I originally intended to write this as an update to the post about the Haditha murders but realized this new bit of tragedy and irony deserves its own post. While listening to Sergeant Frank Wuterich on 60 minutes he said something that I almost missed: a reference to the men fleeing from the car (who he shot and killed) as "military age men." Why should that matter? Then, a few days ago, I read about the court martial of another soldier, Staff Sergeant Ray Girouard, in which the phrase "military age men" appeared again. Girouard and three other soldiers face murder charges over the killing of three Iraqi prisoners on May 9, 2006. Girouard is the only one who has not entered a guilty plea. All of them point the finger at their fearless leader, Col. Michael Steele. As the news story reports:
"Military investigators found several witnesses who said they heard Colonel Michael Steele tell his troops to "kill all military-aged males" in the assault on a suspected insurgent base on an island in the Tigris River north of Baghdad.
Oh, and it gets worse. This lunatic managed to go so far into his delusional world that he allowed someone to film him giving the "pep talk" from which reporters have extracted this gem:
"Don't let them live to fight another day. They’re going to breed, multiply . . .,’You'll be eaten unless you act like the dominant one on the food chain...rely on your training to do what's right, do not hesitate...you’re the hunted … don't bring any of them back."
Does any of this ring a bell? In another war against a civilian population the U.S. military routinely searched for "military age males" in a given village and arrested all such men they found. If they were military age, the were supposed to enlist in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. If they did not, they were assumed to be the enemy. The Bush administration sent the U.S. military into the Iraqis country and now soldiers such as Girouard and Wuterich get to decide who lives or dies, based on assumptions fed to them by people like Col. Steele. A "military age" Iraqii is Not free to choose Not to join a military or police force? The Military spokespeople have played this one as a rouge officer acting as a bad influence over the men in his command. Also, statements about the U.S. soldiers suffering under stress and fatigue play into their defense.
Another gratuitous pop-culture reference:
How many remember the character of the helicopter gunner from the movie Full-Metal Jacket? He fired his machine gun at every Vietnamese they flew past. He said to the others: "If they run, it means they're VC. You know what we call the ones who don't run? Disciplined VC."
Which brings us back to Haditha. Military age males ran. Did that made them guilty of being undisciplined insurgents?
And the best part comes from a direct quote from one of the soldiers in the May 9, 2006 incident comparing what he did to a gang initiation: "That's what the army is, a big gang," said Private Corey Claget ..."
If these incidents constitute some inevitable effect of war, should President Bush have unleashed "a big gang" in the first place? Those of us who do not believe that war should ever start many can dismiss as naive or "moonbats" etc. But even those who believe that war is sometimes necessary usually also agree that one should not start the horror without a clear and present danger to the U.S. or its citizens. The right wing has reduced itself to screaming lies that only a handful of narrow-minded lunatics believes anymore. Sorry wing-nuts, but no one found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no one found evidence of collaboration by Iraq with Al-Queda or the Sept. 11th attacks. (Despite these facts, opinion polls of U.S. military personnel in Iraq have revealed that the majority of them believe that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had something to do with the Sept. 11th attacks). And while the Democrats dither around -- fearing that pulling the plug on the war will brand them as cowards allowing Republicans to win elections for the next 50 years by calling them defeat-crats -- the death and horror continues.
US officer "upset" Iraqi suspects taken alive, court hears
Mar 14 08:44 AM US/Eastern
The Training And Conviction Of Staff Sergeant Raymond Girouard
Commander's Comments Draw Sharp Criticism: Colonel Will Not Testify In Soldier's Case
Reported By Demetria Kalodimos http://www.wsmv.com/news/11234564/detail.html
POSTED: 4:40 pm CDT March 12, 2007
UPDATED: 11:48 am CDT March 13, 2007