FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Meaning of Haditha

As I go through a list of New York Times articles on the Haditha massacre, in which Marines murdered 24 Iraqi civilians, the following phrases keep popping up: “unprovoked attack,” “unprovoked murder,” “unprovoked killings.”

This is presumably to counterpose the Marine’s actions at Haditha to the more reasonable attacks in Iraq by U.S. armed forces–the attacks that are “provoked” by the behavior of Iraqis toward them. But can we make such a clean distinction?

Defenders of the Iraq occupation will say “no” for their own reasons. They’ll say–these guys are under a lot of stress fighting a shadowy insurgency, that the “enemy” can be anywhere, and when soldiers see their buddies killed right beside them, it’s only natural that they lash out. To quote the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Dorning, U.S. soldiers face “a foreign population in which friend, foe and bystander may seem indistinguishable.”

I’ll try to give my own answer to this question by way of analogy. If someone conducts an armed invasion into your house and shoots you in your sleep, it is clear, is it not, that it is an unprovoked attack.

Now, let’s say you violently resist the armed home invader and, in the ensuing melee, he kills you–did you provoke him to attack? Is a condition of the home invader’s attack being “unprovoked” that the homeowner submit peacefully to the home invasion? No, it would still be an unprovoked attack. The action of the homeowner, on the other hand, would be a provoked attack, i.e., an attack provoked by the home invader.

The problem with the term “unprovoked attack” is that it deliberately obscures the larger picture–that the entire U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq itself is an unprovoked attack by a foreign army on the Iraqi people. All U.S. armed action in Iraq is provocative in this sense; all Iraqi reactions to it are provoked by the occupation.

It is shameful that we should even have to explain this, so numbed are many people in this country to the idea that the U.S. is perfectly within its rights to operate hundreds of military bases around the world and invade any country at will, and that it isn’t legitimate for anyone to resist it.

The top military brass lies when it says that massacres like Haditha are the exception. The entire U.S. military machine is a machine for violently enforcing U.S. will abroad.

Soldiers (even more than U.S. civilians if that’s possible) are trained in methods that dehumanize Arabs and Muslims to make it easier to kill them. Massacres of Iraqis–civilians and resistance fighters alike–are built into the situation.

Military occupations almost always become total wars on the occupied population, because the majority seethe with hatred against the occupiers and eventually resist by whatever means at their disposal. Within that group, a significant minority are provoked to such outrage that they decide to take up the gun against the occupier.

This is why the U.S. soldier cannot distinguish between friend and foe–occupying armies have very few friends–or collaborators, in the common vernacular. As the Haditha scandal develops, expect to hear stories about many more Hadithas.

Of course, everything would go a lot more smoothly if the Iraqis would just accept heavily armed U.S. troops tramping through their streets, wrecking their infrastructure and shooting their family members. If Iraqis could just stop “provoking” American soldiers, then perhaps these damnable massacres wouldn’t occur anymore.

Alternatively, the resistance could identify itself a little better to American troops–perhaps wear green uniforms or wave little flags. During the American revolution one British officer complained: “Never had the British army so ungenerous an enemy to oppose; they send their riflemen five or six at a time who conceal themselves behind trees, etc., till an opportunity presents itself of taking a shot at our advance sentries, which done they immediately retreat. What an unfair method of carrying on a war!”

PAUL D’AMATO is the Associate Editor of the International Socialist Review. He can be reached at: pdamato@isreview.org

 

 

More articles by:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail