An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Haditha nightmare

First impressions of the 60 minutes interview

I just finished watching the 60 minutes interview with Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the man principally responsible for the killing of 24 civilians in the city of Haditha on November 19, 2005. He said he would do it again. His defense relies on the assertion that he followed his training.

Sadly, the unmistakable similarity to Vietnam struck me most during the interview. In the statements by Vietnam veterans, in writing and in documentaries, you can read and hear that they "cleared hooches" by throwing grenades into them. These and other details one can read on books such as Bloods and in the compilation of The Winter Soldier affidavits. Wuterich, sadly, tells much the same story.

The killing of 5 men who were in a car near the IED explosion that killed one of the Marines I found especially distressing. Wuterich stated that "Iraqis know the drill, they know what they're supposed to do." They are supposed to lie flat on the ground and put their hands up. I remember a Vietnam veteran interviewed on the documentary about Vietnam done in the 1980s describing how he shot an old woman who ran at the sight of him. He realized in retrospect that she just panicked and ran in terror. He shot her without giving it a second thought at the time but during the interview he admitted (in tears) that she must have been "running from the big bad American" and nothing more. The Iraqi men Wuterich shot dead were unarmed. Maybe they just did not want to go to Abu Ghraib. Would you?

Wuterich found nothing wrong with "clearing" two houses by throwing grenades into them without warning and then shooting everyone inside. There's an old Doonesbury cartoon involving the "Uncle Duke" character who one night shoots Zeke Brenner. While explaining this to a police detective in the next day's cartoon Duke says, "I'm cautious by nature. I don't like to walk into a dark room until I've softened it up." Life imitates art?

How does the presence of U.S. troops in Haditha make Iraq safer?

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