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Whitewash | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Whitewash

It is staggering. It is horrifying. But, then again, it isn't. It is what we have come to expect of this war and those who have misled our nation into it.

According to the Washington Post, the commanding officer of the battalion involved in the Haditha massacre last November told military investigators "he did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry."

And the New York Times reported last week on the felony assault conviction of David Passaro, a CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan prisoner for two days with "a flashlight and his fists" until the man pleaded to be shot and then died the following day.

These two stories reveal – once again – the lack of accountability and prosecution up the chain of command. Those who sit on high have attempted to erase such "quaint" legal restraints as the Geneva Conventions while blaming the lowest ranking soldiers for waging the war they have created.

In June, Robert Jay Lifton, esteemed psychiatrist and author of many books including Crimes of War: Iraq, wrote in Editor and Publisher of the corrupting nature of the occupation and counterinsurgency in Iraq: "To attribute the likely massacre at Haditha to ‘a few bad apples' or to ‘individual failures' is poor psychology and self-serving moralism. To be sure, individual soldiers and civilians who participated in it are accountable for their behavior, even under such pressured conditions. But the greater responsibility lies with those who planned and executed the ‘war on terrorism' of which it is a part, and who created, in policy and attitude, the accompanying denial of the rights of captives (at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) and of the humanity of civilians (at Haditha)."

This administration's barbaric tactics include undermining the Geneva Conventions, seeking to justify the use of torture, and lying its way into a war that has led to immeasurable suffering and loss of life. In word and deed, it has done unprecedented and perhaps irreparable harm to our constitution, our country--and our troops.

Lifton assigns guilt exactly where it belongs: "Psychologically and ethically, responsibility for the crimes at Haditha extends to top commanders, the secretary of defense, and the White House. Those crimes are a direct expression of the kind of war we are waging in Iraq."

There is a need for a real investigation – not a whitewash – of the real perpetrators of this catastrophic war. Such an investigation will never occur unless we vote for real change this November.

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