Reflections on Haditha

On St. Patrick's Day, a small bulletin was released by the Multi-National Force-Iraq talking of "potential misconduct" during an insurgent attack in Haditha, Iraq, in November of last year. The initial report on the incident, filed by the soldiers, described a roadside bombing that hit one of the humvee in their convoy, killing one marine and a nearby family of 11. The marines disembarked, chased several suspects who, after refusing to stop, were shot while fleeing and killed several more men in the ensuing hours as they raided the neighborhood, rooting out terrorists.

On the 19th, Time Magazine filed a report here, aided by evidence including a videotape and interviews, including one with a survivor of the incident which told a different story.

"According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three [sic] children."

"Eman Waleed, 9, lived in a house 150 yards from the site of the blast, which was strong enough to shatter all the windows in her home. "We heard a big noise that woke us all up," she recalls two months later. "Then we did what we always do when there's an explosion: my father goes into his room with the Koran and prays that the family will be spared any harm." Eman says the rest of the family--her mother, grandfather, grandmother, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles--gathered in the living room...According to Eman, the Marines then entered the living room. "I couldn't see their faces very well--only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny." She claims the troops started firing toward the corner of the room where she and her younger brother Abdul Rahman, 8, were hiding; the other adults shielded the children from the bullets but died in the process."

Other casualties include four young men who were reportedly passing in taxi on the way to school when the bomb went off. They were ordered out of the taxi and summarily executed according to eyewitnesses. The marines followed the first house attack up with several more, killing up to a dozen more people, including a two-year old boy and his three sisters.

The military has their explanations, found in the Time piece, but I don't fucking buy it for a second. They told a lie which, thanks to a neighborhood journalist who took video of the houses after the Marines spent several hours clearing out their handiwork, proved completely preposterous. After the Time reporter brought this to the attention of their commanding officer, the officer stuck to the original story and told the reporter not to show the video to anyone because it was all al-Qaida propaganda. After higher-ups were contacted, an investigation was started which resulted in the new "explanation" for close-range bullet wounds to the face and chest of men, women and children in their nightgowns, for whom a prayer was answered, decidedly in the negative.

When I heard this today, I tried desperately to think of a joke. Something, fucking anything not to think of parents throwing their bodies in front of their children to shield them from the angry bullets of Americans. I tried to listen to the radio, hoping that the onslaught of horrific current events would bleach my brain. I imagined every horrible picture that I've nearly reveled in, hoping that desensitization works as well when recovered from memory banks. I tried to tell Nate, thinking that just speaking the words, having someone around me who also knew this secret, but I almost started crying when I tried to talk about it. I finally coaxed it out in a normal sounding voice, but afterward I couldn't talk for an hour.

Thankfully no one (as of now) is reporting it except for Time.com, who list it in their "World News" section, because they need the top stories real estate for a study that finds kids mimicking their parent's mood swings, kids whose parents haven't been murdered that it.

I guess I hoped that Abu Ghraib would be the worst this war would bring us. Not that it would be the worst that happened, the worst thing Americans did in the war, but I hoped it would be the closest to actually understanding the evil at the root of war and , even worse, the humanity at the root of the most despicable, dehumanizing shit our generation has pulled. I'm not sure why this is worse than anything else, but like with Andy, when he was over there and news reports stopped me cold, I couldn't justify being relieved to hear that a kid from Iowa or Florida or Texas wouldn't be coming home but I was and I can't justify why this hits me so hard, but it does. Maybe it's because they're Americans and even in a completely unjust war they are supposed to have the moral high ground, what a fucking stupid term for a concept that so clearly doesn't fucking exist, maybe it's because I can imagine the fear and the pain that they feel while they try to cover their asses and not ruin the rest of their lives, maybe it's the burning fantasies I had of blasting them in the face from close range that I quickly buried in the shame of knowing that it's a matter of enlistment that brings me to a book warehouse and sends them to become the bad guys in their worst nightmares. Or maybe it's just so fucking pointless I can't stand it anymore.

I don't feel like glib signs anymore and I can't enjoy a previous past time imagining the bloody deaths of elected officials either. I saw a protest in Portland last weekend, 10,000 people marched, (I might have even joined them, but I accidentally wore my "Kill 'Em All" shirt and it felt really inappropriate...) and while some were interesting, some funny, generally it was just the most boring parade ever and after all I could ask myself is "Is the war over now? Are we done, now that 10,000 people fucked up traffic for a few hours and wrote some pithy, no not even pithy, some mentally handicapped slogans on the sidewalk?" I remember crying when I heard that we would be invading Afghanistan, first realizing that I was powerless to stop any of it, but when the news on Iraq came all I did was get drunk and slash tires. Maybe I had given up, and I feel bad for laughing off this awful war but what the fuck am I to do? Walk around in circles with cardboard on a stick, maybe throw a few rocks if the crowd is heavy enough and my cowardice is covered by anonymity? Succumb to the same pointless violence and Weatherman some government buildings?

More importantly, how is a Shitizen supposed to act when he actually cares about something? Half-seriously, I guess I ask that question. I have, and we have, I guess, I'll throw that on most of your fuckers too, spent so much time trying to make the joke so we don't have to think about the little girl, for fuck's sake, that little girl, that when it fails it just makes everything feel so hollow.

I'm sorry to bring this to the nonsense train, a train I promise to rejoin soon, but I'm pouring this shit out at you guys because it's the only way I'm going to understand it, to process it through my own text. I guess I also figured that we're all pretty like-minded (as far as I know...) on the fact that the war is fucked while all being completely powerless to stop it and I assumed you might have something to say on this topic also.

Oh, and just so it gets a little worse, a week ago there was another incident in Haditha, could be just as bad but there is less solid evidence. Here


ETC said...

the day our sarcasm was taken away
the shitizens stood there with nothing to say

Justice Rare said...

I know how I want to react to this incident. In fact I know two ways I want to react to this story. Reaction number one deals mostly with expectations, or a lack there of rather. Big fuckin' surprise, women and children left to die in the morning sun at the hands and muzzles of American gunners. What, how fucking surprised can you possibly be? It's not like this event will alter our course in Iraq. It's not like the lives of the innocent will have any bearing on the decision making process of the high ranking military officials that have never put their loafers to the hot sand of Iraq. It's not apathy; I swear to Christ, it's not fuckin' apathy on my part. But what does it even matter Grant, you're all too realistic, but I know you don't mean it. You think you can stop the Evil Empire, and you can. So my first reaction is to label the incident as "typical" or "protocol" and are left with no real emotions because the account has been seen as no more or no less disgusting than anything else. Missing the trees while watching the forest burn. So I/We can avoid actual emotional investment by contributing the terrorist action taken by the USMC, who rah, to the overall stench of war and not see the incidents as lapses in humanity by the USMC, who rah, if they can be said to have sufficient levels of humanity. Now, the other way I want to react to this is honestly. Because reaction number one is just a mask, just a cape to shield us from the truth, reality. Like we don't get enough of that just trying to walk around in this country, in this space. So we hide, big fucking deal. We have been hiding for so long waiting for the right time to get off our asses and cause a fuss that we have forgotten what kind of fuss we were willing to make and on what grounds we were willing to freak out about. I'm not sure if I mean the shitizens or our generation at large, but either way the sentiment rings true. It is not often that we are actually crippled by emotion. Limited by our feelings. We as humans could not possibly make it through a single day if we were forced to look at the bullshit that goes on everyday and realize how fuckin weak and fragile we are. We can't put up with it, not everyday. The honest reaction is grief, anger, fear, terror, shame, and disgust. But hey man, I went to a fuckin' protest three years ago so I can't feel all that bad about it right? The comment page needs a spell check option and how do you spell "who rah"?

Anna Nym said...

Three profiles were measured against the horizon when the voice like God's said, "Who is responsible for this? Who has allowed this to happen?"

The first silhouette turned to face the heavens. The shadow of his body was narrow and his breath smelled of cat food. He replied, "Who will take care of me? I have lived in war, I have lived past war, and I cannot enter it again."

The second silhouette faced the heavens. He was crisp and sharp, and he stood fully upright. With an assertive voice he replied, "There are messes too big, even for us."

The third sihouette did not face the heavens. It slouched and did not answer. The voice that sounded like God's asked again, "Who is responsible?" and the silhoutte vomited three maledictions before laying down and going to sleep. The maledictions crawled along the grass and into his mouth to sustain him.

Elevenhippos said...