discomfort (2006-25)

The Blame Game

Who’s at fault for Haditha? Not me, says the government

by Steve Dupree

You can’t blame a tree for falling over in a strong wind. However, even though it isn’t the tree’s fault, you still might have to cut the tree up and haul it away. You might even have to burn it. Seems pretty harsh for that tree that was exactly where it was supposed to be, huh? But it must be done.

Therein lies the situation that seems evermore likely to be the case in Iraq. Haditha to be specific. It is looking more and more like some of our trees there have been blown over.

The thing that chaps my ass is that, just like the Abu Ghraib torture incidents, the young patriots who were exactly where they were ordered to be will probably be the only ones held responsible. Now, if (if!) it happened like the reports I have read say it did, and young marines executed innocent men, women and children, then it is only right that they be held responsible.

However, they did not make up lies about an Iraqi connection to 9-11. They did not ignore available intelligence to tell the world that Iraq was seeking uranium for its ongoing “nukular” weapons program. They did not shush the military professionals who suggested that attempting to occupy and pacify a nation like Iraq would take far more boots on the ground than they were planning to send, and subsequently sent. In short, they did not put themselves in the position to lose control and go on a killing spree.

No, ladies and gentlemen, the blame for all of that lies squarely with those who have sought to avoid taking responsibility for anything they have done except that which currently appears to be a good thing. (Who knows what they will do if/when their current bragging points go sour. I imagine they will try to figure out a way to convince the nation that the blame belongs to one Clinton or another.)

Should the investigation find that charges of the massacre at Haditha have merit, and should a trial find that the marines were culpable, then every veteran I know who has expressed an opinion, online or in person, expects them to be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law. Those of us who claim to be liberals and/or who are honest about the structure and nature of the military leadership hierarchy fervently want for the assignment of blame to be honest and fair regardless of the rank of the individual, up to and including C-in-C.

Non-commissioned officers, the sergeants in the Marine Corp, comprise the foundation upon which military leadership is built. No officer leads effectively without the cooperation and assistance of his or her noncoms. You may hear current or former sergeants say that they would follow a certain officer into hell. For the grunts at the bottom of the food chain, though, it is the sergeant to whom they give that distinction.

If Haditha happened with the knowledge and/or assistance of the noncoms, it is indicative of severe leadership problems at the company level. It is the clear and stated responsibility of battalion-level commanders to be aware of and address problems with company officers. That clear and stated responsibility structure reaches directly to the SecDef and, through him, to the Oval Office.

It matters not which way I come at this issue. It always comes down to some version of the troops having personal responsibility for the actual shooting, and the higher-up military leadership having greater responsibility for the morale and training of the grunts, and the civilian leadership having ultimate responsibility, including responsibility for creating the situation that may have led to the moral corruption of young Americans who just wanted to do the right thing.

There is an old saying that has been on my mind of late. “When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails.” There are some problems that a nation sees that are very unlikely to be effectively addressed by post-adolescents with guns. Ever since I have been paying attention, and probably a lot longer, Americans in general have been speaking as though the military, those kids with guns, are our only tool. Of late, it seems that those holding national elective office are also unaware of, or unwilling to use, other tools.

Yes, deployment of tens of thousands of standard troops or grunts is a flashy, newsworthy, PR-making tool, but that still does not mean it is the right tool for the job. It would appear that in the case of Iraq, and in the totally separate case of addressing a burgeoning worldwide terrorists’ infrastructure, use of other tools are pretty clearly indicated.

Peace is not the absence of war.

It’s a time when we will all bring ourselves closer to each other, closer to building a structure that is unique within ourselves because we have finally come to peace within ourselves.