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Friday, June 2, 2006

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Hadithah. Just what
did you expect?

My Grandmother used to say, “Before you pass judgment on a man, walk in his shoes for a bit and see if you get blisters.”

I know she did not coin that phrase, but the advice is no less valuable.

As we, as our nation, examines the unfolding Hadithah incident, we need to try on several pairs of shoes before we pass judgment.

Hadithah is a town in that third-world fly farm known as Iraq.

Here are the facts I have gleaned from the news reports as relatively certain: Last November, a Marine Corps convoy was attacked. A HUMMV was blown up, probably with a homemade bomb. One Marine was killed, others injured. A firefight ensued and numerous Iraqis were killed. Numbers vary from 12 to 24 or more. Some of the Iraqi dead did not meet our standards of combatants - they were women and children.

Now, just what kind of firefight took place is the question. Initially, a firefight with insurgents was reported. Current national news reports suggest it was a one-sided fight, with the Marines shooting everything that moved in the vicinity.

I have no idea what actually happened.

But, just for a moment, lets assume the absolute worst. The truck blew up. A Marine was dead. His comrades took vengeance on every Iraqi nearby.

Folks, if this is what happened, it is the absolute natural and predicable consequence of the idiotic situation we have put these boys in.

I do not care how well trained and disciplined troops are - in the current situation, this is going to happen. If it has not already, it will.

And, if you read your history, it even happened in all of the more glorious wars when the situation was more conventional. These things happened in the Civil War, in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

War does not breed sensitivity for one’s fellow human beings - not the ones outside your outfit.

Add to that the blurring of combatant and civilian that any guerilla war brings - and you have the recipe for mini-massacres that armchair sergeants can “tsk, tsk” about as they suck down another helping of pie.

Look at the situation we’ve put our boys in. They were trained to confront an enemy and destroy him. When the guerillas make a battle of it, our Marines have handed them their hat, as they should.

But, most days, the guerillas don’t come out to play. Instead they set off a bomb or two, and go about their day doing whatever it is that regular Iraqi’s do everyday.

And, a couple of our boys’ comrades die.

The next day we put our boys back in the trucks and drive around again.

The same thing happens.

When it happens there is no enemy to confront. Just a mass of Iraqi’s looking at you and your dead comrade. You know the guy that pulled the trigger is in that crowd - looking at you. You can see him.

You just do not know which one.

Then, the next day, you are a duck in the shooting gallery again - riding around looking for a ghost-like enemy and waiting for another anonymous Iraqi to kill you or your buddies.

How many of your best friends would you have to bury before all of those foreign faces became the faces of the enemy?

I think I would reach that point pretty damn quick.

When I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1984, many of our senior NCOs were veterans of Viet Nam.

Those I spoke with then and since, told me that the process does not take very long in such situations.

The attitude was summed up in the statement, “The only good Gook is a dead Gook.”

Now, lets add one more element - the fact that there is no clear cut, digestible, maybe even honorable, purpose to this war that you can decipher.

Just as our troops in Viet Nam discovered - our boys in Iraq are discovering that they are dying in a war that either cannot be won, or that we are unwilling to win.

Whether conventional forces can “defeat” guerillas (personally I do not believe they can) or whether we simply are not willing to slaughter enough Iraqi’s to win, makes no difference to the grunt on the ground.

The end result is the same - it’s a losing proposition with no discernable moment of physical or moral victory.

It’s just a place filled with people who either hate you or are indifferent to you, who do not appreciate your service, and who are killing your friends who have become like family, and more.

Try those shoes on as you judge the Marines of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, First Marine Regiment - no matter what evidence belches forth from the nightly news.

There is one more pair of shoes we need to try on while we are at it.

They are those of the Iraqi terrorist we so love to vilify.

Let’s get something straight - if the shoe were on the other foot - if a vast and powerful Iraq had invaded our home to “help” us become a theocracy and join their idea of a wonderful world - I would be a terrorist/insurgent/guerilla in a heartbeat.

I would kill Iraqi’s any way I could. Poison, bombs, bullets. It would not matter to American patriots protecting their homeland - even if some of our American brothers invited the Iraqi’s here to “help” us in the first place.

In the television broadcast that broke the Hadithah story, there was an interview with a very young girl who reportedly survived the incident in which her family was killed.

The third time she began to tell her story of horror, she began, “I knew the bomb was about to explode so I got down on the floor and covered my ears…” (or something very close to this).

She knew her daddy or uncle or brother was about to blow up that HUMMV.

Is she an innocent bystander?

Yes. But only in the same way the guy who pulled the trigger on the bomb, and the Marines in the convoy, are innocent bystanders.

None of them created this situation. And all of them would prefer to be going about their lives and rearing their families rather than killing each other.

What we have created is a situation where innocents are sent to kill innocents.

What are we going to do about Hadithah?

We will sacrifice a few young men to assuage our guilty conscience. Men who are guilty of, at the very most, reacting to the death of their comrade as most, if not all of us, might.

We will find them guilty and sweep them into the prison at Ft. Leavenworth, and then we will all feel better about ourselves and the idiots we elect to make decisions for us.

That is our history in dealing with such matters.

Before we do this, we need to try on the combat boots worn by these Marines, and the shoes worn by the Iraqis.

I think if we do, that after not so many miles, we will find that we have developed blisters on our souls.

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