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Atrocity of the Month

06.06.2006 07:43 | DISPATCHES

Does the title of this Dispatch offend? It's no more demeaning than those whose first impulse is to brush past grief for those Iraqis killed at Haditha and rush straight to commiseration with the third battalion marines who allegedly committed the massacre.

"When the enemy disguises itself as civilians, how can you expect our men to tell the difference?" assert some. Others point to the stress and battle fatigue under which the marines were operating. It's true that, back in Falluja, the third battalion lost 17 men in 10 days. When one of its marines (later exonerated) was filmed shooting a wounded, unarmed man as he lay on the ground, it was obviously a portent of atrocities to come, if not a cry for help.

Illustrating the battalion's morale and discipline problems, the wife of one of the battalion's sergeants said, "I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha."

While it's critical that we acknowledge that stress and battle fatigue were factors in order to decrease them, sympathy for the victims always trumps empathy for the perpetrators -- in spite of any contributing factors. To honor the victims and salvage some redeeming quality from the crime, we can't leapfrog ahead to explaining it away.

To facilitate healing on everybody's part, the focus must stay on the dead Iraqis for at least a five revolutions of the news cycle. Sad to say, awaiting the marines is a lifetime of post-traumatic stress syndrome, for which, the VA willing, they'll get their commiseration.


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