American Troops: Just Another Miilitia Among Many


Not too long ago, i reported some aspects of a terrorism conference I attended as the guest of the NYU Center on Law & Security.
One of the points that my friend and colleague Nir Rosen made was that the U.S. military had just become one militia among many in the eyes of many Iraqis.
This news that a group of U.S. military personnel may have sought out, raped a woman, and then killed her and several members of her family, including a child, to cover up the crime can’t do much for America’s “hearts and minds” effort.
And given the fear that many in Iraq have of the increasingly sectarian militias, this crime does just seem to make American troops somewhat like the rest.
We lost the moral high ground long ago, and serious people need to develop a strategy to recover our position. After my discussions in Oman last these last few days with various government officials, scholars, and strategists from the Middle East, I have some thoughts on how the U.S. might do this — but will share at a later time.
I know that there are many troops on the front lines trying to do good and noble things — as impossible a task as I think that is under the conditions — but they should be respected.
But the crimes at Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and in this rape and murder case demean the whole machine — especially the generals and civilian leadership in command who have set the tone for soldiers in this war.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “American Troops: Just Another Miilitia Among Many

  1. RichF says:

    Glad you’re back, Steve.
    With Iran in the news these past weeks, I wanted to toss out some relevant links.
    John Bolton has been stating that Iran “must acquiesce or face painful consequences.” Some reports date to March — but several as late as June 22. If he can tell France & Germany to “just shut up and follow orders,” I guess he can try to do the same to Iran.
    Seymour Hersh is again reporting that plans are afoot to attack Iran. This time he relates specific details about the Pentagon brass REFUSING to go along with war plans. (Note I’ve not worked all the way through to Hersh, I started w/the blogs.) A DKos diary sums it up here:
    Arthur Silber blogs about it here:
    And the Hersh piece in the New Yorker is here:
    deepsouthdoug at DKos quotes some interesting passages:
    “A retired four-star general, who ran a major command, said, “The system is starting to sense the end of the road, and they don’t want to be condemned by history. They want to be able to say, `We stood up.’ ”
    “In this case, I was told, the current chairman, Marine General Peter Pace, has gone further in his advice to the White House by addressing the consequences of an attack on Iran. “Here’s the military telling the President what he can’t do politically”–raising concerns about rising oil prices, for example–the former senior intelligence official said. “The J.C.S. chairman going to the President with an economic argument–what’s going on here?” ”
    Iran has been sending letters to Bush Admin requesting a diplomatic opening; those letters have been ignored.
    As Kevin Drum put it:
    STEELY RESOLVE UPDATE….Remember that 2003 letter from Iran proposing “comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences”? I’ve blogged about it before here. Today, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post reports that he has gotten a copy of the letter itself and can tell us exactly what Iran was prepared to talk about:
    The document lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its “legitimate security interests.” Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, “decisive action” against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending “material support” for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation.
    That’s pretty comprehensive, all right. And why did we turn down the offer? Kessler tells us that too:
    Top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.
    That demonstrates some savvy foreign policy insight, doesn’t it? Turn down an unprecedented offer from Iran when they’re weak and we’re strong, and then three years later reluctantly agree to much narrower talks when they’re stronger and we’re weaker. Great job, guys.
    NOTE TO POST EDITORS: Nice job putting this on page A16. It’s not as if this is anything important, after all.
    [END Kevin Drum blogpost]
    See also the link below or search Drum for all 5 posts.


  2. RichF says:

    Only slightly off-topic.
    Given what the media already knew in 2004 about Iraq, WMD evidence, etc., you’d think they could have seen some of this coming.
    It would have served our country well to debate, during that campaign, the causes and conduct of the war. Because . . .
    In 2004 The Toledo Blade won a Pulitzer Prize for its 22-article series on the “activities” of the elite Tiger Force unit in Vietnam.
    They published the series in late 2003 and on into early 2004, and won the Pulitzer in April of that year.
    And throughout that year, all during the Prezntl campaign, while Gwen Ifill and Jim Lehrer and every other journalist in the country twittered mindlessly over the Swift Boat Veteran’s accusations against John Kerry — all in the midst of a war in Iraq that the country was lied into (just like Vietnam) . . .
    . . . NOT ONE of those “journalists” in the mainstream media noted the signifiance of The Toledo Blade’s reporting OR discussed its Pulitzer Prize. Why is this important?
    Because they document and verify the “winter soldier” statements John Kerry made in 1970.
    The SwiftBoatVets reason for being was (supposedly) to correct Kerry’s statements, which openly identified US policies and actions by soldiers on the ground. They claimed Kerry lied and that those things never happened.
    Yet with the 2004 Prezntl election at issue, Kerry’s record under attack, SwiftBoaters claiming Vietnam wasn’t a dirty war, and with Iraq in the background — you couldn’t get even Bill Moyers to utter the words “Pulitzer Prize” or “Toledo Blade” on the air.
    Never mind their refusal to truth-squad their fellow journalists or the SwiftBoat claims. They couldn’t even mention the most prestigious prize in their own profession — and it’s newsworthiness for the most important event in America in many, many, many a year.
    The Tiger Force story verifies that My Lai was not isolated, and confirms that US policy and other units were responsible for similar actions. Students of the Vietnam War will already know this. But the Toledo Blade put it out into the contemporary news feeds.
    The US government, by policy and by putting our soldiers in a very difficult position — had given orders and established circumstances that ensured that everything the SwiftBoatVets had denied — would occur — was true.
    I honor vets precisely because they were put in that extremely difficult, always-already-untenable-position of fighting w/o a Declaration of War, w/o adequate local support and without a just cause — in an alien culture, with a porous border, etc., etc., and asked to use counterproductive & unjustifiable methods to occupy, control, and dismantle another country.
    The conduct and the end result was no surprise.
    I’ve got their book in front of me, which just came out. It’s entitled ]Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War, by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss.
    Some great stories in it. But not for the weak-willed.


  3. Den Valdron says:

    Let’s see. A group of Americans in Iraq plotted to commit war crimes, committed war crimes, then lied about the war crimes.
    What else is new?
    Oh wait…
    These particular war crimes were committed by low level grunts!


  4. Pissed Off American says:

    Hmmm. Apparently I am not the only one that recognizes the obscenity of Bush and Koizumi’s antics………


  5. Pissed Off American says:

    And BTW, considering what is occurring in Gaza, coupled with this unfolding debacle in Iraq, it was OBSCENE to see Bush and Koizumi worshipping at the shrine of a dead drug addicted rock and roller.
    Elvis’ life style and manner of death EPITOMIZES the decay of American values, where talent begats depravity, and success begets excess.
    Whose sons died in Iraq yesterday as Bush watched Koizuma grind his hips in memory of an american tragedy?
    Obscene. And perfectly in character.


  6. Pissed Off American says:

    Whats news here? The cover-ups and deflections have been occurring since the first pictures found their way out of Abu Ghraib. Interesting that no one is hollering for the second batch of pictures that were COURT ORDERED to be released. Where are they??? Just like with Phase Two, these criminals in the Bush Administration think they can just ignore their commitments, promises, and legal obligations to the American people.
    There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY in the Bush Administration, and until there is we will NEVER regain any sort of moral high ground. The way things stand now our soldiers can be sodomized, held indefinitely, never charged with crimes, flown to countries to be tortured, hung from their wrists until they expire, or paraded naked in front of news cameras shackled and hooded, and we can only protest hypocritically because their captors would merely be mimicking our own treatment of OUR prisoners.
    But even more despicable, even more criminal, is our use of DU in the Iraqi theatre, and our failure to contain the hazardous wastes, including hundreds of drums of yellow cake, at Tuwaitha and the other twelve weapons storage sites. The deaths from those actions could well equal or surpass the numbers that have died violent deaths as a result of our illegal invasion and occupation.
    Then of course you have to factor in the complete destruction of the essential infrastructures of society, and consider the misery of starvation, inadequate medical care and facilities, and the climate of insecurity created by an environment of violence, chaos, and occupation. Who can expect this generation of Iraqi youth to grow into adulthood with any sort of emotional or physical health?
    Our crimes in Iraq are FAR GREATER than the predictable actions of a few crazed and shell shocked soldiers. Where they raped one woman, we have raped an entire nation, an entire population.
    All the side arguments, all the diversions, all the excuses and debates can no longer mask the undeniable truth. We were LIED into this war. It has made American INFINITELY LESS SECURE, it has RUINED OUR WORLD STANDING, and it has worked to THE BENEFIT of our enemies. If in fact we are at war, as Bush claims we are, then he has aided and abetted enemies of the United States with his actions and his policies. Thats treason. The lying son of a bitch should be impeached, indicted, and thrown in a federal prison to act as an example to all the fascist megalomaniacs of his kind that are waiting in the wings to follow in his footsteps. If this DOES NOT occur, than we will NEVER regain the high moral ground. If the Bush Administration is not held accountable for its crimes, than we are not what we profess to be, and we can kiss this grand experiment,(a government for and by the people), good bye.


  7. steve duncan says:

    Bush and Cheney likely get a a warm glow inside at reports of these U.S. military atrocities. They strike me as the type feeling the enemy needs to know we’re capable of the same nihilistic atrocities they are. I read much of Bush’s psychology and references to beating down, humiliating, belittling and brutalizing other people and animals abound. There’s no reason to believe Iraqis would be treated any better by him. Sadly what crimes are exposed likely represent but the tip of the iceberg.


  8. Roland says:

    Yes, appalling:
    (The alleged rape took place in March, was reported to the Iraqi security forces at the time, and apparently not investigated by the US. The 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”, indeed. It appears from the news report that it is a 4th ID General now investigating.)
    We can now add another reason, which may be admitted to by the administration a year or two from now, for the “insurgency”: retribution for unreported (by the US), uninvestigated, and unpunished US military crimes on Iraqi soil.
    Somewhat ironic that this post is juxtaposed with the Hashimoto story and backdrop of the Okinawa Marine bases. Occupiers are never welcome by the natives – didn’t Colin Powell have some comments about this referring to his military posting in Germany?


  9. Nell says:

    The main source for the reporting on this case (an unnamed official “close to the investigation”) asserts several facts that, if correct, form dots that Americans will be reluctant to connect:
    1 – The crimes in Mahmoudiyah took place not long before the kidnaping and murder of Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker.
    2 – The alleged perpetrators were members of the same platoon as Menchaca and Tucker.
    3 – The discovery of the bodies of the two kidnaped soldiers provoked platoon members to report the Mahmoudiyah crimes.
    The occupation must end, completely and soon.


  10. daCascadian says:

    Steve Clemons >”…especially the generals and civilian leadership in command who have set the tone for soldiers in this war.”
    Yes, the corrupt “command climate” is the ultimate root of the problem. Time to clean house starting at the very top & including Peter Pace who is a disgrace to the uniform he wears.
    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” – Sinclair Lewis


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