Punish All the Damn Murderers from Top to Bottom

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How many American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan , undoubtedly the focus of Memorial Day celebrations across America , did the same thing that Marines did in Haditha? Because they were killed during service in the wars and occupations to make the Fatherland safer from terrorists, they are remembered as heroes, not as murderers. To punish only a group of over-adrenalized jarheads exacting revenge for a fallen comrade seems short-sighted if a strong deterrent is to be established in order to prevent such mass murder in the future. Don't just punish the guys who pulled the triggers; that will not ensure that this horrendous criminal activity will not happen again. Those who sent them to Haditha should be indicted as accomplices to every charge leveled at the Marines who actually pulled the triggers. If the Marines get the death penalty, so should their accomplices.

The Marines who murdered those innocent people came to that point in time and space because they were ordered to be there as a matter of executing their responsibilities as soldiers in a 'war' zone. Many other people of higher rank and status arranged it so that that group of Marines would be in Haditha at that exact time with all the murderous equipment they used to erase innocent civilians from the face of the earth. The Marines who massacred those people should fry. Rational Americans would expect no less of a punishment for a group of criminals committing the same atrocity in an American town or city. But because they were American soldiers 'serving' their country, it is not likely that Americans will tend to be rational about proper punishment.

The Bush administration has gone through great pains to shield American troops operating in U.S. government-created war zones from being accused of murder. It seems the sudden surfacing of this 'old' war-related horror story suggests an opportune moment for a government looking for scapegoats to siphon off the constant barrage of negative news associated with the failure and incompetence of President Bush and his cadre of planners for premeditated mass murder and destruction. Perhaps they will, in the same manner as the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, assert that this 'tragic' event happened because a 'few bad apples' acted on their own and exceeded their orders.

Maybe so. But, unlike the soldiers tending to Iraqis brought to Abu Ghraib, who existed in a stable position of superiority and could, with impunity, beat, torture, and murder their captives, the Marines operating in Haditha had no such luxury. Superior firepower they may have had when needed, but their daily existence as they went about their job was far more precarious. They experienced constant threats those 'bad apples' at Abu Ghraib never had to. Inflicting suffering and death and experiencing the same, their sanity and ability to act rationally under intense pressure was, potentially, always at the breaking point. All it would take for enough of them to crack and drag the others down with them was an incident like that in the news right now. With enough experience at causing death and destruction, the decision to go house to house and exact revenge on the closest people that looked like those who planted explosives or booby traps would become automatic. Attributing the Marines' behavior to 'bad apples' reasoning is too simplistic.

In the film Nuremberg , Hermann G'ring testifies, seemingly sincerely, that he, and to his belief, Hitler, did not know the extent of what was being done in the death camps. When I finish this film in my World History classes, I always ask my students if those at the top should escape responsibility because of what those at the bottom have done during war. I usually get at least one kid who says that no, they should not. Without those at the top, to provide the equipment, staffing, logistics, sense of power and purpose, etc., those at the bottom are powerless to do anything on the magnitude of what went on in the death camps. Only the state can make mass murder possible and so efficient. Most students seem reluctant to respond. Is it because the answer is too obvious? Or, like so many Americans, do they go into denial and refuse to make the Nazi connection to now, rationalizing such behavior as necessary to protect America from bad people who want to hurt us?

All the head-shaking by criminal, rubber-stamping scumbags in Congress, trips and lectures by the Marine Corps commandant, and feigned remorse by the Idiot-in-Chief, should not be allowed to confuse the issue of ultimate responsibility for the massacre in Haditha. If those Marines are to be strung up for what they did in the execution of their orders while 'serving' their country during war, then all those who had a hand in sending them to a U. S. government-created shithole and placing them in a position to make a life-changing decision for themselves and dozens of innocent people, should be strung up as well.

If Americans are going to let those far removed from the actions of the Marines in Haditha escape responsibility and retire with full military benefits, cushy jobs as lobbyists, or the world of lecture tours for linguistically-challenged morons, then they might as well go take a dump on the nearest grave of someone who died serving their country. Considering how mindlessly Americans go about celebrating state-worshiping holidays, that would seem to be an appropriate tribute to all those potential war-time murderers resting peacefully.

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Harry Goslin's picture
Columns on STR: 40

Harry Goslin lives in eastern Arizona.