U.S. Soldiers Aren't Guilty Before a Verdict
Daniel Henniger OpinionJournal - Wonder Land: "We seem to have a new national holiday tradition: No holiday is complete without front-page allegations of an atrocity committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. A month ago, Memorial Day arrived along with Haditha, a place in western Iraq where hundreds of Memorial-weekend news reports said a military investigation had concluded that Marines 'wantonly killed unarmed civilians,' among them 'women and children.' This past Fourth of July, along with the skyrockets' red glare came news that a former Army private had been charged in Charlotte, N.C. with committing rape and murder while he was in Iraq. Labor Day awaits.
Rather than let the charges against the private run like a tape-loop over a long, news-dead weekend, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, appeared Fourth of July morning on both NBC and CBS. After CBS's Harry Smith professed himself perplexed at how all this atrocity stuff was happening now, Gen. Pace said that '99.9%' of the men and women in Iraq were serving with honor and promised he would 'get to the bottom' of the allegations.
Military specialists will output case studies for years on how Iraq has altered the way war is waged by Americans--on the battlefield and on the home front. Most interesting to know would be whether the war as perceived at home and the war as fought daily by our by our soldiers in Iraq became two separate realms of consciousness, the former barely related to the reality of the latter."
One benchmark in this process will be deciding which elements of the nation's military past are deemed relevant to taking the measure of this war. Outside the military colleges, the experience of World War II appears to have become largely irrelevant. The controlling benchmark today is whether any American military commitment can evade the vague moral abyss of the Vietnam War. Thus when the Haditha story broke open over Memorial Day it was analogized as "another My Lai," the storied 1968 killing, and cover-up, of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village.
The reason for viewing Haditha through the moral sextant of My Lai is that My Lai significantly altered the political status of Vietnam in the U.S. It became a totem for U.S. behavior in Vietnam. read more