Larry Johnson, Earplugs, Marines, and Haditha | TPMCafe, excerpt:
As we keep sending our sons and daughters into the teeth of the insurgency in Iraq, we are discovering that we have forgotten the horror of fighting an insurgency. When tight knit units, like these Marines, lose friends and colleagues, they normally are not thinking like philosopher warriors. The Marines train these kids to kill (and well they should). They are not trained to operate as police officers. Entirely different rules of engagement.
Insurgents don’t play fair either. They do not show up in clearly marked uniforms. They look like civilians and hide in the midst of populations. Sometimes the locals are witting and supportive and sometimes they are coerced. Both situations currently exist in Iraq.
I do not know who is personally responsible for the killings at Haditha, but it certainly appears that some Marines lost control and are probably guilty of manslaughter. Fortunately, this has not been a common event. But that offers small comfort. In the war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis we do not have the luxury for any mistakes like this.
We must also accept that Americans as a whole share some responsibility for the actions of these soldiers. We sent them to war. We put them square in the middle of the battle. We cannot simply sit idly on the sidelines clucking our tongues over the awful thing that was done. We are complicit. If we think we can deal with this by simply “punishing” the guilty and move happily on with the rest of our lives, then we have ignored our societal obligation to the soldiers we ask to go to war to fight on our behalf. If young Marines have murdered Iraqi civilians, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, then they must be held accountable. But, in punishing them, we must remember that we still have an obligation to these soldiers. Leaders we selected put sent these young men and women to war (and yes, I realize Al Gore probably won the election). We have an obligation to help make them whole and return emotionally intact to civil society.