In an interview on CNN, a doctor who saw the bodies of those brought into the hospital after the shootings by Marines at Haditha, which I have referred to as a potential My Lai of Iraq, was very disturbing.
All of the bodies came in with bullet holes in the early morning- hours after the attack had taken place. Why the delay?
Among the bodies were children of 5, 3, and 2 years of age. Impossible to believe these were mistaken for insurgents. Another victim was 76. A very unlikely insurgent as well. What possible justification can be offered?
This event took place on November 19, 2005. Again, why the delay? Why do we find out about this potential war crime only now- 6 months later?
Americans have more than a right to know of events such as this. They have an obligation. Americans supported this invasion by a substantial majority. They are obligated to understand that perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Many of these are collateral damage victims- a euphemism which I doubt provides much comfort to the families of the deceased. Many, of course, are the victim of insurgent and sectarian violence- which the US due to low troop numbers has been impotent to prevent. In the case of Haditha, the growing impression is that more than 20 were murdered in cold blood.
It is not enough for people to change their views on this war. If they supported it, they are morally culpable for these outcomes which were entirely too predictable.
One final thought: CNN reported that 15 of the families of those killed were given payments of $2,500. $2,500??? For the wrongful killing of a family member? Compare that to the outcome of any wrongful death lawsuit in the US and you will see that $2,500 is not only laughable, it's insulting.
We must expect much more of our nation and its military. We must expect that the military more quickly investigate and resolve such cases as Haditha. We must expect that justice for perpetrators is served quickly, and that accountability among military and goverment leaders is recognized. We must expect that a meaningful and heartfelt expression of remorse and apology is offered, officially, from our goverment. I know that no amount of money can replace loved ones, but since we so often do put a price tag on life when crimes such as this occur, we must make a meaningful offer of compensation to allow families to begin to rebuild their shattered lives. All of these steps are absolutely necessary if we are going to be a nation that can move in the direction of being a nation at peace with its conscience, and a nation capable of making future peace with the Arab/Muslim world.
This war has been a mistake from its inception. The weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism used to justify the war were not there. We have turned Iraq into the new Afghanistan- a training ground for terrorists. We have made the mistake of our invasion worse with Abu Ghraib, "Bring it on" and the use of the word "crusade" by our President, the limitless detentions at Guantanamo, and now Haditha. We must now begin to turn the tide. We must provide security to Iraq, and get out of that nation as quickly as is possible while keeping the safety of the people there as our paramount concern. And we must drop the facade of infallibility and admit our error and begin to rebuild relations in an area of the world that provides us with great challenges. If we continue to fail, it will be at our peril.