Saturday, August 12, 2006

Haditha on my mind

Haditha, Iraq. American soldiers rape and murder a 14 year old girl and her family. The soldiers had been drinking. They discussed it. Pre-meditated it. Did it. And they excuse it on the basis of combat stress, seeing their friends get killed by the insurgents and a few other lame fuckwitted things. Bullshit and bollocks! Don't you fall for those excuses. Noone in that group of soldiers had the stones to be a man, put himself in front of his buddies and say "Stop, this is wrong!" before it got started.

Whose children are these men anyway? Whose brothers, sons, cousins, friends are they? I want to horsewhip 'em and brand 'em. Put a big fat R for rapist on one cheek and WC for war criminal on the other, even though the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits such punishment as "cruel and unusual." I wanna be able to recognize these men as the walk down any street in any town in America, just so I can step aside and turn my back to them. To be able to publicly shun them and so that others may do so as well. I'm not sorry about that desire.

I think in this case, asking whose children are these that can do such things IS appropriate. Their parents, families and friends SHOULD be mortified: what they contributed to in the upbringing of those men was NOT good enough to make even one of them say what they were about to do was wrong and make an effort to stop even at the risk of their own life and limb. I recommend a paper written by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Defining Deviancy Down" which appeared in American Scholar, Winter, 1993.

I'm disgusted. This is not the conduct we should expect from, or accept from, our American soldiers; men who are ostensibly our brothers, husbands, sons, cousins and friends should be better than this.

Here's a few articles from the UCMJ that may be applicable to those men in terms of what the can be charged with and what the potential punishments can be imposed:


Any person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy--
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;

912. ART. 112. DRUNK ON DUTY

Any person subject to this chapter other than a sentinel or look-out, who is found drunk on duty, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


Any person subject to this chapter who causes or participates in any riot or breach of the peace shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

918. ART. 118. MURDER

Any person subject to this chapter whom without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he--
(1) has a premeditated design to kill;
(2) intends to kill or inflict great bodily harm;
(3) is engaged in an act which is inherently dangerous to others and evinces a wanton disregard of human life; or
(4) is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of burglary, sodomy, rape robbery, or aggravated arson; is guilty of murder, and shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may direct, except that if found guilty under clause (1) or (4), he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct.


(a) Any person subject to this chapter who commits an act of sexual intercourse with a female not his wife, by force and without consent, is guilty of rape and shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
(b) Any person subject to this chapter who, under circumstances not amounting to rape, commits an act of sexual intercourse with a female not his wife who has not attained the age of sixteen years, is guilty of carnal knowledge and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
(c) Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete either of these offenses.

Now I'm thinking I'm generally moderate, and I generally have liberal views. But not in this. There are some things I'm just conservative about and this is one of them. IF there is to be any good outcome from this clusterfuck known as Iraq, it has to happen at the "hearts and minds" level. We have to connect as human beings. But any tenuous connections that have been established are endangered by the outrageous level of misconduct on the parts of these frontline soldiers.

There are several failures that need to be remedied AND punished and they occur along several levels of hierarchy. Clearly there is a failure of leadership -- even a grunt has to understand that even in a war, even at the pitch of emotion from battle and the hardships of battle - fear, loss of friends, terror, stress and alertness, there are things that NO honorable soldier does. Ever. Period. Yet in this, even the careers of officers and generals need to be unmade; undone as shameful examples of what happens when standards of moral conduct are not adhered to. These acts dishonor us as a people in the eyes of the world because they violate what are historically regarded crimes against humanity. There are rules of warfare and international law can be brought to bear if they are violated. Look at the war in Bosnia for examples of where the World Court is trying war crimes trials in the Hague.

You don't make war on civilians. It's uncivilized. You don't make war on children. A 14 year old is still a child. You don't rape or pillage. You don't commit murder. Killing the enemy is one thing, but murder is another. And if the enemy has laid down their arms and you kill him or her, it's murder. Simple stuff. And we citizens at home cannot condone or excuse this conduct. At any level. We went thru similar in Viet Nam with the Mi Lai massacre. You cannot win the hearts and minds of a people when even a small percentage of frontline troops break with discipline and violate the rules of war and common decency.

We lose moral ground over our right to outrage at events like 9/11, when most of us wept over the men and women who had been made war on by Al-Quaeda on our turf, when we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to our own shortcomings and bad blood. If we keep silent and swallow the bullshit "these things happen, it was war," excuses of those soldiers and their leaders. There must be accountability. Clearly the perpetrators must face the heaviest consequences possible. They were the instigators acting without orders, breaching the peace.

In discussing this topic in other venues with folks and what to do punitively, some of the suggestions are brutal-- from castration to hanging to stoning. My own response is as well. And I would also agree with human rights groups who would see that kind of punishment as barbaric as well. I think precedent actually exists due to past cases in Japan and Okinawa during the 1980s and 90s where US armed force's members have committed rapes and murders who have been surrendered to Japanese courts for trial and sentencing. One person I know suggested turning these men over to Iraqi authorities for trial and punishment. Now, do I realistically think for a minute that they would balk at executing these soldiers? While I'm not comfortable with the idea (or my own punitive fantasy, for that matter), I think it may be the correct, moral thing to do.

Their Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains all the way up the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense and the President must also stand forth and account: "Why did you not expect, demand better of them? Just where are your moral standards anyway? "

I served. I was an ordinary person and was "just average" as being an airman went. I was a one term enlistee and during that time, I played by military rules and even traditions. Because of that grounding, I am outraged at these events. I think vets and active duty alike should be outraged -- enough to do something about it. As for the politicians who got us into this mess in Iraq to begin with: Well, for those of us US voters, I remind you gentle readers that we have mid-term elects coming up soon! So I hope you will do the right honorable thing and make them accountable for this when you vote.

(And in this I include the incidents of Abu Ghraib as well.)

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -- Albert Einstein 03/14/1879 - 04/18/1955

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. John F. Kennedy 05/29/1917 - 11/22/1963

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