It's often said -- by assholes -- that other cultures not lucky enough to be considered a part of the enlightened "West" do not value human life as much as those of us who, through the accident of birth, ended up being raised in the land of hormone-infused milk and tainted honey. But, you know: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq again, Yemen, Somalia...
That's the macro level. Here's the micro version courtesy of the New York Times and one of its reporters who found a trove of U.S. military documents in an Iraqi garbage dump detailing an investigation into the 2005 Haditha massacre, in which more than 20 civilians -- including babies and grandmothers -- were coldly and calculatingly murdered by U.S. troops. One might be as struck as I at the, dare I say, almost oriental manner in which American soldiers and their commanders deal with human life. And, like me, one might tremble with rage at the regrettably startling fact that none of the top-level fucks responsible for the Iraq war has to worry about anything more than where their next six-digit speakers' fee will come from:
Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, in his own testimony, described it as “a cost of doing business.
The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.
“When a car doesn’t stop, it crosses the trigger line, Marines engage and, yes, sir, there are people inside the car that are killed that have nothing to do with it,” Sgt Maj. Edward T. Sax, the battalion’s senior noncommissioned officer, testified.
He added: “I had Marines shoot children in cars and deal with the Marines individually one on one about it because they have a hard time dealing with that.”
When the initial reports arrived saying that more than 20 civilians had been killed in Haditha, the Marines receiving them said they were not surprised by the high civilian death toll.
Chief Warrant Officer K. R. Norwood, who received reports from the field on the day of the events at Haditha and briefed commanders on them, testified that 20 dead civilians was not unusual.
“I meant, it wasn’t remarkable, based off of the area I wouldn’t say remarkable, sir,” Mr. Norwood said. “And that is just my definition. Not that I think one life is not remarkable, it’s just —”
An investigator asked the officer: “I mean remarkable or noteworthy in terms of something that would have caught your attention where you would have immediately said, ‘Got to have more information on that. That is a lot of casualties.’ "
“Not at the time, sir,” the officer testified.
General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.
“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military acronym for coalition forces in western Iraq.Given that the same establishment that backed the Iraq war remains in power today -- please, don't be fooled by nominal party affiliations -- chances are it will happen again. And again.