A Comment on Massacre
First, suffer me a minor point of decoruma warning, if you will. So far, the Vietnam-era taunts about U.S. military personnel being "baby killers" have not found any popularity in the current era, and I hope such expressions of anti-war sentiment don't ultimately find favor. For my part, I would make it my life's gleeful and vengeful work to disgrace the user of that kind of language. Never again, that bile. (And yes, it did happen back then.) Dead civilians aren't I-told-you-so toys to prove just how right one faction was from the get-go about the awful disaster that has been this unconscionably wrongful military adventure on the far side of the world. Dead civilians don't prove anything; they're just dead.
Those women, men, and kids died unarmed, terrified beyond nighmareswimpering, bawling, begging to young men screaming at them in a foreign tongue, maybe some translator trying to be a negotiator, some place nearby the sound of heart-wrenching POP... POP-POP... POP telling them their fate right before it befalls them. The time of endings did finally come, of course: civilians on their knees, holding as still as possible to appease the angry soldiers, maybe enough time and thought remaining to say something to God before falling through the swallowing black well of not being alive forever after.
It's their tragedy and no one else's. To the Left, don't even dream of co-opting it for a cause; to the Right, don't even bother with some disgusting idiocy about how war is Hell. Especially on the Right, how the Hell would you know, anyway, considering your hero leaders are a craven pack of cowards who couldn't even cut it back when it was their turn?
Massacres like the one at Haditha are war at its naked best, stripped of combat, denuded of goals and objectives. Massacres like the one at Haditha aren't some aberration, although that's exactly how the architects of wars fashion them after they've been discovered, sparse as the discoveries are compared to the incidence of them.
Here's the American recipe. Take young people and promise them a better life once they've done their service. Get them into basic training and scream at them from every directiondegrade them, humiliate them, punish them, threaten them, terrorize them, brutalize their bodies, their minds, and their senses until they are no longer anything but a vessel into which orders and military ways can be infused. Then let all the swaggering machismo of American butch culture come pouring in to fill the void built from the depletion of individual conscience. Once they're gutted, give them weapons; and in such machinery that destroys, kills, wrecks, and obliterates, give them the power denied them their entire lives. Make them believe that weak children become real adults through raging violence and big, metal instruments that make huge noises and tear the lives right out of souls.
Then loose them upon a shattered land where every building, every alley, even every step itself is an opportunity to get ripped apartor worse, to watch someone else get turned into large pieces of flesh mixed with blood and blackened, purpled pulp that used to be skin.
Set them loose upon that murderous place on the other side of the muscular doors into the gigantic superstore of adulthood with a bang of instant respectability, tuition reimbursement, and a darned good excuse for not taking shit from anyone ever again.
He was one of my biggest challenges in recent memory: a young man who just couldn't pass exams or quizzes in my basic algebra class. I knew he was trying. Many students lie and say they're studying but still not getting it, but this guy was different. He really was studying. He really was trying.
Looking at his high school and college records, I saw that he had been a very good student in math at one time. In fact, before a gap in his college career, he had taken courses beyond the one he was taking from me, and he had passed those courses with very good grades.
But there he was, still in the military, based stateside, trying to gather up a few more college courses before he was rotated back out to Iraq.
I spent time with him almost every class day. Usually, we'd stand together out in the smoking area. He was such an affable, decent guy. He still had a boyish sweetness to his personality, and he was respectful in a genuine way completely unlike that offered by the typical young college student. He almost never departed without patting me on the arm and thanking me. For what, I was never sure.
Maybe it was because I asked him questions about his Army life, about what he had done, about how difficult it was. He'd been jerked around several MOS designations, but he was still, at least to some extent, an artilleryman. Mortars.
Quite a few weekends, he couldn't do any studying. He had to be out on long marches, or he'd be training fresh cherries. His exhaustion was evident on Monday mornings.
He talked a lot about training Marinesmaking them look like fools when they charged into simulated urban combat environments and got slaughtered like fish in a barrel. He didn't have any use for Marines. I never bothered to tell him that the Marines didn't have any use for Army grunts, either.
Only occasionally would he talk about Iraq. One of the few times he said something about it, he told me about the march to Baghdad.
His cigarette was about three-quarters of the way finished, and he was holding it pinch style. He never took it more than a few inches from his lips as he talked. His eyes were almost transfixed on a brick wall near us, but every now and then they darted over to one side or the other as he spoke. His head didn't movejust his eyes. And his voice: it was almost a monotone. The words were coming through what looked for all the world like the slightest smile, almost like a barely discernible smirk.
A cluster of Iraqi tanks had been knocked out by fire from behind their position. My student and his squad were forward, no more than fifty yards from the burning, disabled wreckage.
"Those Iraqis came bailing out of those smoking tanks, and we just stood there picking them off as they popped out. There had to have been thirty of 'em."
Finally, this to all of the Congressmen who are already strutting in outrageutter, moral outrageat the massacre in Haditha: if you voted for this war, then stop blubbering. No matter how much you condemn it now, you started it. What did you think?that if it got ugly, that if it got brutal, that if it got really, really unpopular, you could call it off?
War is like a gasoline bomb. Once ignited by the deadly flint of passion, lies, and opportunity, it heads right straight for its own fuel source, and it combusts everything it can use: buildings, lives, treasure, innocence, will, bravado, righteousness, honor. It consumes the fuel it wants, and that's just about everything in its path. It doesn't stop until it has exhausted its fuel. It doesn't stop when you want it to stop; it doesn't stop when you order it to stop; it doesn't stop when you've had your fill. It rages on until it's finished.
If you voted for this war, you've gotten not what you wanted, but what it wanted. Spare the nation your bawling about this tragedy at Haditha. Soldiers prosecute wars as a matter of duty mixed with gruesome doses of misery and pleasure. Unarmed civilians die terrified on their knees, just as armed combatants die trying their best to kill enemy soldiers; and a whole lot of people between those extremes die, too. It's all black and white until the raging fire of war makes it all grey; and once the sky of moral clarity is grey, there's nothing to do but wait for the fuel to run out.
In Iraq, considering what we're really fighting for, there's plenty of that fuel for quite a few more years.
And for quite a few more Hadithas.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.