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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    When death is not murder

    If one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, then to whom does justice belong? Over the past few months, the constantly muddled U.S./Iraqi relationship has never been so entangled in this theoretical puzzle. Just about every major media outlet has been circulating detailed accounts of U.S. military misconduct in at least three separate areas of Iraq, most noticeably, the massacre at the town of Haditha, a hotbed of the Iraqi insurgency.

    Last November, members of the Camp Pendleton, California-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, was accused of going on a killing spree, murdering 24 Iraqi civilians. According to eyewitness accounts and claims published by an Iraqi Civil Rights group quoted by Time magazine in March, several Marines took their revenge after their comrade, Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas was killed by a roadside bomb.

    The report says the Marines barged into nearby houses, throwing grenades and shooting any civilians they saw.

    Time quotes 10-year-old Iman Hassan, who describes watching U.S. Marines kill her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, four-year-old cousin and two uncles. Residents of al-Haditha confirmed elements of Iman’s story and described the murder of a second family, which included five children.

    An official investigation into the Haditha incident has already resulted in the removal of Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the commanding officer and two company commanders.

    Another investigation about whether the incident was the subject of a military cover-up because of conflicting accounts initially reported is currently underway.

    The Haditha incident, or massacre, depending on who you trust, could be easier to swallow if similarly horrendous events hadn’t taken place. The division of the American public over this war, the 2,750 Americans dead, the 100,000 Iraqis dead and the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal make Haditha seem chillingly symbolic of America’s presence in Iraq. Quite simply, if we weren’t losing, perhaps the Haditha controversy wouldn’t be so bad of a burn – or perhaps it might not have occurred at all.

    The truth of the matter is there are more than one Haditha.

    Just last Friday, The Associated Press reported that U.S. troops were cleared of charges that they killed Iraqi civilians in a March raid on Ishaqi, a village north of Baghdad. The U.S. military said some collateral damage resulted when soldiers chasing insurgents took direct fire. In contrast, the Iraqi police said five children, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up. An Associated Press video shows victims with obvious bullet holes in the head.

    These shootings speak to all people of conscience, but they beg any American who has never once doubted our mission in Iraq, or who has never once faulted the military for the chaos in Iraq, to reconsider the professionalism of the president’s war.

    Analyzing the implications of defining our terms to justify war or holding theoretical discussions explaining the mindset of soldiers in combat does not change our innate understanding between what is right and what is so, so wrong.

    The unprovoked killing of Iraqi civilians should never be dismissed as a result of war or covered up with vague terms. Any American found responsible for such crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law; the Iraqi victims should be compensated and properly assured that such heinous crimes will not be committed again.

    If the Iraqi people fear an attack by the same forces who supposedly pledge to protect them and fight for their freedom, they might as well surrender to the insurgents.

    It shouldn’t take a report by Time to give surety that justice will prevail. The U.S. military should have enough moral strength to ensure its troops are acting responsibly, and it has all the reason to punish them when they don’t.

    Yusra Tekbali is a journalism and Near Eastern studies senior. She can be reached at

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