Posted under Iraq
Some wars end with a bang (Hiroshima) and others just burn themselves out (Korea). And some end in a rather bizarre manner as the U.S. troops withdrawl from Iraq suggest. As said troops arrived in Kuwait this morning, we find out that apparently the military was pretty careless with some of its files kept during the occupation. Along with broken surplus military equipment discarded at local junkyards throughout Iraq, also disposed in manner one would take recyclables to the local dump, were thousands of pages of classified documents. There must have been the rationale among the personnel responsible for disposal, in the mad rush to get rid of things before before final departure, that Iraqi junkmen wouldn’t make head or tails of such documents and burn them anyway along with the rest of the trash. But they didn’t reckon with an intrepid New York Times reporter finding this stuff before it headed to the burn file.
What the documents entail was the deaths Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in an incident in the village of Haditha. There will be those disappointed few persons were held accountable for their actions in Iraq and many more were acquitted in variety of trials. Yet in reality, even if there were more convictions in military courts, these persons would have been privates and corporals, not generals nor the policy makers responsible for putting said troops into the middle of hostile territory and expecting them to respect the rules of civilized warfare when the enemy would not play by those rules in order to have any kind of advantage against such forces and expecting them to do so in day to day struggle for survival. This is why no one will really know how many civilians died in Iraq because many such incidents probably went unreported because they’ve became so common place: person or a family not stopping at checkpoints getting blasted by on-edge soldiers or any manner of misunderstandings which resulted in tragic deaths. Persons reading the reports on what happened at Haditha may be appalled by the attitudes of some in uniform towards what happened in such cases, and certainly it’s disturbing. But it’s also understandable from an individual’s own determination not to wind up like of buddy of theirs who got blown up by a insurgent hiding amidst the crowd. You can’t ask a soldier to become a cop. That’s not what they are trained to be or do. And in doing so we ensured there would always be a steady supply of insurgents avenging the deaths of family members shot by U.S. troops whether accidently or not.
Of course this really wasn’t a “war” by then but an occupation and rebellion in response to this occupation. The “war” phase ended when U.S. forces captured Baghdad. I can still remember the soldiers saying “the quicker we get to Baghdad the quicker we get home.” That never happened and it never happened because the fantasy thinking of the policy makers and the military brass as to what was going to happen and their inability to adjust or even admit what was going on went things didn’t go according to plan.. The end result was a lot of needless deaths which ultimately left behind a broken country which is no longer the bulwark against Iran it was when Saddam was in charge. Perhaps the neocons should ponder this when celebrating “victory” and clamoring for attack on Iran.
For a good summary of the aftermath of Iraq please read this article by Andrew Bacevich in today’s Washington Post.