Do Iraqis care about shame more than death?
Was there a colossal misunderstanding of the Haditha incident? War Nerd Gary Brecher says so. While we here on stateside had a serious reaction to Haditha, Iraqis, he argues, care more about the humiliations of Abu Ghraib. In an earlier article, Brecher explained that we should expect hundreds of small massacres like Haditha, because that's the kind of war the USA is in: "You've got to realize how horrible this kind of war is, and that the horribleness is the whole point. If you really hated somebody, you'd wish on them a guerrilla war in their hometown. Guerrilla warfare is the real 'dirty bomb,' the low-tech answer to hi-tech invasion. It doesn't just occasionally involve killing civvies -- killing civvies is the whole durn point. Both sides have to torture, terrorize and kill as many locals as they can, and the sicker, crazier, more evil bastards will win."
Sure, we can blame the soldiers and commanding officers who undertook the killings in Haditha, but it's the war planners who are at deep fault, because that's the kind of war they put the troops in. In a very, very sick way, those American troops were just doing their jobs. Here's Brecher's take on Haditha (Note, don't mistake the familiar writing style and apparent Geneva Convention-free morality for sophomoric or nihilistic analysis. Brecher is making the case against Iraq on terms that I'm sure must appeal to a very nationalistic, "tough on defense" audience that lefty writers typically can't break into):
When [a story like Haditha] hits the press, every politician, every blogger, every ignorant pacifist dweeb or pig-ignorant redneck starts blogging, sending up chaff blind, the way Saddam's AA batteries just fired blind at the night sky over Baghdad in the first days of the war. The red-white-and-blog types want to hang anybody who mentions Haditha, whereas the Dems' mouthpiece, some old potato-face named John Murtha, is claiming this is going to hurt us more than Abu Ghraib.
It's one of those times when everybody's talking crap -- left and right, pro and con, roadrunner and coyote.
Let's start with Murtha. At first, his argument makes sense. After all, we weren't actually killing people at Abu Ghraib, just messing with them. To an American, especially an old guy like Murtha, death is the worst, scariest thing in the universe, so killing is worse than shaming people.
Except the Iraqis themselves don't see it that way. As soon as the massacre story broke the US press fanned out across the Green Zone trying to get reaction quotes from the Iraqis, and all they got was shrugs.