The accelerating media feeding frenzy over the alleged killings of twenty-four Iraqi civilians in Haditha by US Marines last November is about to overwhelm American politics. Propelled by their most irresponsible war critics, the left will try use Haditha as it used My Lai thirty years ago: as a political tool to take apart America’s support for the war and to shatter the legitimacy of our cause and the morale of our troops.
We don’t know what happened in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold in Anbar Province. Unverified press accounts allege that members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, First Marines, were hit by an improvised explosive device and one of them was killed. Others, according to these reports, went on an hours-long killing spree to revenge their comrade’s death, leaving about twenty-four men, women and children dead. Navy and Marine Corps investigators are at work, and other reports indicate that at least three Marine officers, including the battalion and company commanders, have been relieved of duty. It’s also reported that more than one enlisted man has been detained pending charges about to be brought.
No matter how quickly military investigators work, and no matter how firmly any crimes are punished, the anti-war left won’t be satisfied unless Haditha becomes the lever that pushes President Bush to admit the war was wrong and set a time to withdraw from Iraq. My Lai – the March 16, 1968 massacre of about 500 Vietnamese by US soldiers – was first covered up and then exploded in headlines, courts-martial and congressional hearings. (Maureen Dowd, one of the New York Times’s hyperliberal columnists, has already labeled Haditha a “My Lai acid flashback.”) Screamed about by protesters, shown endlessly on television news, My Lai and the court-martial of one of the perpetrators, Lt. William Calley, provided the final political nail in the coffin of American involvement in Vietnam. We withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, abandoning our allies and hanging our heads in shame. This is the political result the left wants from Haditha, and we cannot allow it to happen for one very big reason. The Vietnam War ended in Vietnam, leaving America incapable of taking action in defense of itself or its allies for decades. The end of the war against the terrorist nations won’t occur in Iraq, and we must be prepared – psychologically and politically – to continue the fight. When we lost Vietnam the enemy didn’t follow us home. Radical Islamists will. If they win, we will literally lose America.
Just as the few disgraced the many at Abu Ghraib, the very few who may have committed murder in Haditha will place a burden on the shoulders of every soldier, sailor, airman, marine and coast guardsman fighting terrorism. Each of us has a duty to not add to that burden, and to help relieve it as well. If those few Marines killed innocents in Haditha, their conduct is an aberration, not the norm. It is up to each one of us to ensure that the events of Haditha do not tarnish the brave and selfless service of the many who came before, or any who come after. Except for the aberrant few, the Marines are always faithful to America. In times such as this, we cannot fail to be faithful to them.
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