Come to a road block and you don't know whether it's a unit of
Iraqi police, a unit of Iraqi killers disguised as police, a group of U.S.
soldiers intent on revenge on anyone because one of their buddies just got
blown up by a roadside bomb.
The world's headlines are filled with one terrible story after
another about atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces. The latest is
particularly stark in its savagery. The U.S. army -- not, it should be
emphasized, some pinko columnist or reporter -- says soldiers saw an
attractive young Iraqi woman, planned her abduction and rape, then they
killed her and tried to burn her body. Finally, they murdered her family.
Such are the charges.
Veterans of Vietnam say that in Iraq the situation is analogous
to that which prevailed in Vietnam in 1968, when frightful atrocities like
My Lai were perpetrated. The troops are over-extended, badly trained,
demoralized and know they are risking their lives in a war with no
The circumstances that produce soldiers and units capable of war
crimes include the following, according to experts in analyzing the causes
of post-traumatic stress disorder:
The soldiers are involved in operations that inevitably
involve attacks on, and slaughter of, civilians.
Indeed the low quality of the officers in the U.S. armed forces
as it has developed across the past 20 years has not been sufficiently
addressed by the press, and certainly not by the spineless Congress. On the
private testimony of many veterans, it has declined steadily, up through the
highest ranks, where there are endless examples of the failure of capable
Many have seen comrades killed. In this war, the platoon is
the soldier's sole life support and emotional and physical sanctuary. All
officers are mistrusted and often despized. A death in the platoon engenders
the frenzied bloodlust and cold-blooded slaughters of incidents like that in
So America will see, over the years to come, thousands of
traumatized soldiers trying to reenter civil society and resume their
peacetime lives. Many will never shake off the traumas instilled by months
of service in Iraq, and thousands of families and communities, not to
mention the soldiers themselves, will be paying the price while the supreme
commanders who launched this war will be making money from lectures and
And, of course, back in Iraq, there are already thousands who
will only remember America as the land that sent soldiers who shot their
brothers or sisters or cousins, or tortured them in prison, or destroyed
their homes, or leveled their neighborhoods with high explosive from an
It's tragic to say it, but more and more Iraqis are doing so:
Life was better for a large percentage of that country's inhabitants under
the dictator Saddam Hussein, horrible though he was. The war of "liberation"
launched by Bush in 2003, with the stentorian support of many liberals here,
has produced more deaths, more suffering, more blighted lives with zero
prospects except emigration for those who can afford it.
Is there any political force here in the United States capable
of hastening the end of this tragedy? None is visible. The Republicans are
tubthumping, as their best tactic for self-preservation in the fall
elections. As a party, with a very few honorable exceptions, the Democrats
are doing likewise. The peace movement is ineffective. There is no light at
the end of the tunnel.
© Creators Syndicate
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