By Matthew Rothschild on May 31, 2006

May 30, 2006

It’s hard to read about Haditha, this place in Iraq, where, last November, U.S. Marines went on a rampage, reportedly massacring 24 Iraqis, including a 77-year-old man in a wheelchair who was holding a Koran and including children as young as three and four.

“Some victims had single gunshot wounds to the head,” a Defense Department official told The New York Times.

How does that make you feel?

It fills me first with nausea and revulsion, and then fury.

Fury not only at the Marines who allegedly did this.

But fury at Bush for putting them over there.

He has turned Iraq into what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called an “atrocity-producing situation.”

Bush has placed U.S. soldiers and Marines under enormous stress over there.

In such situations, it’s only a matter of time before some of them snap.

And that’s what appears to have happened at Haditha.

Like My Lai, Haditha, as horrible as it appears, cannot be called a surprise.

There’s been a stream of reports about U.S. atrocities in Iraq prior to this, just as there was in Vietnam prior to My Lai.

As Joshua Holland for Alternet writes, “The story is unique only in that the evidence that a terrible crime took place appears to be too great for ‘plausible deniability.’ ” Among other accounts, Holland cites an AP story quoting Iraq’s U.N. ambassador as saying that the U.S. forces killed his unarmed young cousin in “cold blood.” Holland also references a Knight-Ridder story that said Iraqi police officials “accused U.S. soldiers of executing 11 Iraqi civilians, including four children and a six-month-old baby.”

Dahr Jamail, writing at Truthout.org, says “countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public.”

He cites a story from the Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq, a nongovernmental organization there, about an assault on May 13 south of Baghdad when “U.S. Forces, accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard,” attacked families that were fleeing a shelling by U.S. helicopters. According to this account, the U.S.-led assault killed more than 25 people.

Jamail also cites this group’s estimate that “between 4,000 and 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah.”

The horrors of Haditha are just more evidence of the totally unacceptable toll that Bush’s war has taken on Iraqi civilians: between 38,000 and more than 100,000 deaths.

To the dead, it is of no meaning whether they died in a massacre or as “collateral damage” from a bombing raid.

But for Bush, the Pentagon, and U.S. war propagandists, the Haditha massacre story is of tremendous significance, for it shreds any last claim that this is a just war.

On Monday, at Arlington National Cemetery, Bush gave a Memorial Day speech in which he had the chutzpah to say, “America has always gone to war reluctantly because we know the costs of war.”

But he did not go to war “reluctantly.” He went to war recklessly. When even some of America’s allies on the U.N. Security Council argued strenuously against the Iraq War, when the U.N. weapons inspectors themselves said they could find no weapons of mass destruction and begged for more time to look, Bush couldn’t be bothered. He was in haste for war, and he was mindless of the costs.

Haditha is one of those costs.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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