Haditha - trouble ahead?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Strait_Jacket, May 21, 2006.

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  1. This is clearly a potentially explosive subject and I would ask all who post to bear in mind that an investigation is currently ongoing and that I am NOT accusing the USMC of war crimes - Cousins, please stand down.

    The media are now widely reporting the possible murder of 15 or more civvies in Haditha last November by US forces. If these accusations are proved to be correct what are the implications? How do those of you who have served in Iraq view the possible effects on UK forces in theater - a storm in a teacup, or a serious problem? Could this be a My Lai type turning point in the propaganda war of both sides?





    Again, I am not passing judgement, only trying to get a feel for serving members opinions...
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5032214.stm

  3. I think your comparison is right and that the events of My Lai in March '68 will indeed be compared to the alleged events at Haditha. But only from the "military forces abuse their' power" angle.

    Personally, I doubt that the alleged events at Haditha will have as strong an impact as those in My Lai, due to the differences in reporting mechanisms in the two theatres. When My Lai was "uncovered" broadcast news from Vietnam to the US population was very limited and very censored - compare this to the 365x24 "news" normal in the early 21st Century.

    My Lai in March '68 had a massive impact, and was seen by the US anti-war movement as a catalyst for changing Americans' perception of the war, which their' men and women were fighting. By current comparison (and mindful that this is being investigated), the alleged offences in Haditha, whilst terrible (if proved, etc), they are unlikely to have the same impact - dare I suggest that dead people, be they friendly / insurgent / innocent civilian, just aren't really that newsworthy any more.

    This news "unworthiness" is also the driver that puts dead British soldiers after the current sensational news that our Deputy Prime Minister was playing croquet last Thursday.
  4. It all depends on what you mean by 'severely'. But if you mean there will be some kind of whitewash then I think you are wrong. There are too many senior politicians who have got the bit between the teeth on this one. Additionally the increasing disillusion of the US public with the situation plus Bush's dismal approval rating could all mean that there is likely to be a severe reaction against the situation in Iraq. If there is anything in these allegations then I think the implicated marines will face the full force of the law. I believe I'm correct in saying that the general reaction to Abu Gharaib was one of distaste and embarrassment. If what is alleged in Haditha is true the reaction will be considerably more outraged.
  5. Before we can discuss the implications of these allegations it is important to note that different groups of people will have radically different reactions. Unfortunately it is my belief that our interests suffer because we fail to realise this.

    In the US the moonbat anti-war crowd will believe it as gospel and label anyone who supports the troops as a baby-killer, the 101st Fighting Chickenhawk Keyboard Brigade will abuse anyone who mentions it (eg Murtha) and normal Americans will wait and see. If true no doubt the guilty will be punished - although the cynic in me says that prosecutions of anyone with a commission will be absent. So the average US voter will see that the system works and that unpleasant things happen in a war.

    In the global population of Muslims - the ones we wish to influence to stop shooting at us or to not join our enemies- this will be seen as unprovoked murder regardless of what happens. There have been too many occasions where the US has been perceived to depart from its principles for this to be seen as anything else. Were it the only event, things might be different. Attempts by the US to explain events will be written in a way that is accepted by the US voter. They will appear cynical lies to the audience who must be influenced to win this war. Pictures of dead civvies make people angry, and the US fails dismally to communicate in a manner that acknowledges this. Remember, in this war the truth is irrelevant. Perceptions in the mind of our target audience are what counts.

    For instance, the average US voter may see the soldier in Kandahar firing over the head of the crowd as a reasonable response to the threat. Don't want to get shot at ? Don't throw rocks. The uncommitted Muslim may see a flak jacketed, helmeted, sunglasses wearing stormtrooper using an automatic weapon in a built up area for no good reason. It's only a stone FFS, why are you too scared to get out and give the stone throwing yob a smack ? "Force Protection ?" - Ah, you mean you're a coward who'd rather risk innocent lives instead of your own.

    In the UK ? Well, Iraq and Afghanistan are unbelievably unpopular wars. This will make things worse. There's enough criticism of our cousins on ARRSE for being trigger happy, we've already had one SAS blade in the papers who left as he couldn't stomach working alongside the US, how many more will we see ? Of course, our fate in Iraq is inextricably linked to that of the US. We sit on the MSRs after all. Another nail in TCBs coffin (not all bad news then), a boost to anti-US feeling in Europe, and another step towards a UK rush for the exits and leaving the US to their fate.
  6. I think what we are seeing here with the slow leaking of information over a couple of weeks is an attempt to lessen the shock when the report is finally published. Obviously, the specifics of the case are not yet known to us and the purpose of any courts martial is to establish and apportion blame, but I think that there are important lessons to be learned from the following statement:

    - Maj JF Thomas, New South Wales Bushmen, 1902
  7. O_O_T_S

    I take your point that reactions will vary widely, however i'm sure this issue will spawn a number of related but diverging discussions. For this thread perhaps we could focus on the possible consequences for our blokes.

    I haven't served over there but as an observer the US/Sunni relationship seems irreconcilable so the outcome of this incident may not have a huge bearing on that dynamic. However in the context of UK Ops down South, how are the Shia likely to react? Could it create some sort of belated solidarity with the Sunni's, or are the Shia now moving down a path that will inevitably lead to Balkanisation of the region and therefore incidents such as this have little or no bearing?
  8. This week's Armytimes has a couple of articles about the Haditha incident.
    The Army has taken the lead in this investigation and to the credit of the USMC they did not fight LTG Chiarelli when he assigned MG Bargewell the task of leading the investigation. Three Marine officers were relieved of their commands [a LTC and 2 Captain's]. This weekend several Marines were brought back from Iraq and are in confinement. Gen Hagee gave reports to Congressmen and Senators last week, then went to Iraq to reinforce USMC ROE's to prevent a repeat. There have been previous incidents where US service personnel were charged and convicted of killing Iraqi's without a major media circus. The military judicial system is fair.

    What I don't like is Congressman Murtha making outragous comments before any charges are even filed. Sunday he went so far as to slander the Marines of a coverup which went right to General Pace.

    Comparing killings to past war crimes unfair, experts say

    By Gordon Trowbridge
    Times staff writer

    War-crimes charges against Marines who allegedly killed Iraqi civilians in Hadithah last year would do great damage to the U.S. military’s image at home and abroad, but the case should not be compared to history’s most heinous wartime atrocities, legal scholars say.

    “One can’t overstate the damage that a case like this, if proven, does to the United States’ image and our efforts in Iraq,” said Gary Solis, a law professor at the U.S. Military Academy and Georgetown University.

    But even if allegations against the Marines are proved, comparisons to cases such as the My Lai massacre — in which U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians, then commanders tried to cover it up — would be overblown, Solis said.

    Mike Newton, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, agreed. Unlike My Lai and similar cases, “there was no huge cover-up up to the division level” in the Hadithah case, he said. Once top commanders heard of the allegations reported in Time magazine, facts came out quickly, Newton said.

    Media reports on the Hadithah incident have been filled with references to the My Lai massacre, perhaps the blackest mark on the American military. But that case continues to come up in military law classes because it is an exception, said Solis, a retired Marine who served two tours in Vietnam.

    In that war, booby traps were just one guerrilla tactic U.S. troops faced. The enemy used an extensive network of tunnels and often hid among villagers. It was difficult to separate Viet Cong sympathizers from neutral civilians cowed into cooperating, a source of intense frustration for U.S. troops.

    The 1968 My Lai massacre of at least 350 civilians, many of them women and children, closely followed the death of one of the Army unit’s sergeants, a reportedly popular man who was killed by a booby trap.

    The military law system successfully prosecuted hundreds of crimes in Vietnam, Solis said, but My Lai stands out because of the scope of the atrocity and top commanders’ attempt to cover it up.

    If the alleged crimes in Hadithah don’t rise to the level of My Lai, the political climate today is similar, said Elizabeth Hillman, a Rutgers University law professor.

    “The level of war fatigue is not that much different,” she said.

    “I have no doubt in today’s climate that commanders will do what’s appropriate. The whole point is discipline,” said Newton, a former Army judge advocate who has helped set up a war-crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone and the Iraqi court now trying Saddam Hussein. “The law of armed conflict for military professionals is not just an esoteric, theoretical exercise. It’s the core of what defines being a professional Marine or a professional soldier.”

    While the phrase “war crimes” is likely to figure prominently in the case, there is no specific war-crimes charge in either the Uniform Code of Military Justice or in international law. A war crime is simply a violation of the law of armed conflict — anything from grave offenses such as unlawfully killing civilians to lesser crimes such as using prisoners of war as forced laborers.

    One problem any Marines charged are unlikely to face: the International Criminal Court, a tribunal established to try war criminals when nations are unwilling or unable to do so. The U.S. has not ratified the treaty, based on Pentagon fears that American troops could be prosecuted for political reasons.

    But even if the U.S. or Iraq — which also has not ratified the treaty — were parties to the tribunal, it is unlikely that even the worst allegations in the Hadithah case would rise to the level of international prosecution, said Newton, who played a key role in negotiating the treaty on which the international court is based.

    Still, the legal scholars said, the case is likely to generate intense political and media interest.

    “It creates a completely different task for the lawyers involved,” Hillman said. The intense scrutiny “makes it far more difficult to ensure a fair trial,” she said.

    “The worst thing possible to happen would be for superiors to prejudge the case or make statements that prejudge the case and taint the opportunity [for] a fair trial,” Newton said.

    Staff writer William H. McMichael contributed to this report.
  9. Do you meant that there were secret trials? If not then can you prove your point by an example of such a trial that was not covered by any mainstream news-source?
  10. It's only slander if it's untrue. He's been briefed on the investigation as it has progressed, so he knows more than any of us, and you are misrepresenting his comments. He refers to a failure in the chain of command that leads up to Pace, but he specifically states that he does not think that Pace ordered any cover-up, although he is confident that one occured at some level at least. For anyone who has broadband, you can see the interview here:

  11. The primary criticism of Murtha, no matter what 'inside information' he's privy to, is that he has assumed the guilt of the Marines before an investigation is even complete. Before charges have been filed. Before the military equivalent of a Grand Jury. Before the outcome of a trial. If that criticism against Murtha doesn't strike some as valid I suppose there's little that can be said to change those minds. If these Devil Dogs are guilty then they need to pay the same price as the morons at Abu Gharib.

    But before I wake the hangman up I'm willing to wait for charges and a trial.
  12. These events could potentially shake America and cause a few ripples in the UK. The reality is those of us who aren't serving in Iraq/Afghanistan, were not directly affected by the London bombings, or don't have family connections to either, are in a relative comfort zone - and continue our lives as normal, isolated from it all.

    However, if the World Cup was cancelled through an escalating threat of terrorism, and we had to take the flags off our cars and vans, we'd have a force 12 and rising.
  13. It does bother me alot. My friend's company was in Haditha last year, they saw civillians murdered by insurgents regularly. The media was no where in sight. Voter turnout went from 13% to 70% as result of their efforts. No reporters were around. Now a handful of trigger happy pricks do this, and EVERYONE is now suddenly interested in Haditha. If these allegations are true, I want to see those responsible punished. Their actions could jeopardize all of the work and sacrifice made by their comrades.
  14. As with Abu's Grave a few low levels troops will be thrown to the dogs while the folk who started the war will Oow and Ahh.