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Haditha and then this

In past discussions here and elsewhere on the behaviour of US troops in Iraq, I have suggested that people can be expected to do irrational things when put in extreme circumstances under great stress. I would even extend this to actually forgivving certain actions that would in other situations be considered criminal, but the more I read about this case, the more I think that someone has to go down hard.

If what is being reported is true, it appears that some US troops took a shining to a young Iraqi girl (reports of her age range from 14 to 25, but the 25 figure comes from the FBI, the younger from locals that actually knew her family, so I’ll go with that one) at a checkpoint and then looked her up later on. They killed her family, including a younger sister and her parents and then took turns raping her before killing her as well and burning the bodies to hide the evidence.

Several soldiers have been arrested, but the only person to be named so far is Steven Green, who was discharged from the military due to a “personality disorder” (apparently, too late). By all appearances, he was either the ringleader of the incident or the military is very happy to make him appear that way in order to limit the damage and protect others still in uniform.

There is nothing that doesn’t disturb me about this incident. First, the incident itself is disgusting. Second, Green managed to get honourably discharged before it was discovered and might have gotten away with it altogether had someone not felt guilty enough to discuss it during a debriefing session later on.

And finally, if Iraq is a legitimate government, as the Bush Administration maintains, then why the hell is this guy not being handed over to their tender mercies?

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10 thoughts on “Haditha and then this

  1. Actually, it’s fairly standard practice that American Servicemen’ll face American military justice before they’ll face any civilian justice, especially that of a foreign nation – not saying it’s right or fair, just pointing out that this isn’t out of the ordinary. I’ll agree with you on the heineousness of this affair, I’d say there’s a pretty fair chance this guy could wind up facing a firing squad.

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  2. Regardless of the age of the woman/girl rape and murder is something to gross for words. If this soldier is found guilty and not sentenced to the death penalty he should complete whatever sentence they give him them send him to the courts in Iraq to face their legal system.

    I hope this soldier gets a fair trial. I do not want to see the American government using/guiding/manipulating this trial as a peace offering to the Iraqi people. The incident is a PR nightmare of major proportions, but it cannot be used to manipulate the justice system that the people of the US have worked so hard to establish (though many have argued its monstrous flaws).

    I also feel bad for the other hard working soldiers not associated with the crime who have to deal with the Iraqi public, trying to restablish or maintain the trust they had before this incident. Unfortunately, overseas, one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.

    my 2 cents

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  3. one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel

    Paul, the biggest problem is that the barrel itself stinks. If this invasion was internationally seen as legitimate rather than a war of (in)convenience, this might be written off as bad for PR, to use your words. Unfortunately, the US started this fight despite the evidence rather than because of it, so every single mis-step from that point forward becomes one more reason they should not be there.

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  4. It’s both sad and informative that this rape and murder was not being investigated before the revenge murder and mutilation of two soldiers from this same unit. Most likely, if that revenge killing hadn’t taken place, this alleged murderer and rapist would be roaming the streets of middle America.

    Note that Green’s collaborators are still in the military, although they’ve had their “weapons confiscated” (to quote the brass). The bad apples start at the top and leak their spoilt remains downwards.

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  5. I agree that the barrel is a politacally disease-infested barrel, but I think you missed my point. I was not refering to the barrel but rather the apples forced to live in it in Iraq. They have to deal with the pressures of living in that barrel. Having one (or more) bad apples makes living/working in that barrel that much harder or more dangerous. secondly, how we deal with these bad apples will reflect the iraqi view of the remaining apples. If it is not dealt with correctly the remaining apples will suffer.

    I like you and many others know about the American mistake of going there. We all want the US out of Iraq as soon as possible. What we tend to overlook sometimes (and I wish Flash could comment on this) is the individual soldiers that are there now. They are not mindless robots. They are stuck there until the administration gets off their asses and bring this charade to an end. The antics of a few very stupid soldiers is going to affect the remaining soldiers from a PR point of view and the view of the Iraqi public.

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  6. Actually Paul, I didn’t see your earlier comment…I posted my comment from the main page. I do think you are dreaming a bit if you think that the US soldiers can repair their image in Iraq. Incidents like Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah, this rape and multiple homicide, and I’m sure other, as yet unreported crimes are not the sort of thing that a population quickly forgets, nor forgives.

    Guilt by association is always going to be a problem for American soldiers in Iraq. The Stars and Stripes will probably be associated with these crimes for a decade or more.

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  7. Ask, and ye shall receive.
    My .02 (.000001 USD):
    Generally, the US Army is recruiting from the least-advantaged populations in American society: the poor, the uneducated, the unemployable, visible minorities, etc. This has been the case for some time – case in point: Vietnam.
    While some are able to overcome the obvious disadvantages of their origins in American society, others are, due to a variety of factors, more susceptible to the ‘heroic’ propaganda and are less able to defer gratification through reflection. While not an organized campaign of rape as was seen in the Balkans, the incidents of violence are inevitable if your force is composed of individuals for whom revenge and humiliation is the primary motivation, and for whom ‘Die Hard’ or ‘The Terminator’ is the guide for proper performance of manhood.
    I have no doubt that there is an experienced core of career soldiers, both in the ranks and in the Officer Corps that see this and other incidents as the absolute worst things possible both from a morale and a perception standpoint.
    This ‘professional’ army is probably following orders with the understanding that what they’re doing is futile, but they are conditioned to follow orders. After more of these incidents come to light (as they inevitably will), the intelligent, thoughtful, professional core of the US forces will find out that that won’t work in Baghdad any better than it worked in Nuremberg. The leadership will be sacrificed for the image, leaving the worst elements to continue raping, killing indiscriminately and generally breaking all of the commandments they are supposedly there to defend.
    Long story short: It’s going to get much, much worse.

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  8. And…
    The dehumanizing aspects of the rhetorical construction of the ‘other’ or the ‘enemy’ makes the actions of these idiots makes their actions seem perfectly acceptable in their own minds. These ‘people’ aren’t human beings to them.
    Plus, the pressure to conform to the picture of masculinity offered by the Army is multiplied by isolation in small groups – the actions of one group member is judged against a ‘standard’, and one-upmanship frequently occurs. In any group situation involving institutionalized but decentralized authority, one sociopath can lead others down paths they hadn’t conceived of before.

    Okay, done now.:)

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  9. Bri,
    I do like to dream a bit, however, we all know the US has a great track record of fouling things up when trying to repair things (reminiscent of the TV show “Canada’s Worst Handyman”). The house of cards representing their credibility has pretty well been completely knocked over partly due to the events you have cited. The Iraqi people will not forget nor forgive those events very soon, if ever, but they are not stupid people, either. If the US handles this rape case correctly they may save face in a few Iraqi people.

    The US will not be able to repair all the damage for at least a few generations but they have the ability to lessen the hatred incurred up to this point. They have an uphill battle with themselves in order to eventually leave Iraq (yes, we all know they will most likely stay their long after we are dead, if they can get away with it,) with the least amount of damage to what is left to their credibility. I do not know the best solution, because I do not know all of the facts. Actually, no one really knows all of the facts.

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  10. Obviously, the US military values my opinion greatly. As well they should. They’ve finally arrested and charged the other scumbags involved in this (alleged) rape and murder. We’ll see if anything beyond a dishonourable discharge amounts from the charges.

    Question: Can the military can an honourable discharge to a dishonourable after the fact? The ringleader was honourably discharged before the military admitted that Haditha could even happen, er, I mean, investigated this brutal crime.

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