long time. The top brass announced a few days ago that all military members in Iraq would go through “ethics training” in the next 30 days. Ethics training? This is there answer to a massacre?

Everyone soldier I’ve talked to is offended, incensed even. We are just as disgusted as anyone with what the handful of Marines might have done in Haditha. The Pentagon’s response seems to blame every military member in Iraq for what happened. As if the massacre was the result of a general moral decay among the troops that could be remedied by ethics training.

And what would this training be exactly? A multiple-choice quiz: Should you shoot a three-year-old girl? A. yes B. no C. Yes, but not with a .50-caliber machine gun because it’s against the Geneva Convention.

Yup, when you get down to thinking about it, the “ethics training” response is ridiculous. The reason it’s being given any credence is that it ignores a particularly uncomfortable truth. The so-called heroes, who are supposedly spreading freedom and democracy, are not always good people. Sometimes they’re murderers. And, a morally ambiguous war, such as this one, almost encourages your men and women to become such.

It’s also interesting to note that this massacre is not the first of its kind. Let’s say, for instance, that the Marines killed the insurgent who set of the bomb and then in their psychopathic rage killed the twenty plus other people. The twenty people are collateral damage for getting the one insurgent. How is this different from the bombing we’ve been doing since the start of the war? How many families has the U.S. massacred because they lived to close to an insurgent target? These Marines, if they committed the crime, are perhaps more culpable because their act was more malicious at heart. However, to the people of Iraq, the result is the same.

All this is all the more tragic because I still believe that Americans, by and large, have good intentions over here. The vast majority of military members I talk to want nothing more than to help the people of Iraq. It’s a tragedy in every sense.


Blogger Spencer Case said...

Hey, good entry. I'd like to give a couple of thoughts:

First, wouldn't it be most reasonable to have the actual trial conducted by UCMJ of the U.S. and then turn the guilty parties over the Iraqis for sentencing?

Second, the entry seems to be a little muddled on one point. At first you say that people are indignant about having to do the values training and rightfully so since the alleged massacre was committed by a handful of psychos. So why then do you go on to say things like that are bound to happen in a morally ambiguous war? That sounds like you are saying there IS a general problem that could be remedied with wide-scale ethics training.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Marshall Thompson said...

1, a UCMJ trial is conducted in front of a jury of fellow servicemembers who have an interest in looking after their compatriots, especially if they know the guilty ones will be turned over to the Iraqi courts for sentencing. So, the best way to avoid all conflicts of interest in the matter would be to turn it over to the Iraqis.

2, you make a good point and I should have been more clear. Ambiguous moral wars eventually lead to moral attrocities, this is true, but it doesn't mean that the general military population lacks ethics. It also doesn't mean that ethics classes can counteract a morally corrupt war. The best solution is to send everyone home.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Marshall Thompson said...

Here's an article from about having the Iraqis run the trial:

11:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The road to hell, Marshall, was paved with Good Intentions.

Get to Athens, Marsh, and let's try and meet up at the Blue Gator for dozens of drinks...

God speed.

3:24 AM  
Blogger von Nostrand said...

Nice job on Democracy Now... Thanks for your thoughtful service to this country.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Loved seeing your segment on Democracy Now! I also enjoyed your piece on Al Franken. Good luck on your walk in Utah and god bless you Marshall.

4:46 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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