“Haditha is Arabic for My Lai”

By Dr. A. S. Nakadar

The activist and author, Rahul Mahajan, recently said that “Haditha is Arabic for My Lai.” The My Lai massacre was a massacre by US soldiers of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, on March 16, 1968, in the hamlet of My Lai, during the Vietnam War. Tim Harper of the Washington Bureau titled his article on the issue “Blinded by Hate in Haditha.”

The Haditha massacre involved fewer victims, but the underlying cause of the massacre and the bestial nature of the crimes are similar.

Many consider My Lai the tip of an iceberg of American war crimes in Vietnam. The general feeling for the Haditha massacre is the same: that it is the tip of the iceberg of our soldiers’ crimes in Iraq. People are beginning to question the coverup of many such incidences, like the one in Hamandiya on April 26 where Marines killed an unarmed Iraqi man. 11 Iraqi civilians including women and children were shot on March 15 in the town of Ishaqi. This week in Samarra two Iraqi women, one about to deliver a baby, were shot and killed while driving to the hospital for a delivery.

Such cases are slowly coming to light. One wonders, since the beginning of war, how many times such incidences have occurred, explained away as deaths from a firefight, or explained away as justifiable killings of insurgents, or despite intentional killing, explained away as “collateral damage.”

On the eve of the attack on My Lai, the US military command advised its Charlie Company that any genuine civilians at My Lai would have left their homes to go to market by 7 a.m. the following day. They were told that they could assume that all who remained behind were either VC (Viet Cong) or active VC sympathizers. They were instructed to destroy the village.

Similarly, during the second assault on Falluja, soldiers received instructions similar to those preceding My Lai: civilians were aware of the impending assault, therefore they must have moved out of Falluja. Those remained behind in Falluja could be assumed Al Qaeda fighters, sympathizers, or insurgents and thus may be eliminated.

The US military murderously excluded the press from Fallujah during and after their assault, but some reports did emerge. The website Iraq Body Count reported 308 absolutely confirmed deaths of women and children (not counting male civilians, and almost certainly not counting every woman and child).

The Red Cross estimated, on November 16, that 800 civilians had been killed in Fallujah.

Most of the people familiar with the area believe that fighters and insurgents had already left Falluja and the people who remained behind were civilians who could not migrate due to their infirmity, economical, physical or other reasons.

The recent uproar on cover ups and soldiers’ ruthless behavior forced the top American ground commander, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, to order all 150,000 “coalition” forces to receive mandatory refresher training on “legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield.” The problem is identification of the specific ground area of the battlefield, and the specific enemy that in real terms remains abstract.

These atrocities have reached to such a height that even the puppet Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military, denouncing the common occurrence in Iraq of ruthless killings of civilians. He said in his comments that this has become a “daily phenomenon” and said that “the American troops don’t respect Iraqi people.”

In this chaotic situation, people ask themselves, “Who knows who is fighting whom?” Are Sunnis attacking Shi’a or Shi’a attacking Sunnis or is someone else attacking both and blaming the attacks on each other?

During such a quagmire we applaud Rep. John Murtha of PA’s 12th Congressional District for his foresight and bold statements in asking President Bush to withdraw US troops from Iraq. Here are some of his statements:

“As I’ve said, I understand the fog of war and the confusion of battle. But we are a nation of laws, including the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). The United States of America has never condoned, nor should it ever condone, indiscriminate, deliberate killing of civilians. When we do that, we become no better than the enemy we are trying to eradicate.”

“Further, to ignore this incident, which happened six months ago and has now been publicized around the world, is to invite criticism that the United States does not practice what it preaches. That will severely undermine our goals of promoting democracy, as did the Abu Ghraib scandal. Again, the United States of America does not condone the deliberate killing of innocent civilians.”

“Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.”


0 replies