'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What Should Be Done? 

UPDATE: I have frequently posted on the massacre in Haditha, as well as other brutalities inflicted by US troops upon Iraqis, as a justification from promptly bringing the occupation to an end.

Today, the Washington Post has published an article that provides a detailed account of Haditha massacre. I encourage people to read it in its entirety, but here is one excerpt, describing how US troops stopped a vehicle after an IED explosion killed one of their comrades, ordered the occupants out of it and shot them dead in cold blood:

U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post. U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the squad's leader, shot the men one by one after Marines ordered them out of a white taxi in the moments following the explosion, which killed one Marine and injured two others, witnesses told investigators. Another Marine fired rounds into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

"The taxi's five occupants exited the vehicle and according to U.S. and Iraqi witnesses, were shot by Wuterich as they stood, unarmed, next to the vehicle approximately ten feet in front of him," said a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on the incident that runs thousands of pages.

One of the witnesses, Sgt. Asad Amer Mashoot, a 26-year-old Iraqi soldier who was in the Marine convoy, told investigators he watched in horror as the four students and the taxi driver fell. "They didn't even try to run away," he said. "We were afraid from Marines and we saw them behaving like crazy. They were yelling and screaming."

The shootings were the first in a series of violent reactions by Marines on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005 that left 24 civilians -- many of them women and children -- dead, in what some human rights groups and Iraqis have called a massacre by U.S. troops.

The report, which relied on hundreds of interviews with Marines, Iraqi soldiers and civilian survivors conducted months after the incident, presents a fragmented and sometimes conflicting chronicle of the violence that day. But taken together, the accounts provide evidence that as the Marines came under attack, they responded in ways that are difficult to reconcile with their rules of engagement.

It is worth repeating, at this point, that none of the Marines charged with the killings in Haditha have been ordered confined pending the adjudication of the charges against them. Furthermore, the fact that lower level Marine officers and investigators, as explained by the Post, did not believe that the conduct of the soldiers warranted further inquiry suggests that the rules of engagement, as commonly understood in the field, does not prevent the indiscriminate shooting of civilians as occurred at Haditha.

According to the Post:

Defense attorneys have argued that the men were following their "rules of engagement" when they shot into the homes, using effective techniques in a difficult environment.

The Marine division's rules-of-engagement card in effect at the time in western Iraq instructed Marines to "ALWAYS minimize collateral damage" and said that targets must be positively identified as threats before a Marine can open fire. It also told Marines that "nothing on this card prevents you from using all force necessary to defend yourself."

Inevitably, it appears that the perpetuation of the occupation against the will of the Iraqis encourages troops to emphasize the last sentence of the rules to the exclusion of the rest.

ORIGINAL POST: Justin Raimondo has finally abandoned any hope that the war in Iraq, as well as numerous other imperial practices of the US, can be changed through the political system, announcing that now is the time for mass direct action:

Washington is the problem, and the solution is to make that city ungovernable, and a thoroughly unpleasant place for our ruling elite to be. If they won't listen to the voice of the hinterland, and suffer from delusions of invincibility, then they need to be reminded of their own vulnerability. By descending on Washington, and literally camping out, the millions who detest this war could make the city unlivable, or, at least, make it impossible for the mandarins of power to any longer discount us humble plebeians. These people love their perks, their privileges, their sense of empowerment, and, most of all, their pleasures – if we deprive them of all this, by making their lives a living hell, then and only then will we have any chance of decisively influencing the course of events.

A paroxysm of national rage is just what's needed, one that will shock our rulers out of their daydreams of omnipotence and communicate the urgency of the crisis. It is, above all, a crisis of empire: a relatively sudden realization by the American people that they don't want to go there, they don't want to rule Iraq, and it's time to reverse course before we do pemanent damage to the world and to ourselves.

I am usually opposed to civil disobedience, and have in the past inveighed – I believe that's the proper word – against it. Yet we no longer have much choice. The U.S. cannot pursue the course it's on much longer without some pretty awful consequences, the least of which would be a complete meltdown in Iraq and the regionalization of the war. The domestic consequences of this war – and of the so-called war on terrorism – are bearing down with such weight on the already fragile structure of our constitutional form of government, that we are in danger of being crushed, along with the hopeful vision of the Founders. We must act, just as Cindy Sheehan and her brave cohorts did recently when they interrupted the Democratic self-love-fest and refocused attention on the most important issue of them all: the war. And, no, hearings conducted by John Murtha don't fit the bill: if they won't cut off the funding for the war, then it's time they were cut off from their pleasant lives and illusions of impregnable insularity.

Radical measures are called for. The time for talk is over: you can't reason with these people, and I've given up trying. The time for action is now. Not inchoate rage, or violence, but focused anger, aimed with laser-like intensity at the root and source of all our problems – the seat of the Empire.

It is easy to ridicule Raimondo's suggestion. After all, I don't believe that the current social climate in the US is anywhere near supporting an endeavor. And, even if there were enough people willing to participate, the political establishment, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, moderates, liberals would all advocate the suppression of it, with the liberals, naturally, taking the lead in doing so with the most handwringing ambivalence about it. Remember Madeline Albright, behind the scenes in November 1999, demanding that the Seattle police clear the streets of WTO protesters, so that President Clinton's motorcade could travel undisturbed?

One need only look at their enthusiasm for supporting troops who report for duty, keep their heads down, and perpetuate the occupation of Iraq, while vacillating about conscientous objectors, like Lt. Col. Ehren Watada, who don't. If forced to choose between ending the occupation of Iraq, or protecting the hierarchical structure of the US military, they will, as indicated by many of the comments to Steve Gilliard's linked post about Watada, choose the latter. At best, a reading of these comments reveals that they are conflicted, and incapable of participating in a mass public movement against the war.

As for the commercial, mainstream media, do we really need to go there? It will aggressively cheerlead for the use of force and merciless criminal prosecution to break it. So Raimondo's column is actually a cry of desperation, a cry of frustration with the illusory republican political processes that brand the policies of perpetual war and the occupation of Iraq with the seal of democratic approval. It is understandable, praiseworthy even, and challenges us with the question, if not my way, what way? What should be done?

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