Haditha, Just War Theory and the Press

Leftist media, congressmen, and elitist groups have already committed premature evaluation concerning the role of members of the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.  The left and our drive—by media have already pronounced our troops guilty of murdering 24 men, women, and children last November 19, at Haditha, a farm town in the Upper Euphrates Valley.  And this includes not just Kilo Company, but all Marines and the entire chain of command. 

Sadly, they have convicted our military of all charges prior to any trial, and much worse, two weeks before the completion of either the investigation or the collection of any indicting or exculpatory evidence. 

The fact that some of these leftists served in the U.S. military does not qualify them either to judge a priori our troops innocence or guilt or to set national security policy and military procedure any more than would have the prior military service of John Wilkes Booth or Benedict Arnold.

However, let's suppose for a moment the troops of Kilo Company are guilty of the killing of innocent civilians as alleged by the senile and decrepit old gray lady, the New York Times, and her lapdogs in the mainstream media.  Does that mean the members of Kilo are guilty of murder according to just war theory, the Geneva Convention on War Crimes, or ethical standards?  Hardly.

What is really needed in regard to any alleged 'atrocities' by our troops is for our leaders to be educated about just war theory, to state its principles clearly to our people, and to stand up for standards in international forums including the laughable U.N.'s considerations regarding alleged war crimes.  Three principles of just war theory are particularly relevant to Haditha.

The first principle of just war theory is that the cause must be morally right in that it opposes a great injustice to one's own people or to other innocents.  The cause in Iraq was unquestionably just due to Saddam's continuing efforts to:

  •  attack our pilots who enforced his agreement to air restrictions that ended the '91 Gulf War;

  •  torture to death in the most horrific manner an average of 300 innocent Iraqis a day;

  •  pay suicide bombers world—wide to attack innocent men, women, and children;

  •  aggressively develop WMD's;

  •  have the highest echelon of his military run at least four training camps where virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world including al Qaeda were trained how to make and implement WMD and other terrorist attacks against the west; the cause was indisputably just. 

  • The left counters this argument that the war is just (1) by repeating ad nauseum their mantra that the U.S. in the war has killed between 15,000 and 38,000  Iraqis (depending on which leftist you are reading), and (2) by ignoring the fact that most of the Iraqi deaths are due either to the terrorist insurgents attacks of civilians or to terrorist insurgents who are killed by U.S. troops in defense of those civilians.  Almost comically, one leftist writer this past week noted that the number of Iraqi deaths that he blames on our military includes an unusually large number of deaths among the citizens of  Fallujah!  Imagine that!  It is sadly puzzling why Fallujah in particular was so victimized for abuse by our troops. . . at least it is to the mindless left.

    However, even if it were true that U.S troops were responsible for, say, 45,000 Iraqis during the 3 ˝ years of the war, they have also saved the lives of some 300 Iraqis a day that Saddam would have killed during that time.  Thus, our military has saved roughly 350,000 lives!  That means that the U.S. intervention has already saved a net of at least 305,000 Iraqi lives from excruciating deaths and millions from suffering the loss of their loved ones.  And that doesn't include the lives of unknown numbers of people in other lands who would have been killed in the last 3 ˝ years by terrorists trained, armed, and funded by Saddam. 

    Not bad for a 'despotic' America, eh?

    The second relevant principle of just war theory is that, because war is so horrific to the quality of human life for reasons that include the inevitable collateral damage to innocents, a just war has to be the last realistic option.  If there is any other realistic option to stop the injustice that the war is intended to end, that option must be pursued rather than resorting to war.  Contrary to the left's utopian naiveté (at least when applied to U.S. policy), this does not mean war has to be the last hypothetical option, but the last real option.  A just war cannot be delayed beyond the last realistic option for the important reason that innocents are continuing to be injured and killed by the evil tyrants that the war would stop while other options such as diplomacy are being considered and pursued.  While the Bush administration tried to satisfy the left in Congress and our State Department by allowing them to debate going into Iraq for a full year before we finally attacked, an estimated additional 100,000 Iraqis were horrifically slain by Saddam's regime.

    Everyone in the world—except those on the left and their lackey mainstream media living in a fantasyland—knew then and know today that diplomacy, negotiations, and the impotent and fatally flawed U.N. would never have ended Saddam's tyranny, but would have merely given him time to do more harm to the innocents of the world, just as 12 years of negotiations since the Gulf War had given Saddam time to kill 1 ˝ million of his own citizens and to start up his terror training camps.

    And the third relevant principle of just war theory is that a just nation, when it goes to war, makes every effort possible to avoid collateral harm to innocent civilians.  'Every effort possible' is a key phrase.  For the thing that makes war so bad and to be avoided, if possible, is that war is ugly, messy, and creates a haze that at times makes it difficult for anyone to know exactly what is transpiring.  Thus, the violence of the battle inevitably spills over into the lives of innocents.  This is unavoidable.

    However, what separates civilized nations from uncivilized or barbaric nations is that civilized, decent peoples do not intentionally or carelessly injure innocent civilians even in a war.  This is what ethically separates the U.S. and our allies from the barbaric Islamo—fascist terrorists who seek to kill us and who have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women, and children.

    This fourth just war principle has a logical corollary that is reflected in the 1949 Geneva Convention on War Crimes to which 190 of the world's 194 nations are signatories.  That corollary is that only uniformed soldiers of an organized army are protected by the Convention.  This is a necessary and logical consequence of the principle that innocent civilians are not to be attacked even when a war is justified.  How so?

    If an army has to fight a war in which they are expected not to attack civilians, then that army has to know with reasonable certainty that civilians are not going to ambush them in surprise attacks.  If civilians are constantly attacking members of a military force, it is reasonable and ultimately inevitable for the military force to defend itself and to begin to treat civilians as combatants and to attack civilians, many of whom may not at all be combatants.  Thus, the civilized nations reached an understanding, a contract of sorts, that their soldiers would be uniformed so that their respective armies would not have cause to attack each other's civilian populations.

    This is one of the things that is so despicable about uncivilized nations (or in contemporary terms, 'terrorist' nations) cynically fighting 'insurgency' wars (as in Iraq) in which their combatants both attack and hide among the civilian population.  Some consider this as an ingenious development in the strategy of warfare.  Of course this is not at all a new development.  Rather, it is a regression back into the uncivilized warfare of primitive nations who had regard neither for human rights or nor for the morality of a war.  Civilized nations have progressed beyond this barbarity.  This is one important basic practice which makes them civilized.

    In Iraq, the Islamo—fascists practice barbarism.  This places our troops at greater risk because of the degree to which they try to avoid hurting innocents.  So, our soldiers become vulnerable to seeming civilians whose intent is to kill them.  And when our soldiers are attacked, they frequently cannot fire back because their attackers are hiding among innocent civilians.

    Inevitably, our troops' civility, their respect for human rights, their love of innocents, all cause more of their lives to be lost.  And the survivors live with the loss, the pain, and the trauma of seeing their brothers being slaughtered by some of the 'civilians' they had tried to protect.  Inevitably, in time, the grief and trauma wears down some of our 200,000 plus troops who have served there, and in a life and death instantaneous decision, one or two of them may respond with too much impulse to protect more of their comrades from being cut down.  To expect that none of them ever do so is to expect them not to be human.

    So, suppose Kilo Company did overreact to an IED attack by firing on innocent civilians in the village of Haditha?  There is much evidence to question both this supposition and Benedict Murtha's outrageous a priori conclusion that is immorally and traitorously premature——even if it proven in the end to be correct.  But even if the allegations about Haditha are true.  What then?

    Well, the guilty parties certainly need to be held accountable.  But our administration, our Congress, and especially our media and the radical left for whom they speak, need to get three things clear in their own heads and then make them clear to our people, the international media, and the UNdemocratic, UNcivilized, UNproductive, and UNethical U.N.: 

    (1) The terrorists, who are not protected at all by international conventions on war, are the ones primarily responsible on the absolutely astoundingly rare occasions when U.S. troops retaliate.  Furthermore, to give the terrorists the same protections as are given to uniformed soldiers, as we have seen in Iraq, is to place civilians at grave risk.

    (2) As tragic as is the loss of life to innocents on these rare occasions when U.S. troops overreact, this is an understandable though rare reaction. Troops have been placed in an untenable situation by the Islamo—fascist terrorists who intentionally and routinely attack and then hide among innocents as a cynical and calculated strategy to take advantage of the lengths to which they know our military will go to protect innocents.

    (3) Therefore, though there will be serious consequences for our troops who overreact, we will not send out troops into this absurd situation and then either prosecute them for murder or treat them like common criminals when they make a mistake in an instantaneous life and death decision.  For whatever guilt exists —— beyond the guilt of the barbarians who fight uncivilized wars that intentionally cause innocent civilians to be not only their chosen targets, but also the unintended victims of our efforts to defend ourselves —— is shared not just by our troops, but by all of us as a nation.  For we decided as a nation that the most humane and caring thing we could do was to go to war in order to stop the atrocities being done both by Saddam and by the Islamo—fascist terrorists.  How dare we then to hold our troops alone accountable for just trying to stay alive when we as a nation chose to send them there in the first place?

    Yes, we will treat our troops as common criminals on the exceedingly rare occasions when there is sufficient and clear evidence that they made an intentional decision to harm or to endanger those they knew to be innocents.  But we will refrain from any premature evaluation about our troops' guilt when allegations are made about them —— no matter the source.  And if we are not willing to defend our troops —— who defend us with their lives —— when they make an innocent though tragic mistake in a panic situation (such as a firefight or an IED attack) within the haze of a war against a barbaric enemy, then we should not send them to begin with into such horrific circumstances. 

    If the war is important and critical enough to send our troops to lose their lives for us, then it is also important enough for us not to commit premature evaluation against them when they are charged with some crime.  It is the duty of every American, and more so every elected official, to defend them when they make an honest though tragic mistake that results in collateral damage to innocents.  This collateral damage, after all, is part of the consideration in understanding that going to war should be our last resort in dealing with some great wrong. 

    So, if we collectively as a nation make that decision that war —— in spite of the certain collateral damage —— is both moral and necessary, then it is horribly immoral and hypocritical for us to then place the guilt for the collateral damage upon our military alone who serve, fight, and die in our behalf.

    After all, the virtually universal norm is that when U.S. troops arrive anywhere in the world, they are the arrival of freedom, and their decency and respect for human life is the greatest manifestation to the world of America's love.  We owe them certainly nothing less than our allegiance during the inevitable, unintentional calamities of war/  And rightly we owe them a great deal more for the blood, sweat, and tears that they sacrifice for our freedom and the freedom of others in the world.

    Don Crawford is host of The FLIPSIDE Talk Show on Rightalk Radio and earned a Cer'tificate from the International Institute of Human Rights at the University of Strasbourg, France.

    Leftist media, congressmen, and elitist groups have already committed premature evaluation concerning the role of members of the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.  The left and our drive—by media have already pronounced our troops guilty of murdering 24 men, women, and children last November 19, at Haditha, a farm town in the Upper Euphrates Valley.  And this includes not just Kilo Company, but all Marines and the entire chain of command. 

    Sadly, they have convicted our military of all charges prior to any trial, and much worse, two weeks before the completion of either the investigation or the collection of any indicting or exculpatory evidence. 

    The fact that some of these leftists served in the U.S. military does not qualify them either to judge a priori our troops innocence or guilt or to set national security policy and military procedure any more than would have the prior military service of John Wilkes Booth or Benedict Arnold.

    However, let's suppose for a moment the troops of Kilo Company are guilty of the killing of innocent civilians as alleged by the senile and decrepit old gray lady, the New York Times, and her lapdogs in the mainstream media.  Does that mean the members of Kilo are guilty of murder according to just war theory, the Geneva Convention on War Crimes, or ethical standards?  Hardly.

    What is really needed in regard to any alleged 'atrocities' by our troops is for our leaders to be educated about just war theory, to state its principles clearly to our people, and to stand up for standards in international forums including the laughable U.N.'s considerations regarding alleged war crimes.  Three principles of just war theory are particularly relevant to Haditha.

    The first principle of just war theory is that the cause must be morally right in that it opposes a great injustice to one's own people or to other innocents.  The cause in Iraq was unquestionably just due to Saddam's continuing efforts to:

  •  attack our pilots who enforced his agreement to air restrictions that ended the '91 Gulf War;

  •  torture to death in the most horrific manner an average of 300 innocent Iraqis a day;

  •  pay suicide bombers world—wide to attack innocent men, women, and children;

  •  aggressively develop WMD's;

  •  have the highest echelon of his military run at least four training camps where virtually every Islamic terrorist organization in the world including al Qaeda were trained how to make and implement WMD and other terrorist attacks against the west; the cause was indisputably just. 

  • The left counters this argument that the war is just (1) by repeating ad nauseum their mantra that the U.S. in the war has killed between 15,000 and 38,000  Iraqis (depending on which leftist you are reading), and (2) by ignoring the fact that most of the Iraqi deaths are due either to the terrorist insurgents attacks of civilians or to terrorist insurgents who are killed by U.S. troops in defense of those civilians.  Almost comically, one leftist writer this past week noted that the number of Iraqi deaths that he blames on our military includes an unusually large number of deaths among the citizens of  Fallujah!  Imagine that!  It is sadly puzzling why Fallujah in particular was so victimized for abuse by our troops. . . at least it is to the mindless left.

    However, even if it were true that U.S troops were responsible for, say, 45,000 Iraqis during the 3 ˝ years of the war, they have also saved the lives of some 300 Iraqis a day that Saddam would have killed during that time.  Thus, our military has saved roughly 350,000 lives!  That means that the U.S. intervention has already saved a net of at least 305,000 Iraqi lives from excruciating deaths and millions from suffering the loss of their loved ones.  And that doesn't include the lives of unknown numbers of people in other lands who would have been killed in the last 3 ˝ years by terrorists trained, armed, and funded by Saddam. 

    Not bad for a 'despotic' America, eh?

    The second relevant principle of just war theory is that, because war is so horrific to the quality of human life for reasons that include the inevitable collateral damage to innocents, a just war has to be the last realistic option.  If there is any other realistic option to stop the injustice that the war is intended to end, that option must be pursued rather than resorting to war.  Contrary to the left's utopian naiveté (at least when applied to U.S. policy), this does not mean war has to be the last hypothetical option, but the last real option.  A just war cannot be delayed beyond the last realistic option for the important reason that innocents are continuing to be injured and killed by the evil tyrants that the war would stop while other options such as diplomacy are being considered and pursued.  While the Bush administration tried to satisfy the left in Congress and our State Department by allowing them to debate going into Iraq for a full year before we finally attacked, an estimated additional 100,000 Iraqis were horrifically slain by Saddam's regime.

    Everyone in the world—except those on the left and their lackey mainstream media living in a fantasyland—knew then and know today that diplomacy, negotiations, and the impotent and fatally flawed U.N. would never have ended Saddam's tyranny, but would have merely given him time to do more harm to the innocents of the world, just as 12 years of negotiations since the Gulf War had given Saddam time to kill 1 ˝ million of his own citizens and to start up his terror training camps.

    And the third relevant principle of just war theory is that a just nation, when it goes to war, makes every effort possible to avoid collateral harm to innocent civilians.  'Every effort possible' is a key phrase.  For the thing that makes war so bad and to be avoided, if possible, is that war is ugly, messy, and creates a haze that at times makes it difficult for anyone to know exactly what is transpiring.  Thus, the violence of the battle inevitably spills over into the lives of innocents.  This is unavoidable.

    However, what separates civilized nations from uncivilized or barbaric nations is that civilized, decent peoples do not intentionally or carelessly injure innocent civilians even in a war.  This is what ethically separates the U.S. and our allies from the barbaric Islamo—fascist terrorists who seek to kill us and who have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women, and children.

    This fourth just war principle has a logical corollary that is reflected in the 1949 Geneva Convention on War Crimes to which 190 of the world's 194 nations are signatories.  That corollary is that only uniformed soldiers of an organized army are protected by the Convention.  This is a necessary and logical consequence of the principle that innocent civilians are not to be attacked even when a war is justified.  How so?

    If an army has to fight a war in which they are expected not to attack civilians, then that army has to know with reasonable certainty that civilians are not going to ambush them in surprise attacks.  If civilians are constantly attacking members of a military force, it is reasonable and ultimately inevitable for the military force to defend itself and to begin to treat civilians as combatants and to attack civilians, many of whom may not at all be combatants.  Thus, the civilized nations reached an understanding, a contract of sorts, that their soldiers would be uniformed so that their respective armies would not have cause to attack each other's civilian populations.

    This is one of the things that is so despicable about uncivilized nations (or in contemporary terms, 'terrorist' nations) cynically fighting 'insurgency' wars (as in Iraq) in which their combatants both attack and hide among the civilian population.  Some consider this as an ingenious development in the strategy of warfare.  Of course this is not at all a new development.  Rather, it is a regression back into the uncivilized warfare of primitive nations who had regard neither for human rights or nor for the morality of a war.  Civilized nations have progressed beyond this barbarity.  This is one important basic practice which makes them civilized.

    In Iraq, the Islamo—fascists practice barbarism.  This places our troops at greater risk because of the degree to which they try to avoid hurting innocents.  So, our soldiers become vulnerable to seeming civilians whose intent is to kill them.  And when our soldiers are attacked, they frequently cannot fire back because their attackers are hiding among innocent civilians.

    Inevitably, our troops' civility, their respect for human rights, their love of innocents, all cause more of their lives to be lost.  And the survivors live with the loss, the pain, and the trauma of seeing their brothers being slaughtered by some of the 'civilians' they had tried to protect.  Inevitably, in time, the grief and trauma wears down some of our 200,000 plus troops who have served there, and in a life and death instantaneous decision, one or two of them may respond with too much impulse to protect more of their comrades from being cut down.  To expect that none of them ever do so is to expect them not to be human.

    So, suppose Kilo Company did overreact to an IED attack by firing on innocent civilians in the village of Haditha?  There is much evidence to question both this supposition and Benedict Murtha's outrageous a priori conclusion that is immorally and traitorously premature——even if it proven in the end to be correct.  But even if the allegations about Haditha are true.  What then?

    Well, the guilty parties certainly need to be held accountable.  But our administration, our Congress, and especially our media and the radical left for whom they speak, need to get three things clear in their own heads and then make them clear to our people, the international media, and the UNdemocratic, UNcivilized, UNproductive, and UNethical U.N.: 

    (1) The terrorists, who are not protected at all by international conventions on war, are the ones primarily responsible on the absolutely astoundingly rare occasions when U.S. troops retaliate.  Furthermore, to give the terrorists the same protections as are given to uniformed soldiers, as we have seen in Iraq, is to place civilians at grave risk.

    (2) As tragic as is the loss of life to innocents on these rare occasions when U.S. troops overreact, this is an understandable though rare reaction. Troops have been placed in an untenable situation by the Islamo—fascist terrorists who intentionally and routinely attack and then hide among innocents as a cynical and calculated strategy to take advantage of the lengths to which they know our military will go to protect innocents.

    (3) Therefore, though there will be serious consequences for our troops who overreact, we will not send out troops into this absurd situation and then either prosecute them for murder or treat them like common criminals when they make a mistake in an instantaneous life and death decision.  For whatever guilt exists —— beyond the guilt of the barbarians who fight uncivilized wars that intentionally cause innocent civilians to be not only their chosen targets, but also the unintended victims of our efforts to defend ourselves —— is shared not just by our troops, but by all of us as a nation.  For we decided as a nation that the most humane and caring thing we could do was to go to war in order to stop the atrocities being done both by Saddam and by the Islamo—fascist terrorists.  How dare we then to hold our troops alone accountable for just trying to stay alive when we as a nation chose to send them there in the first place?

    Yes, we will treat our troops as common criminals on the exceedingly rare occasions when there is sufficient and clear evidence that they made an intentional decision to harm or to endanger those they knew to be innocents.  But we will refrain from any premature evaluation about our troops' guilt when allegations are made about them —— no matter the source.  And if we are not willing to defend our troops —— who defend us with their lives —— when they make an innocent though tragic mistake in a panic situation (such as a firefight or an IED attack) within the haze of a war against a barbaric enemy, then we should not send them to begin with into such horrific circumstances. 

    If the war is important and critical enough to send our troops to lose their lives for us, then it is also important enough for us not to commit premature evaluation against them when they are charged with some crime.  It is the duty of every American, and more so every elected official, to defend them when they make an honest though tragic mistake that results in collateral damage to innocents.  This collateral damage, after all, is part of the consideration in understanding that going to war should be our last resort in dealing with some great wrong. 

    So, if we collectively as a nation make that decision that war —— in spite of the certain collateral damage —— is both moral and necessary, then it is horribly immoral and hypocritical for us to then place the guilt for the collateral damage upon our military alone who serve, fight, and die in our behalf.

    After all, the virtually universal norm is that when U.S. troops arrive anywhere in the world, they are the arrival of freedom, and their decency and respect for human life is the greatest manifestation to the world of America's love.  We owe them certainly nothing less than our allegiance during the inevitable, unintentional calamities of war/  And rightly we owe them a great deal more for the blood, sweat, and tears that they sacrifice for our freedom and the freedom of others in the world.

    Don Crawford is host of The FLIPSIDE Talk Show on Rightalk Radio and earned a Cer'tificate from the International Institute of Human Rights at the University of Strasbourg, France.