May 31, 2006

You Will Never Have My Lai

Cross-posted from American Princess.

As actual Vietnam scholars, it always pains us when major media outlets take every advantage to compare Iraq to Vietnam. The syndrome is so pervasive: whether its the gall of some calling Iraq a quagmire, whether its the mistake of this administration in waging the Iraq war as though the enemy were an actual Viet Cong style insurgency instead of trying to stop a civil war (which is, interestingly, not an insurgency--when 90% of your attackers come from one particular ethnic minority whose sights are set on ripping the country apart and turning it into Taliban II, its not an insurgency), or wheter its the pathetic left attempting to use what is a mistake and a serious problem for personal political gain at the expense of those who give their lives every day so that we can scream our heads off without fear of being dragged away and whipped with electrical cords.

We speak, of course, of Haditha. For those who haven't tuned in to CNN in the last four days (or since the weekend, as John Murtha cast a pall over Memorial Day by reminding us of the impending investigation), Marine soldiers, reeling from an IED attack that killed one of their own, raided several nearby houses, firing indiscriminately (as the 'official' story goes), killing 24 Iraqis who may or may not have been innocent in the attack.

The case may be the most serious example of alleged war crimes in Iraq by US troops. Marine officers have long been worried that Iraq's bloody insurgency could prompt such an overzealous reaction by combat teams.

An investigation by an Army general into the Nov. 19 deaths is to be delivered soon to the top operational commander in Iraq. A separate criminal investigation is also underway and could lead to charges ranging from murder to dereliction of duty.

Both investigations are centered on a dozen Marines from the Third Battalion, First Marine regiment, First Marine division. The battalion was on its third deployment to Iraq when the killings occurred.

Most of the fatal shots appear to have been fired by only a few of the Marines, possibly a four-man ``fire-team" led by a sergeant, said officials with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

On top of the deaths, false reports were filed.

And they are calling it My Lai.

This is no My Lai. At My Lai, an entire village was burned. After the smoke cleared 504 innocent people lay slain, victims of a force seeking to vent its fury. No matter how much spin is placed on the incident at Haditha by ideologically driven Human Rights organizations that would rather the war not be fought at all, this will never, can never, be My Lai. To make these troops out to be like those at My Lai is to do them an intense disservice. It is to paint them with the brush of 'baby-killers,' to expose them to the kind of treatment that the radical anti-war heaped on our Vietnam vets, shutting them down and silencing them for decades, because, despite their claims of support, they blamed those troops for the poor direction of two Democratic presidents, the bad foreign policy of a man who could not bear to pull the troops a way at the same time that he could not bear to win a war, and a useless Secretary of Defense. We saddle these troops with all of our objections, refuse to give them a fair hearing, and refuse to believe that they might be doing their job, or might have made a mistake.

We don't know the horrors of war, particularly of a war where the enemy is all but invisible, and where the enemy does not play by the rules. The objective in Iraq is to drive out the Americans, because without them, it would be far easier to destroy the country. Without America, Iran could easily become the power in the Middle East, and sorry, but we'd rather have Iran relegated to making asinine statments, rather than firing long range missles at interesting targets.

If these troops have done wrong, we are a nation that will punish them, and severely. Unlike those who will use this incident as an excuse to capture and kill innocent foreigners, perhaps as part of hostage situations, or those who will use the word Haditha to justfiy further acts of violence against innocent people, we will put these troops under investigation, they will get a fair hearing under the justice system, and if found guilty they will be punished, just as all of those who enter into our justice system do. We alone, the United States, find this policy to be persuasive. So persuasive, that we allow our most hated enemies the same rights. Moussaoui sits in a prison today, a recipient of respect. We owe these troops the same courtesy, if not more.

To use this as a political tool is disgusting. John Murtha has lost all of our respect, as he has done the most heinous thing a politician ever can: use the blood of Americans to justify a shaky, and unsupportable political position. He and others have scrambled to analyze, psychoanalyze and posture themselves for strictly political purposes, to get re-election, or to garner the votes of the imbiciles at DailyKos, while they exploit the hardship endured by our men and women in uniform. As a friend said,

Enlisted or drafted, male or female, conservative or liberal in personal ideology, one thing remains inviolate: they are over there in a place none of us would ever wish to be, at the bidding of our federal government and at the behest of a country that has had a madman at the helm for 30 years. They are serving their country and the people of a foreign country, risking their lives, often forfeiting their lives, in our name. People like Murtha and the mainstream media that sucks its sustenance like a vampire off the ignorance of its viewers are a disgrace to anything we could hold to be honorable. It is a black day for this country when its "leaders" act like dysfunctional trailer trash off the Jerry Springer Show.

It is a disgrace. We are so quick to judge our conflicts by the standards of Vietnam. We are so quick to see our mistakes in battle, to call out our shortcomings as though history repeats itself so clearly. What we seem to be unable to do is recall our homegrown mistakes. We seem to forget that the way that we portray the troops, the way that we speak of the war, and the way that we treat incidents such as this has dastardly, and long lasting, effects on morale, on our culture, and our future. We have not learned, apparently, from Vietnam, that the behavior of those who would stop the war at all costs destroyed the lives of thousands of men who fought in it. We have not learned that when we find an incident of this magnitude that we must view it as Americans, as citizens, and as participants in a justice system that is, while not perfect, the best and fairest that we've discovered yet. We owe it to these troops to hear them out, to hear out the other side, and make a fair final decision, divorced from the ideological and political goals of Washington politicans, Cindy Sheehan and and the radical left, the anti-Americanism of international human rights organizations, and the prejudices of Middle Eastern society. We owe it to them to be just.

Say what you will about the motivations, goals or strategy of this war, but there is a time and place for criticism. We live in a country that values dissent, and encourages it--our most vocal dissenters, while they speak of being 'silenced,' often do so in front of millions on television, or in newspapers with circulations the size of small towns--and we are grateful for it. But dissent, and criticism must be directed wisely, because, no matter the political win, there are lives in the balance--young, volunteer lives, whose personal preferences are placed on hold so that they may live and die for the freedom we cherish. They have futures, not just presents. They will live with their memories of this war forever, and they will live with the memory of how they were treated by the American people. Do not repeat Vietnam, Mr. Murtha. Do not allow these men and women to go decades, living in fear and silence because the radical left and the media could not allow them the kind of respect that we reserve for even terrorists like Moussaoui.

Posted by E. M. Zanotti at May 31, 2006 10:58 AM

A man who says that no patriot should attack the war until it is over... is saying no good son should warn his mother of a cliff until she has fallen.
G. K. Chesterton

Posted by: bob at June 10, 2006 12:54 PM

Its so easy to confuse "the war" with individuals fighting the war, isn't it? Its so easy to paint "the war" with the color of a mistake by a few.

Get a life. Dissent from the war, but don't sacrifice the very Constitutional rights that men fight and die for in the process.

Posted by: E.M. at June 10, 2006 01:02 PM