About a dozen Marines are being investigated for possible war crimes in connection with the deaths last year of 15 Iraqi civilians who were initially reported killed by a roadside bomb.Let us consider the basic facts. There is no legitimate reason for Iraqis to oppose the US mission in Iraq. The US has toppled a bloody, brutal dictatorship and replaced it with a government whose constitution was written by the Iraqis themselves (and US policy in this regard has been excruciatingly deferential, for the Iraqi constitution is a mess). Despite the magnanimous treatment of the Iraqi people by the US, many in Iraq nevertheless oppose the US mission and have either given material support to the Iraqi insurgency, or have allowed the insurgency to flourish by failing to fight it themselves.
The Navy has opened a criminal investigation into the November 2005 bombing and subsequent firefight between Marines and insurgents that led to the deaths of the Iraqi citizens, defense officials said Thursday.
The inquiry will attempt to determine whether the Marines acted appropriately when they fired back at insurgents following a roadside bomb attack in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, said a military official who requested anonymity because the investigation has not been announced yet. The civilians were hit during that battle.
Military officials in Iraq completed a preliminary investigation and have forwarded it to the Navy Criminal Investigative Service there. Several defense officials acknowledged the investigation was taking place, though the details were provided by one official.
According to the official, the initial allegations of possible violations were brought to the attention of the military by a reporter in mid-February.
Fifteen Iraqis, eight insurgents and a Marine were killed during the Nov. 19 firefight, which began when a roadside bomb detonated next to a joint Iraqi-U.S. squad patrolling Haditha. Immediately after the explosion, insurgents attacked the patrol with small arms.
The Marine killed was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2 of the 2nd Marine Division; two other Marines were wounded. Defense officials would not identify the unit or Marines involved in the investigation. While several Iraqis were part of the patrol, they are not involved in the investigation, the official said.
Military officials will try to determine whether the Marines followed the international law of armed conflict, including whether they positively identified or tried to identify the enemy and whether they determined there was hostile intent, as they are supposed to do.
The law regulates international military operations, and anyone found in violation can be held liable for war crimes and be court-martialed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
It is not uncommon for insurgents to launch attacks from homes, hospitals and other public buildings, where civilians can get caught in the crossfire. [Lolita C. Baldor, AP]
In a direct attack against US forces that resulted in the death of an American, civilians were allegedly killed. Rather then blame the insurgency for creating the conditions where innocents perish, our own government is investigating our Marines for falling to properly identify their targets under the precepts of “international law,” i.e. the Geneva Convention.
Forgive me for being brutally blunt, but the only acceptable response by Iraqi civilians to an attack on American forces is for the Iraqis to immediately point out who carried out the assault so our troops can utterly annihilate them, and then hide, lest these civilians come between our men and their mission. Anything less is to side with the insurgency. Anything less makes these civilians the real enemy in Iraq—the real source of the insurgency’s power. The insurgency does not exist in a vacuum; it survives only because the Iraqis allow it to survive.
This story goes directly to the heart of Yaron Brook's argument against just war theory and the defects in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war against America’s enemies. Our government is sacrificing the lives of our solders in the name of minimizing harm to the enemy. In the name of “international law,” it is fighting an altruistic battle when justice to our men demands that they be left free to locate, close with and destroy the enemy without squelching their ability to fight.
And last I checked, the Geneva convention have never been consistently applied to the treatment of our forces in battle. Remember the Bataan death march? Remember Malmédy? Remember the Hanoi Hilton? The Geneva Convention may serve our forces if America ever goes to war with France, but since the chances of that happening are remote, the Bush administration and Congress would be better served by simply acknowledging that warfare is brutal and that the responsibility for the death and suffering that occurs on the battlefield rests solely with the party that initiated force. The just war is the one that ends quickly, because the enemy’s forces and their means of support are fair targets to be dispatched with ruthless force and deliberate speed.
So at root, I say the Geneva Convention be damned. The war in Iraq should be brought to Iraqi civilians, who allowed Saddam to flourish, who either actively or tacitly support the insurgency, and who have taken little initiative to restore order to their own brutal mess of a country.