Friday, June 02, 2006

Haditha: Acknowledge. Accept. Analyze. Act.

To this point, I have not written about Haditha on purpose, and in emails with some fellow travelers I have encouraged restraint and waiting for the indictment prior to saying anything. Well, after a good night’s sleep and the assault on my theory by a brutal gang of facts on the ground as a result of a quick review of what looks like the weekend news cycle – I have changed my mind. The fog has not cleared enough to fully see what we are facing, and many of the rumors around are unsubstantiated – but one thing is clear from my little vantage point – fed with this latest fuel, the anti-victory army is on the march and regardless of what the ultimate truth is, right now they are trying to take the high ground and outflank us. Though the time is not of my choosing, at least for me, the wait is over – the battle is joined – it is time to engage. What changed my mind? Three things. First, this article on Lieutenant Colonel Chessani in The Denver Post. Secondly, Daniel Henninger’s bit in the WSJ, and finally an interview with Lt. Gen. Chiarelli this AM on NPR. Let us turn into the enemy,
When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive I shall always act as I think the honor and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.
We now know, in broad terms, what is accused to have occurred WRT the Haditha incident. Regular readers know that I have been uncharacteristically quite about this. My reasons are simple – in initial reports are almost always wrong, and following reports only have a percentage of the truth. Something of this seriousness, and lets face it – in this environment it is – I wanted to wait until the charges were made and enough reports were out that I could start to get an outline of what we are looking at. Facts on the ground are such that to delay longer is just being pig-headed on my part. Mostly, I am going to avoid a day-by-day sniper war with the usual suspects on the Left. I will comment on major turning points, but all-in-all, I will let the Military Justice system take its course. If you are frustrated, angry, sad, and generally pissed off about it – yet strangely accepting of the reality – I recommend the below to you if you are looking for some advice. Hey, it could be garbage, but it works for me.

- Everyone involved in this from the judge, journalist, jury member, and accused is, as you are, a flawed human being.
- In war, there is a constant battle between instinct and training. The Upper-Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherer and the 21st Century Sophisticate. Emotion and mission. The line is thin and easily, imperceptibly crossed. Quantum Theory applies: you can be in both spaces at the same time. There is such a thing as time compression. There is such a thing as acting without thought. There are such things as memory gaps. A civilian who has been in a major traffic accident, fire, or victim of a violent crime may be able to comprehend a bit. Someone who has watched their wife almost die in childbirth may have a glimmer of understanding. A policeman who has been a significant gun battle with a well-armed criminal is close to understanding.
- Something bad may have happened. Something that is not part of US practice, policy, and procedures.

- Not everyone in the military knows what they are talking about. Off the top of my head, I think you can roughly break military experience into nine categories; each step an additional one to the next.
-- 9: Never deployed.
-- 8: Deployed, never in combat.
-- 7: Deployed in a safe location, executing/supporting combat operations in theater.
-- 6: Deployed in a combat environment, never directly engaged by the enemy.
-- 5: Engaged the enemy with BVR (Beyond Visual Range) weapons, or an onstation enabler of CAT 1.
-- 4: Engaged by hostile forces for a short or isolated time period with no physical impact.
-- 3: Engaged by hostile forces and injured.
-- 2: Engaged in direct action with hostile forces.
-- 1: Engaged in prolonged hostile action with the enemy, on the ground, face-to-face.
----- As always, it is the very few how are CAT 1. I think that each CAT has its own view of what the military and combat is. If you are a CAT 4, you can theorize and discuss what happens at CAT 1 – but it is important to understand your limitations. The further away you are from the CAT you are talking about, the more pixilated your thoughts, opinions, or concepts are going to be.
- The Civilian world has no idea what the military is like. Some will try to understand and many will be succeed. Most do not/will not/don’t give a damn.

- This will be a press feeding frenzy. Some journalist will try to make their name off this. Some will try to be fair. Most will do what their bosses want; try to sell advertising by boosting ratings/sales.
- Good people in tough situations can do bad things.
- Good people in tough situations can make bad decisions.

- Some politicians would flay their children on live TV for political gain if they could get away with it.


- Where does leadership fail? At what point in the Chain of Command did someone step forward? Why didn’t others? Should they? If not, why? If so, why? What makes people in such situations turn the other way; fear, cowardice, immorality, or love?
- Being that such situations as alleged happen in every war where the enemy dresses and blends with the civilian population they swim in; have we done enough to train leaders to respond to this situation when it happens?
- As always, honestly ask the question, “What would I do?”

So, where from here? I will leave you with a quote from Daniel Henninger.
In El Paso, Texas, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, whose death from a roadside bomb is the event said to have precipitated the Marine shootings at Haditha, said simply: "I don't even listen to the news." This may be the widespread reaction as the Haditha story overwhelms all else--enough, I don't want to hear about it.

And there begins the Iraq Syndrome.

Some elements of the newly ascendant Democratic left may welcome it, but no serious person in American politics should.

The Vietnam Syndrome, a loss of confidence in the efficacy of American military engagement, was mainly a failure of U.S. elites. But it's different this time. This presidency has been steadfast in war. No matter. In a piece this week on the White House's efforts to rally the nation to the idea of defeating terrorism abroad to thwart another attack on the U.S., the AP's Nedra Pickler wrote: "But that hasn't kept the violence and unrest out of the headlines every day." This time the despondency looks to be penetrating the general population. And the issue isn't just body counts; it's more than that.

The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan grew from the moral outrage of September 11. U.S. troops, the best this country has yet produced, went overseas to defend us against repeating that day. Now it isn't just that the war on terror has proven hard; the men and women fighting for us, the magnificent 99%, are being soiled in a repetitive, public way that is unbearable.
The greatest danger at this moment is that the American public will decide it wants to pull back because it has concluded that when the U.S. goes in, it always gets hung out to dry.

Two major military reports will come out soon on the Haditha incident, and no one will gainsay justice if that is required. But the atmosphere around this event is going to get uncontrollably manic, and that will feed the dark, inward-turning sentiments already poisoning the country's mood over issues like the immigration debate.
Good for Democrats? Don't count on it. After this, the public appetite for a Democratic president's "humanitarian" military intervention in a Darfur or East Timor will be close to zero.

One suspects that U.S. troops were party to some awful events in the Pacific and European theaters of World War II, all gone in the mists of history and the enemy's defeat. Not now. Gen. Chiarelli's magnificent "99.9%" notwithstanding, it's the phenomenon of the so-very-public 0.01%--at Abu Ghraib, on an Afghan street, at Haditha--that is breaking America's will this time.
UPDATE: For a very exceptional overview of the larger press issue, see Greyhawk's post over at The Mudville Gazette; Provocation. More solid reading by Wretchard at The Belmont Club.


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