Too Powerful for Humans to Resist
Even Americans opposed to the war find it difficult to emphathize with Iraqis as victims of this conflict. On this site, and others, such as Eli Stephens' Left I on the News, I have frequently encountered the troubling tendency of evading the enormity of the violence inflicted upon Iraqis by making it general, and detached from any American responsibility by rendering it as some kind of objective, elemental condition, while the numerically much lesser brutalities inflicted upon American troops receives a heartfelt, specific response.
It commonly goes something like this (after a comment or post describing a detailed episode of brutality inflicted upon Iraqis by US troops): yes, war is a terrible thing, and innocents are invaribly killed and maimed, and it is horrible that our troops are over there, and find themselves inevitably caught up in such situations.
Get it? The Iraqis aren't being killed by Americans, they are being killed by that awful, perpetual condition known as war, analoguous to being killed in an earthquake or a hurricane, while war is simultanously victimizing our troops by involuntarily compelling them to commit such appalling acts. In other words, "they were just following orders" has been dressed in the clothes of metaphysics, the loss of free will when confronted with the day to day reality of combat. War is apparently the violent, deranged mythic brother of Adam Smith's invisible hand that controls the economic universe, too powerful for humans to resist.
See also this post at Lenin's Tomb:
Supposing the findings are as unambiguously damning as expected, this is a serious crisis of legitimation for the occupation which, it has to be said, should only have the support of psychotics and outlandish, hirsuit survivalists by now. However, it reminds me of a comment Alex Cockburn made about the corrections column in the New York Times - its function was to give the impression that everything else printed in the paper had been entirely accurate. Of course, it is unlikely that the US ruling class will be successful in making this the cathartic experience that they hope it will be. Official inquiries are always intended as expiation or, more accurately, to 'put a lid on it', but people know a symptom when they see one. Or at least I hope they do.
Lenin links to this piece by Simon Assaf at the Socialist Worker:
The Haditha massacre is not only about the crimes of a set of individuals or of one unit. It is an example of the systematic and much greater crime of Bush and Blair’s war.
In the months after the fall of Baghdad, the US touted Haditha as a success story. The US army had rebuilt a vital power station at the Haditha dam and felt confident enough to hand over security to a small contingent of Azerbaijani troops.
But in the summer of 2003 US troops rounded up over 700 young men in a mass sweep. The raids fuelled growing anger at the occupation. By April 2004, Haditha joined the revolt across Iraq.
The US responded by isolating the town, blowing up most of its bridges and inserting teams of snipers. Later they shipped in Iraqi death squads. The town rose in rebellion, driving out US troops and the local authorities imposed by the occupation.
In the summer of 2005 Haditha’s hospital was destroyed in fighting. The cousin of Iraq’s ambassador to Washington was shot dead by US troops during a raid on his house.
One resident told the Arabic Al-Quds newspaper that US troops were threatening to kill civilians if attacks by the resistance did not stop. On 19 November US soldiers turned those threats into reality.
And Mike Ferner at CounterPunch reminds us of the various laws and conventions, international and otherwise, applicable to this massacre and the war in general, in case you forgot.