Saturday, October 13, 2007

Send Out the Marines...Out of Iraq

Dave Lindorff: The Few, The Proud (the Smart): Marines Figure it Out -- It's Time to Quit Iraq
Created 10/12/2007 - 3:41pm
Over the past year, Bush has pretty much lost his entire Coalition of the Unwilling, with the British, who have already pulled back from Basra into their fortified base, now intending to quit Iraq altogether early next year.

But before the Brits close the door behind them, someone else wants to leave too: the United States Marines, America's answer to ancient Greece's Spartan warriors.

According to a remarkable Wednesday article in The New York Times, the Marines have told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that they'd much prefer to leave Iraq and go take over the fighting in Afghanistan from the U.S. Army, which has some 26,000 troops over there -- just about the same number as the 25,000 Marines currently mired in Iraq.

Very convenient. And very telling.

The Marines have clearly looked at Iraq and have seen it for the horrific, bloody, hopeless mess that it is. And with recruitment a growing challenge, and their reputation in tatters thanks to the baby murders in Haditha, and the massive slaughter of thousands in Fallujah, they want to go somewhere, anywhere else, where they can at least claim they're acting under UN or NATO authority, where they won't be seen as occupiers, and where at least some of the people in the host country will like them.

Let the U.S. Army deal with President Bush's Iraq mess. You can't really blame the Marines.

I spoke with one Marine, a young man just back from a second tour of Iraq, who had been part of the assault on Fallujah in late 2004. "It was horrible," he said. "We went in there with no rules of engagement at all. It was just kill anything that moved. We were using hyperbaric explosives that, when you threw them into a house, sucked the life out of every living thing in the building. Then you'd walk in and find old men and little boys."

He said the assault on the 300,000-population city Fallujah (the largest single battle the Marines fought in the war) was itself a war crime -- a collective punishment of a whole city for the butchering by insurgents based here of four American mercenaries earlier that year. Collective punishment -- a tactic routinely used by the Nazis in World War II -- was banned by the Nuremberg Charter, signed by the U.S., but was a stated reason for the leveling of Fallujah.

The UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other laws aimed at making war less barbaric, mean nothing to this administration.

Such a war and such battle tactics are not what Marines, or what any decent human being, wants to be a part of. And yet, just looking at the death toll in Iraq -- over 1 million by one account, in a country of 24 million -- and a study by the Christian Science Monitor that showed the U.S. kill ratio, of enemy fighters to civilians to be 1:30, how can the Marines have avoided it?

Secretary Gates is trying to play down the Marines' proposal, but the very fact that it has been made should show how desperate the military in Iraq is becoming.

The war has ceased to be about anything now but saving Bush's and Cheney's twin asses. They want to engineer things -- and appear to be getting away with it thanks to the gutlessness and idiocy of the Democrats in Congress -- so they can leave office before they have to admit defeat and error and pull the troops out.

The Marines' leaders have obviously figured out what they are doing, and want to get out too before losing more men and women, and before they have to be part of the inevitable disgraced exodus that lies ahead.

It's not likely to happen though. Imagine what it would do to morale in the already crumbling U.S. Army if the soldiers in Iraq saw the Marines getting to leave. That would probably be the last straw for many.

Still, it's revealing to watch the Marines trying to join other Coalition forces in rushing the exits while they still can, even if it is just a jump out of the fire and into the frying pan of Afghanistan.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now in paperback. His work is available at


Post a Comment

<< Home