This just went up on the New York Times digital front page.
The Times reported yesterday on recently uncovered (left behind to be burned!) interviews with Marines about the Haditha massacre in which our soldiers apparently murdered over 20 unarmed civilians. Not surprisingly, the event became symbolic of why Iraq refused to allow U.S. troops, who would not have been subject to Iraqi law, to remain in their country after the war's official end.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq. At times, he said, deaths were caused by “grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know, collateral with civilians.”
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.
Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted.
One of the most succinct summations of the Iraq war's conclusion that I've seen appeared in the magazine Christian Century.
The Iraq war ends without a peace treaty or victory march. This misadventure has cost over $800 billion so far and taken the lives of more than 4,000 American soldiers and as many as 600,000 Iraqis. It represents a defeat for the neoconservative dream of bringing liberty and American dominance to the Middle East by a military invasion. Ironically, the war decreased American influence in the region and put Iran in a stronger position relative to its neighbors. Al-Qaeda is alive and well in Iraq, where it continues to be a menace, attacking and killing civilians, police officers and soldiers.
That paragraph introduces an editorial calling for an end to our Afghanistan war as well.
My musings on current events, current projects, current anxieties and current delights.
I started this under the Bush regime when any grain of sand thrown into the gears of the over-reaching imperial state seemed worthwhile.
I have worked to elect more and better Democrats -- and to hammer the shit out of them once we get them in office so they do the things their constituents want and need. It's a big job.
It's mighty uncomfortable, getting by in a declining empire where elites maintain their power by massaging our mean streaks and mobilizing our resentments. This country and this "civilization" may be on their way out, but there's nothing else to do except try to make them as humane as possible along the way. That and to celebrate the extraordinary love that sometimes accompanies our species' bumbling way.
And the end hasn't come til it comes, ever.
Visitors will find a lot of commentary on books I'm reading here. I am very intentionally reading more offline these days because when it feels hard to find direction, it's time to learn something new.
I'm a progressive political activist who runs trails and climbs mountains whenever any are available. I've had the privilege to work for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and in the cities and schools of my own country. I'm a Christian of the Episcopalian flavor; we think and argue a lot. For work, I've done a bit of it all: run an old fashioned switch-board; remodeled buildings and poured concrete; edited and published periodicals, reports and books; and organized for electoral campaigns. I am currently an independent consultant to organizations seeking "help when you have to make a fight."