War Is Hell

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I found the following account from a CNN reporter who was in Iraq to be both heartfelt and sad.

Check it out.

I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I’ve seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target.

I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded — remarkably no one was killed.

The Haditha investigation will most likely reveal a horrible turn of events. But let’s not lose focus. The men and women who are fighting for our country are being put in harm’s way day in and day out. And as you know, these same men and women can’t help but be affected in a fundamental way by those circumstances. Many soldiers are returning home with PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which completely alters their life in a way they can’t really control without medication and counseling.

Imagine that you’re being fired upon nearly every day. Imagine that. Somebody is trying to kill you. Throw out your partisan leanings for a moment and just think about that. Because that’s the situation that not only soldiers are facing right now, but also reporters. In fact, this has been the deadliest war for reporters since they recorded these kinds of things.

The moral to this story? Frankly, I don’t have one. But I think it’s important to remember exactly how horrible war is. That doesn’t mean the war crimes should be ignored. Nor should bad reporting be ignored either.

But when things like this happen, should we maybe step back and not shout so loud? Possibly.

  • http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/ Jimmy the Dhimmi

    It doubly sucks for the Marines because the civilians likely know who and where the terrorists are. I recal a report of one marine describing how he saw a little girl plug her ears and duck for cover before an IED went off. None-the-less, our Marines are amazingly diligent in showing restraint in this “Heart of Darkness” type conflict, avoiding civilian casualties as much as possible.

  • BrianOfAtlanta

    A heart-wrenching piece. This is the reaction of someone who really does care for the troops, even as she’s horrified at the prospect of what some of them might have done. Contrast Darwa’s heartfelt grief at the prospect of war crimes with John Murtha’s emotionless grandstanding. The congressman should be ashamed of himself.

  • http://sethyblog.blogspot.com Pooh

    You’re right Brian, Murtha doesn’t give a damn about the Marine Corps…because it’s not the massacre that’s bad, it’s talking about it on TV that is the true horror.

  • BrianOfAtlanta

    No, it’s claiming that you support the troops while dispassionately prejudging them to be cold blooded murderers which is the true shame. Politicians do this sort of thing all the time, but Murtha didn’t used to be one of them.

  • http://sethyblog.blogspot.com Pooh

    Judging not = prejudging. I’m guessing that he’s privy to a few more facts than you or I.

  • Monica

    Pooh –

    The investigation report has not yet been released and the trial of the soldiers has not even started. Are these facts not relevant when making your opinions on the matter? Murtha was grandstanding – trying to score political points. The marines might indeed be guilty. We’ll know for sure after the trial. But please don’t deny that Murtha is trying to score political points, it’s insulting.

  • BrianOfAtlanta

    When I said “Politicians do this sort of thing all the time” I used too broad a brush. I should have said “A certain breed of politician does this sort of thing all the time”.

    There are politicians on both sides of the fence whose rhetoric matches their professed principles. I certainly disagree with some of them, but they don’t leave a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach the way the mendacious ones do.

  • http://vernondent.blogspot.com/ Callimachus

    This shouldn’t be a Murtha thread. If he’s talking nonsense, he’s earned the right to it. So let him. And whether you like him or not, he’s got some sources you don’t, so let it play out and see if he’s right.

    As for the alleged massacre, it is often forgotten that this kind of breakdown in military discipline is not a function of “bad” wars, of “unjust, illegal” wars. It happened in World War II. It will happen if we intervene with the purest motives to save the slaughter-victims in Darfur. It is a “war” problem, not a “bad war” problem.

  • http://blogging.la David Markland

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. When events like the alleged massacre of civilians happen we should yell loudly. Events like these were apparently more commonplace in Vietnam, so I don’t think its too difficult to imagine more massacres have happened, or could happen. We need to ensure that this doesn’t happen, ever, as each and every incident not only damages our war effort and the attempts to capture the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqis and Muslims all over, but it also paints the military as a whole in a negative light.
    The reality, of course, is that our soldiers are by and large doing a good job, and are honorable men and women. But perception is key in the Middle East, and we shouldn’t do anything that yell loudly when we hear of alleged misdeeds by Americans. Anything less is unAmerican.

  • http://www.kozoru.com Justin Gardner

    I hear all this about grandstanding, so let me take a moment to address this. Murtha isn’t running for President. He’s not selling a book. He wants us to get out of Iraq, and probably in some small part so things like what happened in Haditha don’t continue to happen. Because yes, war is hell and this stuff is BOUND to happen in a war like the one we’re currently mired in.

    I do agree that Murtha prejuding is not a good thing. But when bloggers make knee-jerk reactions like Murtha is “sliming” the Marines or that he’s a “hero”, I want to throw things. Is all just partisan rancor and nonsense and I’m SICK of it.

    However, if you were to ask me whether or not I want to know about this stuff before the military conducts a trial? The answer is yes. We hear all sorts of allegations about people like Scott Peterson, et al., why not the troops? Especially if they shot innocents. Why? Because we can’t afford to keep losing credibility over in Iraq or there’s no way we’re going to leave it in a workable state.


  • http://www.kozoru.com Justin Gardner

    David, I think you misunderstand my point. I agree we need to say “Never again”, but to Cal’s point, this happens in nearly every war. And as my previous comment suggests (which was written before you commented, but posted after) can we please cut out the partisan rancor for a little bit and unite behind the common front of “Never again”?

    I just browse Memeorandum and see all the posts from the right-wing calling Murtha a traitor, et al., and it makes me very angry. Of course, I’m less angry when I see liberal sites calling Murtha a hero, but they’re still just using this guy and that pisses me off. Sure, welcome to politics Justin, but especially when we’re talking about our military’s credibility here, I wish the blogosphere would grow up a little bit and maybe think beyond what their readership wants to hear.

  • Monica

    I don’t believe Murtha is a traitor or anti-American or anything along those lines. I don’t see him as a hero or admirable either. I think he is a politician who is trying to use this situation to support his viewpoint. I believe he has bet his political career on being against the Iraq war and when he was made aware of this horrific situation he decided he could use it to his advantage in an attempt to support his viewpoints. Atrocities such as these have been committed in all wars – including wars we have deemed worthy. But he is trying to say that these things are happening because of the Iraq War, as if atrocities are new phenomenon, and that’s just false.

    Justin – I agree with you that it’s important that we know about these situations and do what ever we can to prevent them from ever happening again. My problem is that you’ve got politicians like Murtha who are exploiting the situation to create a dialogue about what this means about the war – and doing it before the trial of the soldiers has even happened. I find this both irresponsible and grotesque. I’m not sure why this position is so offensive to you.

  • http://www.kozoru.com Justin Gardner

    Offensive? Monica you’re not calling him a traitor. I think grotesque is a fairly strong word, but I agree that he’s trying to score political points.

    Not sure why you think I think your position is offensive. :-)

  • Monica

    Justin –

    I’m definitely behind the common front of “Never againâ€Â?. I’m behind it 100%. I just wish we could also have a common front of “Don’t Exploit”. Neither efforts are too much to ask.

  • Monica

    Justin –

    Eeek, I guess I interpreted it that you wanted to throw things when you hear people attack Murtha. In reality, you specifically said it was when people called him a traitor that you would get pissed. I guess being previously attacked for not liking Murtha’s role in this situation has caused me to be a bit defensive. In this situation, it was totally not called for and I apologize.

  • http://www.safetyman.typepad/diner_wisdom GN

    Justin’s lead is short and to the point … and correct … War is Hell! the MCOJ will sort out these Marines and judge them accordingly. That doesn’t make them evil … as pointed out by Cal and Justin AND Murtha, this sort of thing occurs in every war. It is inevitable .. in that soldiers don’t have the the advantage of the following:

    Blogtime, debate time, MSM punditry, yadda yadda yadda … this was not ACTION that they took against innocent people … it was REACTION to real, live ordinace AIMED at them. Anyone who has not ducked bullets would have great difficulty rationalizing this incident. Soldiers understand that and hold their tongues in the face of criticism. They are content to let the MCOJ run its’ course and live with the results. They do that in our stead the same way that they risk their lives in our stead. We GET to have these conversations because of their willingness to do that.

    John Murtha did exactly that in his time. If anyone takes the time to listen to him, they would hear him say exactly what Cal and Justin said in their comments. In addition, Murtha very correctly criticized the cover-up. He voiced his concern that the Command level personnel who hid this incident be held to the SAME standards as the soldiers in the exercise of the MCOJ. He is ABSOLUTELY right! It is too often overlooked when political expediency is administered by officers (for political reasons) and the folks who are at risk are sacrificed to it.

    Something is dissapointing about this discord …and I refer to it as discord because people will use it as a “reason” to get out of this war. There are many arguments that can and have been made about this war … why we should never have been in it … why we are not executing it properly … and why we should pull out … but this incident should not be one of them … because it is, simply, an INCIDENT …. an inevitable, tragic (for everyone involved on both sides) INCIDENT.

    It was not an action .. but rather a reaction. Our enemies do this and worse ON PURPOSE. It is a tribute to our way of life and our morality … and honor … that we find this incident to be unacceptable. It is a tribute to John Murtha’s honorable courage to ask for and demand that MCOJ look at ALL of those involved for justice.

    It is a tribute to the Corps that they seek MCOJ for the participants instead of offering them (72) virgins.

    And, lastly, it is a tribute to the soldiers involved directly in the incident that they had the courage to put themselves in the position of reacting to direct fire and face MCOJ … and likely end up as victims of the war in every respect as someone who was killed or injured ….. so we could have the right to bitch.

  • http://vernondent.blogspot.com/ Callimachus

    From what I’ve seen, this particular incident has been greeted by many if not most average Iraqis with the equivalent of a shrug. We may melt down about it, but they probably won’t. My guess is, this sort of thing has been reported so often (usually without foundation) by the regional media that Haditha doesn’t seem like anything new. They assume we’ve been doing this all along.

    If you want perfect wars, first you have to invent perfect warfare. If you’re unwilling to accept anything less, go and be a pacifist. It’s a perfectly respectable ethical position, but it involves you in some serious complexities in this imperfect world.

    For now, watch how the investigation plays out and see if the punishments fit the crime and rise up the chain of command as they should.

  • Chris

    Before we continue to assert that this happens in all wars, can anyone back that up? Wesley Clark was on O’Reilly the other day, and he got pretty angry when O’Reilly started talking about Iwo Jima and European battle where surrendering Germans were shot. Clark made the point that there have been no allegations of US troops murdering civilians in cold blood in World War Two, and I’m not sure there were any in Korea or Desert Storm. Ever since My Lai, it’s accepted that war=atrocities. I’m not comfortable criticizing soldiers who are in harm’s way, but I think we need higher standards that to just hand people weapons and say “hope you don’t massacre anyone, but if you do, it’s understandable.” Remember, we’re not talking about suspected insurgents whom the Marines thought killed their buddy. We’re talking about children being shot in the head. I support the troops, and no, I’ve never been in a firefight. But as stressful as I imagine it to be, I also know that a lot of soldiers have gone through more intense battles than Haditha and managed not to kill children.

  • http://www.safetyman.typepad/diner_wisdom GN

    Chris – I agree with waht you say … in priciple … and principle is what drives MCOJ. I think that we should not react until the investigation is complete and punishment meted out. The perspective I put forth is from my own perjudice toward the stress levels and immediacy that soldiers face. I am quite sure that given the time, most soldiers would react in thoughtful fashion.

    The ideas theat you put forth have value as principles … and I don’t think that anyone could disagree with you (I certainly don’t) but reactivity under fire isn’t a thoughtful process. Our news pundits seem to enjoy playing “Post Game Critique” while the “players are still recovering from the game …. and hence opening the field to lots of “Post coaching” opportunities … but this isn’t “Fantasy Wargames”.

    I think that cal said exactly what I attempted to say … but better, and with brevity.

  • http://blogging.la David Markland

    Justin, I think we’re on the same page here. I don’t think “shouting” that someone is guilty is the proper route, but I do think that “alleged” incidents like this should be brought to the public’s attention.

    As for Murtha, I know little about the guy. He’s an ex-Marine and a politican. He isn’t running for President. He doesn’t appear to have a lot to gain by criiticizing the Bush Admin or the war, and in fact has to put up with Swiftboating attempts by the right whenever he speaks his opinion. If he’s standing up for what he believes is right, and isn’t bending the truth to do so, regardless of the backlash? If so, yeah, that’s heroic.