Thursday, June 08, 2006

Max Boot on Haditha

Boot discusses the Haditha incident with respect to historical cases. He speaks to the Waller incident in the Phillipines and Morant in the Boer War. His conclusions:
In talking to troops over the years, I’ve discovered that those most eager to hold military defendants accountable are not civilians but veterans of ground combat who have been in equally stressful situations and have reacted with greater restraint. They do not hold with actions that sully a soldier’s honor and do not accept “society made me do it” defenses. Yet convictions can be hard to obtain because the units involved tend to cover up the facts.

Many supporters of the wars in question are happy to see as few convictions as possible. They worry that prosecutions will poison public sentiment. This concern is overblown. What matters most to most folks back home is whether their “boys” are fighting for a just cause and whether they are winning. If the answer to both questions is yes, the public will forgive a great deal of misconduct. Thus, celebrated war-crimes cases did not prevent American victory in the Philippines or British victory in South Africa. Nor was the My Lai massacre a turning point in the Vietnam War. By the time it was exposed in late 1969, support for the war was already in freefall because victory did not appear to be in sight.

Today, Americans’ (and Iraqis’) verdict on the war will not turn on what happened in Abu Ghraib or Haditha. More important is what is happening in Ramadi and Baghdad—major cities where the security situation has deteriorated over the last year. The Bush administration can weather the excesses of some soldiers; it cannot survive the perception that we are losing. Instead of indulging in excessive self-flagellation, therefore, the Pentagon and the White House would be well advised to take decisive steps, such as sending more troops, to restore law and order.

Victory diminishes the significance of war crimes; defeat magnifies them into defining events.

I found a Morant poem that seems rather appropriate to the topic.

In prison cell I sadly sit,
A d__d crest-fallen chappie!
And own to you I feel a bit-
A little bit - unhappy!

It really ain't the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction -
But yet we'll write a final rhyme
Whilst waiting cru-ci-fixion!

No matter what "end" they decide -
Quick-lime or "b'iling ile," sir?
We'll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir!

But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice of such men,
Who come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen!

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot 'em!
And if you wish to leave these shores,
For pity's sake, DON'T SHOOT 'EM!!

And if you'd earn a D.S.O.,
Why every British sinner
Should know the proper way to go

Let's toss a bumper down our throat, -
Before we pass to Heaven,
And toast: "The trim-set petticoat
We leave behind in Devon."

At its end the manuscript is described -
The Last Rhyme and Testament of Tony Lumpkin -

You'll also want to check out Michael Yon's blog entry Hijacking Haditha.

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