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George Bush and the Haditha massacre
On Wednesday, President George Bush broke his silence on the unprovoked killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians by US Marines in the town of Haditha. More than six months after the event, some two months after he was briefed on the atrocity by his national security adviser, and two months after a detailed account appeared in Time magazine, Bush muttered that he was “troubled by the initial news stories.”
Speaking at a White House photo op following a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Bush added, “I’m mindful that there’s a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment.”
On Thursday, Bush reiterated the same theme, saying, “If there is a wrongdoing, people will be held to account.” He went on to praise a program of “ethical training” ordered for US troops and declared, “This is just a reminder—for troops in Iraq or throughout our military—that there are high standards expected of them and that there are strong rules of engagement.”
With these statements, Bush signaled his intention to reprise the approach of his administration and the military brass to the exposure two years ago of sadistic torture at Abu Ghraib prison: throw the lowest-level soldiers involved in the crimes to the wolves, and absolve their top-ranking superiors of any responsibility.
Bush’s remarks evinced his contempt and indifference not only for the Iraqi victims of his administration’s aggression, but also for the American soldiers who have been pitched into the nightmare of a colonial-style military occupation. For all his politically expedient invocations of “America’s finest” fighting on the “front lines in the war against terrorism,” he has no problems laying the entire blame for war crimes in Iraq on individual soldiers, so as to divert attention from the authors of the war, including himself, whose policies make such atrocities inevitable.