Just over a week ago, Rep. John Murtha stated that a military investigation will confirm that over a dozen Iraqi civilians were murdered in Haditha by U.S.Marines.
Today, a New York Times cover story reveals far worse: the military report finds that 24 Iraqi civilians were "killed during a sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours…." Murder charges are a possible outcome.
The victims include women and children killed in two houses, as well as 5 men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint.
A separate military investigation is determining whether a deliberate cover-up led to initial false reports that the victims were killed by a makeshift bomb or caught in the crossfire between marines and insurgents.
Congressional, military, and Pentagon officials all spoke under the condition of anonymity.
John Sifton of Human Rights Watch put it plainly, "Here we have two dozen civilians being killed--apparently intentionally. This isn't a gray area. This is a massacre."
According to the Times, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee, flew to Iraq to lecture the troops on adhering to the Geneva Conventions and rules of engagement.
But why would the troops respect the rules of engagement when the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense are hell-bent on reserving the right to torture? When the Attorney General refers to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint"? When the Administration recklessly asserts that it can do whatever it wants to do so long as--in its opinion--it is acting to protect the American people?
What we see unfolding before our eyes, sadly, is exactly what Nation Institute Fellow Chris Hedges writes happens all too often in war: "One of the frustrating things for those of us who have spent so much time in war zones is to come back and see how those who are guiltiest – those who pushed the country into war, who told the lies that perpetuated the war – are never held accountable. And those who suffer the most, those who endure the trauma and have to live with the memories for the rest of their lives, are blamed unjustly."
The New York Times called those allegedly involved in the killings "a small number of marines." But just because those who sit-on high didn't pull the trigger, it doesn't make them any less guilty. In fact, they aren't the ones facing the unfathomable stress of war made worse by their own poor planning and poor allocation of resources.
They just sit in judgment of the soldiers who will end up paying the price for it. And tell the families of slain Iraqis that we are bettering their lives.