I haven’t written anything about the horrific events in Haditha. That’s mainly because so many other poeple are doing a great job of covering. But it’s also because I’ve written about torture and human rights abuses in Iraq before, and I finally got tired of it because talking about it didn’t seem to change anything or matter much. And after people reelected the bunch that gave us Abu Ghraib and Gitmo in the first place, I just assumed that the abuses going on were exactly what most Americans wanted to see happening and wanted done in their names.
I’m not anything that’s said or done on the issue is going to stop the powers that be from employing it, or prevent the inevitable blowback and consequences from its use. And it doesn’t matter because 51% of the country put them back in power knowing that stuff just like this would happen. So it must be what most of us want, because how do you embrace a course of action without also embracing the potential consequences when the potential consequences are known?
…Godammit Condi, enough already. Just say it. This is what you, and a whole lot of people want, or at the very least intend. This case is not a mistake. It’s exactly what you and yours intended when you decided to give Torquemada a run for his money. It’s what the Bush intended. It’s what Gonzalez intended. It’s what Rumsfeld intended. It’s what 51% of voting Americans intended (if election results are to be believed) when they returned to power the same bunch that brought us Abu Ghraib and more.
And now there’s more bad news to come, even as people wring their hands and wonder how and why something like this could have happened. The easy answer is the pressures of war, of seeing friends and comrades blown to bits, etc. But I think those answers are too eas, and only became more convinced when I heard that service members in Iraq were going to undergo “core values” training.
Whoa. I thought those were the values we were allegedly going to war to defend in the first place. If they have to be taught at the point where we’ve got boots on the ground, then they weren’t there to begin with or were so shaky that they became the first casualty on the battlefield. And if that’s the case, then it’;s not the war that’s to blame. It’s not the individual service members that are to blame. Maybe it’s not even the politicos who pushed for the are to blame. Maybe it’s us.
I didn’t start to put it together until I read Roxanne’s take on the matter.
What my experience taught me is that the military is mostly a microcosm of the general population. Most of the servicemembers I encountered were good people; others, not so. Some were Republicans; some Democrats. Some were smart. And a few were the among the stupidest fucks roaming the planet.
Even then I had to read this report from Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive, about a Muslim family terrorized in Georgia , before I finally got it.
Sania Karman says it all began at Wal-Mart.
The 27-year-old mother of four lives in Douglasville, Georgia, about 45 minutes from Atlanta. Born in Pennsylvania, she describes herself as “white, blond hair, blue eyes.” She says she’s been a Muslim for about five years, and she’s married to a Muslim man who came here from Pakistan.
… Here’s the Wal-Mart encounter, as she recalls it:
“A customer, an older lady in her mid-60s, says, ‘Ma’am, where are you from?'”
“I say, ‘Pittsburgh, P.A.'”
“Where is your husband from?”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself then.”
“Why should I be ashamed of myself?”
“Because our forefathers died to give us the rights and freedoms we have, and you’re giving it all up by being a Muslim.”
Kamran says she responded by saying that her father was a Vietnam vet, and that he also served in the Gulf War and Desert Storm. “He served our country for 26 years,” she recalls saying. “Because of people like my father and others, I have the right to choose who I’m going to pray to and who I’m going to be.”
After the conversation ended, Kamran says she didn’t pay any mind to it.
Until, that is, a few days later.
She was back at Wal-Mart, and when she walked out to the parking lot, she noticed something. “I went to open up the hatch to our van and in the dust on the window they’d written ‘Killers.’ ”
She thinks it might have had something to do with the fact that she had “Proud2B a Muslim” written on her license plate frame.
“I woke up to nurse my eight-month-old,” she recalls.” While I was feeding him, I heard like a pop. I wasn’t sure what it was. At first, I thought it was my neighbor’s car door. Then I saw a flicker, like a flame. I thought some idiot had lit our garbage can as a prank. But then I saw smoke coming out of my van, and I screamed for my husband.”
They called 911, and then sat on their front steps and watched the van burn, she says.
… One fireman drew their attention to something else. “;He pointed to our garage, and they had spray-painted across it, ‘Killers go home.'”
Sure, burning van and a spray-painting a house are a long way from gunning down children and an elderly man in a wheelchair, or a pregnant woman about to give birth. But they’re a beginning; one that probably had its own origin in mere words, and beyond that unspoken thoughts that cast other human being in the role of “other.” As the old cliche goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and it’s the thoughts and words and actions at home that lead to the destination of Haditha by planting the seed for the atrocities alleged to have happened there.
The service members who allegedly committed the atrocities reported in Haditha aren’t “them.” They’re us. (As much as the victims in Haditha were also us, though that recognition never managed to cut through the beating of the war drums.) What they are, we are, and vice versa. Whatever was in them to bring about the atrocities at Haditha wasn’t planted in them at the point they landed on Iraq’s desert soil, nor was it nurtured to full fruition there. It was planted, watered and tended right here at home. Iraq, Haditha (Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, etc.) is just where it happened to bloom.
The individual soldiers involved will eventually have to take responsibility for their alleged actions. But they didn’t act alone. Bush and others will likely escape any consequences of the policies that paved the road to Haditha. But they didn’t act alone either. They didn’t do this alone. We did this. It’s not just them. It’s us.