Thursday, May 18, 2006

Another Vietnam Parallel

A disturbing report — and an echo of a previous time — has emerged from Iraq.

A Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha will show that U.S. Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” a U.S. lawmaker said Wednesday.

From the beginning, Iraqis in the town of Haditha said U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children.

One young Iraqi girl said the Marines killed six members of her family, including her parents. “The Americans came into the room where my father was praying,” she said, “and shot him.”

On Wednesday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said the accounts are true.

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps’ own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.


Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that “there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn’t been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

“This one is ugly,” one official told NBC News.

Those of us of a certain age remember My Lai. To many, that was the one event that turned the American public against the war in Vietnam. It became the symbol of the futility, the waste, and the carnage of a meaningless war and the destruction of any moral high ground we had in fighting the so-called Red Menace.

I hope there is a complete investigation and that instead of finding a scapegoat in the form of a low-level officer — like Lt. William Calley — this should go all the way to the top.

You can expect the right-wing to launch into another attack on the patriotism of Jack Murtha. That’s all they can do.