Pause for a moment to remember Haditha.
Back in 2006, when it was revealed—thanks to Time magazine—that US troops killed two dozen Iraqi men, women and children in a burst of frenzied violence, Representative John Murtha called it a massacre and added:
“There was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
Eight Marines were indicted in the case. Six years later, not one was punished to any degree. Charges against seven of them were dropped, the result of stonewalling by the military and an incredibly inept prosecution. This week, the remaining Marine indicted in the slaughter, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, got off nearly scot-free. Wuterich, incidentally, had already sued Murtha for defamation, adding insult to grievous and tragic injury.
Predictably, Iraqis are outraged, though with Iraq’s steadily deteriorating political crisis they have other things to worry about. (About 400 Iraqis have been killed in the past month by bombings and assassinations, and Prime Minister Maliki and his secret security forces have arrested hundreds of political opponents on trumped-up charges. Meanwhile, Maliki is accusing his leading, mostly Sunni political rivals of being terrorists, Baathists and more.)
But the echoes of Haditha are likely to feed the resentment fast building among Iraqi Sunnis, in particular, since Haditha is deep in the heartland of Sunni Iraq. The Los Angeles Times quotes a teacher from Haditha, who witnessed the massacre:
“The Americans killed children who were hiding inside the cupboards or under the beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn’t kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?”
Along with the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Haditha massacre is one of the turning points of the war in Iraq. It is a lasting monument to the folly and brutality of George W. Bush’s illegal and misguided war of aggression. Various military leaders, including the despicable Bing West, have leaped to the defense of the Haditha killers, claiming that what they did was attributable to the “fog of war.” Not so.