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The Death of a Tradition


From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.

That’s the first verse of the Marine Hymn and they believe it. “Once a Marine, always a Marine” is a reality. There are no Marine facilities in Florida, but the Marines’ special license plate has been purchased at a rate one and half times greater than all other services combined.

If the stories about Haditha are true, those involved have murdered two dozen civilians and the honor of the Corps. Marines will forgive another Marine for almost anything, but not that. You may hear some politicians speak up who have never questioned this operation before, and you will find that they were Marines.

Those Marines should not be in Iraq. They are driving around in amphibious vehicles in a desert. They are trained to assault objectives, take them, and then turn the objectives over to the Army. They are not trained to occupy countries or as peace keepers.

Rumsfeld thinks that military personnel are fungible, that there is no difference between units. There are Naval reservists training to guard convoys. The Vermont Air National Guard has already served in that capacity. It doesn’t work and it gets people killed. The current mission in Iraq is for civil affairs units, but the military doesn’t have enough of them to be effective.

When you use units like the Marines, the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Airborne, and other assault forces for occupation, atrocities like Haditha are going to happen.

“And to keep our honor clean” will never be sung in the same way again.


1 andante { 05.31.06 at 9:16 pm }

Not only are these troops being used inappropriately, they are sending already stressed-out men back into stressful situations.

Resignation is too good for Rumsfeld.

2 Bryan { 05.31.06 at 11:08 pm }

This sounds like a squad which probably had a young NCO, which is not good. They didn’t belong there, and Corps has been damaged forever.

The fact that the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a Marine is extra pressure on the Corps.

Rumsfeld should be impeached.

3 Scorpio { 06.01.06 at 12:23 am }

Marines are some of my favorite people, and yes, they are angry about this. Heck, the military folks I know were angry about Abu Ghraib. Resigning is too good for Rumsfeld. He belongs at The Hague.

4 Bryan { 06.01.06 at 1:00 am }

The old men sacrifice the young. You have to wonder how many deaths Rumsfeld will have to be responsible for before something is done.

5 Steve Bates { 06.01.06 at 1:25 am }

There are no Marines in my family, but my father’s brother was in the 101st Airborne in W.W. II. After the war, when he and my father both visited my grandmother, my father would not sleep in the same room with his brother, who frequently sleep-walked his worst combat nightmares, and was quite capable of killing with his bare hands. Training people in that kind of close combat, and sending them into it, may have helped win that war, but it came at a price. Uncle W. was unsuitable for occupying or guarding anything… he was a killer. It was his role; it was his duty… and it changed him forever.

I’ve known a few Marines; they’re a close-knit bunch, very dedicated to each other and to the Corps. I can imagine how they feel about this: it must be like finding out you are related to a murderer. I have not known any Iraqi civilians (except for one woman who was driven out of Iraq by death threats because of her religion), but I can imagine, too, how most Iraqis must feel about this heinous act. Whatever the driving forces, this incident is tragic beyond words, for victims and perpetrators alike.

6 Karen { 06.01.06 at 8:13 am }

This also why Murtha was so distressed and spoke out. I saw the most disingenuous interview by Paul Zahn (She’s such a Hack) of Murtha on this issue.

She began the interview (and I’m paraphrasing here) by asserting in an agressively antagonisitc way that it was Murtha who was *accusing* these Marines of murder…not as though he was reporting the facts that murders had taken and that these were the facts and potential charges as was reported to him by his sources in the Corps.

It was an amazing interview skewing of the issues and she did everything to phrase her questions in an undermining fashion. (Wish I knew how to find the video…and if I have time to locate the transcript…I’ll post it.)

7 Karen { 06.01.06 at 8:18 am }

Oh.. Here it is…but you also had to see it and hear her tone of voice and her demeanor in asking and phrasing these questions:

ZAHN: You are accusing Marines of committing murder against innocent civilians in cold blood, even before the investigation is over. What’s your evidence?

MURTHA: Well, Paula, the highest level of the Marine Corps came to me — first, I started hearing stories in the Marine Corps.

Then, March — in March, “TIME” magazine came out with a story which became confused, and I think confused on purpose. This happened six months ago. Two days later, they knew exactly what happened. They know that there was no hostile fire. They know that — that the IED killed a Marine. And they know that they overreacted. So, the investigation…

ZAHN: Is there proof of that, sir?

MURTHA: Paula, you want to listen to what I’m saying?

ZAHN: Absolutely.

MURTHA: I’m telling you that that is what the Marine — commandant of the Marine Corps told me.

Now, you just wait and you will hear the — there’s nothing I have said so far that hasn’t turned out to be true. I said, there were 24 people killed. I said this a month ago — exactly the number who have been killed.

I said there are women and children been killed, babies been killed. That’s what happened. And there was no hostile fire. So, you are going to find out exactly — everything I’m saying is true. The cover-up is just as despicable and worries me just as much. They tried to cover this up.

And six months is way too long. General Pace says he found out about this in February. This should have been over since February. They still tied to — to do nothing about it. This has — we have to find out what happened. We have to find out when the higher level knew about it and why they tried to — to cover this thing up. And they will have hearings in the Senate and the House, I’m sure, to find out the details of — of why the cover-up.

ZAHN: In spite of what you’re saying, sir, what do you make of the report in “The Washington Post” that says investigators have seized radio traffic messages between Marines in the field and a command center showing, in fact, that they did take small-arms fire after the initial roadside bomb went off? If that is true, weren’t those Marines entitled to defend themselves?

MURTHA: Well, I wouldn’t say they’re entitled to defend themselves when a taxi pulls up and they kill everybody in the taxi, when they go inside the homes and they kill women and children.

We have a responsibility in this country to defend American principles. We’re lowering ourselves to the standards of the terrorists who are acting against us. We have a responsibility to — to follow the rules of engagement.

That means, if you’re not threatened, you don’t just kill innocent civilians. And this is what happened here. This is a tragic thing about this whole episode, the fact that not only did it happen. You keep asking questions like this. You will find out everything that I have said turns out to be true.

Radio traffic doesn’t mean anything, unless you know. Just because they say something’s happening on the radio doesn’t mean that’s what’s happening on the radio.

ZAHN: So, you discount that — you discount that completely?


MURTHA: I’m — I’m saying that the highest level in the Marine Corps came to me and told me exactly what they felt had happened. And they’re over there today.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, who is not in the chain of command, is over there talking to the troops and telling them they have to guard against this kind of action against noncombatant.

One — one Marine carried a little baby who had been shot in the head out of there in his arms and put it in a body bag. Why am I incensed about this? I’m not sure the investigation would have gone on if I hadn’t said something, and I hadn’t pressed them.

This thing should never have dwelled this long. It should have been over a long time ago. It’s a tragic event. It breaks my heart to think this happened. But you can’t hide it. You can’t cover it up.

ZAHN: How high do you think this cover-up goes?

MURTHA: Well, that’s what worries me, Paula.

I don’t have any idea. I know they made payments to the families. They don’t make those payments to the families unless we kill people in the process of doing the fighting.

ZAHN: Finally, tonight, Congressman Murtha, many of your critics would say that you are making these allegations in advance of the investigation being over, in advance of anybody being charged, because you’re politically motivated by your opposition to this war.

MURTHA: Paula, you will see that everything that I’m saying turns out to be true. I’m the messenger.

I’m not the guy that committed the crime. The crime is what we should be focusing on, not these — these allegations. You folks pick up all these stuff from these people that say you shouldn’t do it before the investigation. That’s just — six months ago, this happened, Paula. Six months ago, this thing should have been — should have been done in a month or so. The investigation should be completed. It should have been open, transparent.

We should have known what the outcome was and exactly what happened. If I hadn’t spoken out, Paula, this would not have happened.

ZAHN: Congressman Murtha, thank you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

8 Karen { 06.01.06 at 8:23 am }

Murtha tells her that woman, children and babies have been shot and killed and this DINK has the temerity to phrase this reply…
ZAHN: In spite of what you’re saying, sir, what do you make of the report in “The Washington Post” that says investigators have seized radio traffic messages between Marines in the field and a command center showing, in fact, that they did take small-arms fire after the initial roadside bomb went off? If that is true, weren’t those Marines entitled to defend themselves?

….AS IF defending oneself includes shooting babies and children as *defense*.

What was equally despicable was Paula Zahn’s performance in this interview!

9 Bryan { 06.01.06 at 11:37 am }

Steve, my last semester at Colgate prior to enlisting my roommate was a Green Beret just back from Vietnam. He arrived on campus 48 hours after leaving SEA. Being a military brat kept me alive and uninjured.

He adjusted slowly over the semester, but he could at least talk to me as someone who had a clue about the military and come down for a soft landing.

This is a training issue. There needs to be an out-processing procedure that takes the “edge” off before these guys return to society. That’s when they should be dealing with the PTSD and scheduling the VA follow-up. It needs to be routine to remove the stigma.

10 Bryan { 06.01.06 at 11:54 am }

Karen, Paula Zahn is doing what her corporate masters what: paper over any problems so the Right can’t claim bias. The “news corpses” don’t want anything that disturbs the consumers, and the truth does that.

She may not understand but Murtha is probably as upset by the fact that the truth was buried by the Defense Department, as he was by what those Marines did.

No one can pretend there wasn’t an atrocity:

Officers have been removed from command and survivors have been paid for the deaths. That doesn’t happen normally.

Members of Congress who are former Marines have been briefed, Murtha wasn’t the only one. That doesn’t happen normally.

The Marines as an institution are upset and they want people to know it. I wouldn’t suggest Ms Zahn plan on attending Marine functions any time soon, because she won’t be welcome. The Marines are looking for the truth so they can start the process of healing.

11 Steve Bates { 06.02.06 at 2:16 am }

Bryan, let me clarify one thing: my uncle was a good and decent man, before and after the war, and to the best of my knowledge he never killed anyone other than a designated wartime enemy. But my father, no shrinking violet himself, was afraid of him, and I believe even Uncle W. understood why. PTSD had not yet been identified as a distinct condition in those days, and Uncle W’s retransition to society was a rough one. But he ended his days honorably, married to a woman who we all believe saved his sanity, serving admirably in the role of parent to her sons.

I am glad you survived your college roommate; the situation sounds fairly similar to the one my father and uncle experienced.

As to Paula Zahn’s interview of Murtha: it was legitimate to ask Murtha about his sources, and goodness knows his answer shows that he was getting good information. It was not legitimate to imply that he was trying to do damage to the Marine Corps as a matter of petty politics. Paula Zahn can kiss my (two Nixonian expletives deleted).

12 Bryan { 06.02.06 at 3:14 pm }

Steve, the damage can be undone but it has to be recognized and dealt with. When troops were moved by ship, there was time on board to decompress and to talk things out among people you trusted.

Cops involved in shooting are automatically put on administrative duties for a while, which allows for an investigation and allows them to decompress.

After a crash you are grounded for a while. Again, to allow time for adjustment.

Debriefing after a bad mission can start the process and tip leaders off to problems. When the people doing the debriefing are subjected to the same stresses as those being debriefed, the nuances and warning signs are missed.

Officers and NCOs are having trouble dealing with the pressures, and there are going to be more incidents.