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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Dealing with Haditha

    Heartsick - but confident - describes my demeanor right now.

    I have started to post threads on the Haditha incident several times over the past week, but refrained – it was too damned hard and emotionally disturbing.

    Denial? MSM hype and sensationalism? Political posturing? Waiting for the true story to play out? Enemy IO campaign? Heat of battle? Justified reaction to an IED attack? Murderous rampage by those who just lost a brother-in-arms? My Lai II?

    I do not have an answer. Nor does anyone else – especially those of the “if it bleeds it leads” mainstream media community. Same, same for those who seek to benefit from this incident for political or bash-America gain. There is a process for uncovering the truth and to bring those suspected of guilt to justice. It is called the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

    We are one of the few countries willing to conduct an unbiased investigation when alleged crimes committed by a military member are surfaced and pursue that investigation publicly. Moreover, our history in these matters speaks for itself – justice is served when justice is deserved. These investigations take time, as they should. Trying and convicting in the court of public opinion is ludicrous at best, treasonous at worst.

    As a former Marine and advocate of all the good the Marine Corps does in the training, education and planning for Small Wars this is tough, real tough.

    Q: If the parties in question be found guilty should their actions be interpreted as a reflection of the values, fortitude and professionalism of the US Marine Corps as an institution?

    A: HELL NO…

    Q: If the parties in question be found guilty should their actions be interpreted as a reflection of our country’s policy in prosecuting the war in Iraq – or elsewhere?

    A. HELL NO…

    Q: If the parties in question be found innocent should a public retraction by those who have prematurely convicted those parties be issued?

    A. HELL YES…

    Had to get that off my chest… This thread will contain “news”, editorials, commentary and blog coverage of the Haditha incident.

    I encourage our board members to chime in… We have to work this through and your opinions would be appreciated – even if they do not agree with mine.

    I leave you with some words by the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and best wishes as we reflect on the important issues this Memorial Day weekend and what those that came before us fought and sacrificed for…

    Recent serious allegations concerning actions of Marines in combat have caused me concern. They should cause you to be concerned as well. To ensure we continue to live up to General Lejeune’s description of a Marine as someone who demonstrates “all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue,” I would like to review the importance of our core values.

    As Marines, you are taught from your earliest days in the Corps about our core values of honor, courage and commitment. These values are part of and belong to all Marines, regardless of MOS, grade, or gender. They guide us in all that we do; whether in combat, in garrison, or on leave or liberty.

    To a Marine, honor is more than just honesty; it means having uncompromising personal integrity and being accountable for all actions. To most Marines, the most difficult part of courage is not the raw physical courage that we have seen so often on today’s battlefield. It is rather the moral courage to do the “right thing” in the face of danger or pressure from other Marines. Finally, commitment is that focus on caring for one another and upholding the great ideals of our Corps and Country.

    The nature of this war with its ruthless enemies, and its complex and dangerous battlefield will continue to challenge us in the commitment to our core values. We must be strong and help one another to measure up. The war will also test our commitment to our belief in the rule of law.

    We have all been educated in the Law of Armed Conflict. We continue to reinforce that training, even when deployed to combat zones. We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force. We use lethal force only when justified, proportional and, most importantly, lawful. We follow the laws and regulations, Geneva Convention and Rules of Engagement. This is the American way of war. We must regulate force and violence, we only damage property that must be damaged, and we protect the non-combatants we find on the battlefield.

    When engaged in combat, particularly in the kind of counterinsurgency operations we’re involved in now, we have to be doubly on guard. Many of our Marines have been involved in life or death combat or have witnessed the loss of their fellow Marines, and the effects of these events can be numbing. There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves. Leaders of all grades need to reinforce continually that Marines care for one another and do what is right.

    The large majority of Marines today perform magnificently on and off the battlefield. I am very proud of the bravery, dedication, honor, courage and commitment you clearly display every day. And America is proud as well. Americans, indeed most people around the world, recognize that Marines are men and women of the highest caliber – physically, mentally, and morally.

    Each one of you contributes in your own unique way to our important mission; I am proud of your dedication and accomplishments. Even after 38 years, I still stand with pride every time I hear the Marines Hymn. The words of that Hymn mean something special to me. Especially, “Keep our Honor Clean”. I know that means something to all of you as well. As Marines we have an obligation to past Marines, fellow Marines, future Marines and ourselves to do our very best to live up to these words.

    As your Commandant, I charge all Marines to carry on our proud legacy by demonstrating our values in everything you do – on duty and off; in combat or in garrison.

    Semper Fidelis.
    Last edited by SWJED; 05-28-2006 at 04:45 PM.

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    Default What Happened in Haditha?

    On the Hugh Hewitt Blog - What Happened in Haditha? by Mary Katharine Ham.

    Something very bad happened in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005. One Marine and 24 Iraqis died in the wake of a roadside bombing, which hit a Marine convoy. Fifteen of the 24 casualties were civilians, some women and children. Was it the fog of war? Were the civilians "collateral damage?" Or was it a deliberate massacre?

    We don't know. The investigation is ongoing and no Marine has yet been charged.

    But you'd have trouble discerning that from reading press coverage of the incident....

    The Haditha story picked up pace this week as Pentagon sources close to the investigation started leaking word that there may be murder charges in the case. The Marine Commandant's trip to Iraq has also piqued interest.

    The Post has been unable to get anyone from the Pentagon on the record on the investigation, using mostly anonymous sources. The one man they did get on the record on Friday was retired Brig. Gen. David H. Brahms, a long-time lawyer with the Marine Corps who has experience with these types of cases. His quote is in the third paragraph. See if you can guess why the prominent first-quote placement:

    "When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm," said retired Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, formerly a top lawyer for the Marine Corps. "It will be worse than Abu Ghraib -- nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."
    I have a feeling someone was lying in wait for an Abu Ghraib reference. I read the quote and was taken aback because I spoke to the same Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms about the case this week, and his sentiments were very different from those presented in the Post. Which explains why he sent me this statement yesterday:

    "Recent reporting on the events in Haditha, Iraq have included significant factual errors and/or misleading statements. This includes a quote attributed to me in the Washington Post this morning that was taken completely out of context and its meaning distorted. Many facts that are favorable to the Marines involved have not yet been disclosed."
    When Brahms and I spoke, he made it clear that his concern is that the Marine Corps do a thorough investigation and punish severely those who did wrong, if in fact it is found that they did. He feels confident that will happen. His other concern is that the Marines involved get a fair trial in a highly politicized environment:

    "The worst thing that can happen in a case of this kind is to have it politicized...that's exactly what has happened here. They're leaking a story which is yet unwritten."

    "It's not normal to have a Member of Congress to decide to have hearings, at least while this whole business is in flux."

    "I think there has been (a rush to judgement)...This has got to impact the fairness of the procedure."

    "We'll get more precise information. Let's kind of step back, let's try to realize that there's another side of this story...People accused may be guys like my son and your brothers."

    "The problem is, of course, that everybody's got a political agenda...in the middle are a group of American Marines."
    Those quotes are all taken from a phone interview I did with Brahms this week...

    It is Memorial Day Weekend. Our men in uniform certainly deserve the presumption of innocence and a little patience from us, no matter our positions on the war.

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    Default Other Blog Coverage...

    Incident at Haditha - Michelle Malkin Blog

    Abu Ghraib Squared - Little Green Footballs Blog

    Military Officials: Haditha Might be Another My Lai - Hot Air Blog

    Indefensible Acts - Confederate Yankee Blog

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    Default Haditha

    This is not writen to excuse what is alleged to have happened at Haditha, but to explain in part how the enemy bears some responsiblity. It is not because they exploded a booby trap and killed a Marine that they bear some of the responsibility. That is part of war and it is never an excuse for killing non combatants. However, the enemy in Iraq has consistently camoflaged himself as a civilian and this has endangered all civilians in Iraq, when our forces are trying to respond to his attacks. The media has consistently avoided this violation of the rules of war and of the Geneva Convention. It appears that some Marines are going to be charged with using this enemy violation of the rules of war to engage in their own violations of the rules of war.

    I will be shocked if anyone in the chain of command above the squad level approved of such actions, but if they did the military justice system will deal with them. It looks like the action was that of one fire team of four men according to the LA Times reporting I have seen. It is hard to imagine that the other members of the squad did not know what, if anything, was happening, though.

    We will never excuse this type of violation, nor should we continue to excuse the enemy's blatant violations that had a part in precipitating the action.
    Last edited by Merv Benson; 05-28-2006 at 04:19 PM.

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    Default things not often what they seem

    I too have held off on commenting on this situation, but among the folks here, I feel it is important to add something. I've spoken with two Marines who have provided a considerable amount of insight. One is a close friend of one of the relieved company commanders and has talked with him directly, and the other is an officer who was in the AO at the time and has some hands-on with the situation.

    It is an extremely complex one, compounded by things said and done by people pretty far removed from that day's events. We are going to have to wait this one out and see what the final results of the investigation are. From what I am hearing, speculation can't come close to what actually transpired.

    BTW, I also think the Honorable Mr. Murtha was out of his lane. Just my $.02.

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    Default Murtha...

    28 May Voice of America - US Lawmaker: Killing of Iraqi Civilians a Cover

    A prominent U.S. Congressman says the reported killings of innocent Iraqi civilians by American Marines in Haditha last November was covered up.

    Speaking on ABC television This Week, John Murtha - a Democrat from Pennsylvania - said the incident could undermine U.S. war efforts in Iraq.

    Earlier this month, Murtha said military sources told him a Pentagon probe of the incident in Haditha indicates the Marines barged into homes near where they were responding to a roadside bombing and killed the Iraqis.

    The Marine Corps had originally claimed the bomb and an ensuring firefight had killed one Marine and the Iraqis.

    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Warner, said he would hold hearings on the incident, but he said it is important not to reach conclusions until the U.S. military completes its investigation.

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    Default Marines in Iraq: The Warriors' Way

    6 June Los Angeles Times commentary Marines in Iraq: The Warriors' Way by David Danelo.

    ... As the furor grows over allegations that Marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians last November — including women and children — the origins of Howell's discipline are worth examining.

    The Corps is the smallest of the United States' military services, and it also has the highest enlisted-to-officer ratio (about 10 to 1). Because of this, a much higher level of responsibility is placed on corporals and sergeants, or noncommissioned officers. In each Marine infantry battalion, which is the primary combat element, an average of 60 noncommissioned officers lead squads or a unit of similar size. As squad leaders, they assume responsibility for the lives — and split-second decisions — of about a dozen men.

    Marines are legendary for their monastic devotion to the warrior ideal. The mottos inked on their bodies — Death Before Dishonor, Make Peace or Die, Always Faithful — function as physical scriptures for their choice of religion, like scapulars, phylacteries or "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets. The ancient Spartans, who sacrificed at the battle of Thermopylae to defend the Greeks from the Persian onslaught, are venerated as saints within the Corps. The Spartan Way is a stoic faith.

    Since the fall of 2001, 26 active duty and nine Marine Reserve infantry battalions have rotated into and out of Afghanistan and Iraq as units for seven-month tours of duty. As new recruits join a battalion, seasoned noncommissioned officers either gain rank toward senior billets or leave the Corps for civilian life. Although the exact numbers remain classified information, unit casualty reports suggest that about 50 separate rotations of Marine infantry battalions have been tested in combat over the last four years.

    Using those statistics as a bare minimum, at least 3,000 corporals and sergeants have served combat tours as infantry squad leaders. Not to mention hundreds more who cut their teeth as combat replacements, convoy security escorts, translators, intelligence collectors or instructors for the new Iraqi army. When the histories are written, we will learn that the exact number of young Marines thrust into positions of leadership — amid an international media spotlight — is actually much higher.

    Several Marines have already been convicted in the court of public opinion in the Haditha case. As military investigators evaluate these allegations, those on the sidelines should avoid castigation of an entire system because of the errors of a few. Consider the rush to judgment of 2nd Lt. Ilario G. Pantano, who was charged with murder at an April 2004 checkpoint shooting, or the nameless Marine in a Fallouja mosque who was seen on video killing an insurgent thought to have been booby-trapped. Both were eventually exonerated of all charges...

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    Default

    Sadly, I think a great deal of this plays into the mainstream media's almost total ignorance of both the military and the realities of war, especially "unconventional" war like that we face in Iraq. The same pundits who have rushed to judgement regarding these Marines (who, it goes without saying, should be punished if found guilty) remain oddly silent when insurgents set off bombs in market squares and mosques.

    One of the oddities of the United States, at least when compared to other nations, is our almost obsession with beating ourselves up in our own media. There seems to be a fixation with tarring ourselves with the worst possible motives while somehow finding good in our most twisted opponents. This of course makes us very susceptible to propaganda campaigns and misinformation (No Gun Ri and Tailwind ring any bells?).

    If this incident happened in the way that it is currently being reported, then the individuals who are guilty should be punished, as should any superiors who might have covered up the incident. But to echo another comment, if this incident proves to be another No Gun Ri-style event, then those who have been beating the drums and getting the ropes ready should be punished for their rush to judgement. Even Saddam is getting his day in court. Why should we allow our Marines anything less?

    (steps down from the soapbox and returns to lurking)

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    Default You have every right Steve.....

    The MSM seems almost giddy at the prospect of this alleged incident being substantiated. Hell, they've already substantiated it.

    US troops commit "atrocities" "war crimes" and "massacres"
    while the terrorists commit "executions" and "killings"

    Its disgraceful.
    Don't taze me bro!

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    Default Washington Post on Haditha Investigation

    8 July Washington Post - Military Confirms Pre-deployment Training Failures by Tom Ricks.

    The U.S. military officer overseeing the investigation into 24 civilian killings in Haditha, Iraq, has concluded that Marine leadership failed multiple times, including their pre-deployment training, the tone set by commanders, and how information was reported up the chain of command, a Defense official said.

    Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 officer in Iraq, found that commanders and staff at the regimental and division level were negligent in how they conveyed orders about how to deal with Iraqi civilians and also in how they responded to conflicting reports they received from units about the Haditha incident, the official said.

    Most of Chiarelli's "Findings and Recommendations" endorse the conclusions of an investigation led by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, the official said. But Chiarelli long has been concerned that the U.S. military was inadequately prepared to conduct an effective counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. He also included thoughts about how to better prepare troops and commanders, the official added.

    "You've got to prepare for the fight you're in today," said a second Defense official, summarizing Chiarelli's findings on the military's inadequate training for counterinsurgency operations. "It's totally different" than fighting in Iraq two or three years ago, he noted.

    The Army, for example, tends in its training to emphasize using heavy firepower against the enemy, while classic counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that soldiers should use the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish the mission.

    Also, the Army early in Iraq tended to focus on killing or capturing insurgents, while counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that the best way to deal with an insurgent is to persuade him to change sides or to desert. Also, in contrast to a spate of cases of the abuse of detainees, counterinsurgency theorists recommend treating captured fighters well, to encourage them to desert and to persuade others to give themselves up. Above all, the people are seen as the prize in the war, not as its playing field.

    When stacked up, Bargewell's exhaustive investigation stands more than four feet high. His report won't be released, but later this week, Chiarelli is expected to release a redacted version of his 30-page report. On Friday, Chiarelli gave his report to Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, but Casey isn't expected to ask for major changes, the official said...

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    Default Haditha Dismissal of Charge (merged thread)

    Haditha Dismissal of Charge - LCpl Justin Sharratt, USMC. Signed by LtGen James Mattis, USMC.

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    Dont you just love lack of accountability. And watch, America will forget it even happened in a couple of weeks as a hot new scandal from hollywood pops up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBird View Post
    Dont you just love lack of accountability. And watch, America will forget it even happened in a couple of weeks as a hot new scandal from hollywood pops up.
    I don't think this qualifies as a lack of accountability. Several issues have thrown the case in doubt, although I think it is still very likely that Sgt. Frank Wuterich and some of the squad in question will not see their charges dismissed. There was the UAV video (just declassified) of insurgents leaving the scene right at the time the shooting started, and continued questioning of witness statement discrepencies.

    My response to those who want to hang these guys from the nearest tree and those who don't want them tried for anything is the same. Wait and see; have faith in the military justice system. A general is not just going to dismiss charges if the charge is legitimate, especially not in a case as major as this with a general like Mattis.

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    You gotta admit that letter is a work of art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    I don't think this qualifies as a lack of accountability. Several issues have thrown the case in doubt, although I think it is still very likely that Sgt. Frank Wuterich and some of the squad in question will not see their charges dismissed. There was the UAV video (just declassified) of insurgents leaving the scene right at the time the shooting started, and continued questioning of witness statement discrepencies.

    My response to those who want to hang these guys from the nearest tree and those who don't want them tried for anything is the same. Wait and see; have faith in the military justice system. A general is not just going to dismiss charges if the charge is legitimate, especially not in a case as major as this with a general like Mattis.

    Matt
    Hi,

    First, just to be clear, I am not one of those "who want to hang these guys from the nearest tree" but one who would like to see UNIVERSAL rules on crimes, war crimes, murder on every single individual... Being treated same, equal, it's basic human right and pillar of democracy. Right? Or I miss that class in school!?

    Anyways, "wait and see" policy is great also when you apply that on everyone and not when one side do something wrong you go and accuse and punish them right away but when other side do that (one close to your heart) rules are completely different. Or some time there is not even "wait and see". Crimes are ignored and push under the carpet. They are bunch of jihadi towel heads anyways, right?

    I know, I will get the heat soon I post this but for me murder is murder. Simple.

    Like ACLU said, there are many crimes committed by U.S. Soldiers against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan that "detail a troubling pattern of troops failing to understand and follow the rules that govern interrogations and deadly actions." Troops and their officers being let go, not punished for murders or rapes putting bad stain on all US military and what they trying to do and for what they stand for. And that is bad and wrong message to everyone else.

    But, that's just my humble (non-american) opinion.
    Last edited by Sarajevo071; 09-06-2007 at 06:18 AM.

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    MattC86, I think the defense argument regarding the UAV footage is not that insurgents were "leaving the scene" but rather that the Marines were engaged in several firefights that day and CAS was used to destroy several houses without positive ID of all people within the house --- and thus Marines clearing houses without positively ID'ing their targets was within the ROE.

    The video appears to show that, throughout that day, Marines engaged in fierce firefights and called in air strikes to level buildings -- often with no definitive idea of who was inside.

    That could buttress defense arguments that Marines clearing buildings on the ground with guns and grenades were just following rules of engagement.

    "The defense can say, 'Hey, look, you had to do this later in the day, what's the difference between what happened later in the day and what our guys did earlier in the day?' " asked retired Marine Lt. Col. Gary Solis, a former prosecutor and military judge who teaches law at Georgetown University and West Point.
    The UAV footage has always been there and is in fact detailed in the Harpers writeup of the incident by William Langiewiesche, where he makes much the same point.

    ... The men in the car on the palm-grove trail were in no particular hurry. They stopped beside other cars on the trail, presumably to coordinate future attacks. Eventually they came to River Road, not far south of Route Chestnut, where they parked the car and entered two houses. McConnell called the houses "safe houses," perhaps because the men calmly entered them. There was little doubt that all seven men were insurgents, but it was impossible to tell who else was in the houses, and specifically whether families were sheltering inside. Force-protection standards precluded the possibility of checking, and since the rules of engagement sanctioned collateral casualties with the enemy so near, a flight of Cobra helicopters arrived and fired two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, one into each house, to soften things up. Kilo Company Marines then rushed forward to clear the rooms as required. The first house was empty, but as they approached the second one they were greeted by small-arms fire and grenades. The Marines pulled back—way back—and called in an AV-8B Harrier jet to drop a guided 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway bomb. The bomb crashed into the house with impressive precision, but did not explode.

    At this point the drone saw two MAMs leave through the back door and run into a little palm-grove patch to hide. The Marines brought the Harrier around to pink-mist these guys with a second 500-pound bomb—this one guided into the patch—but it, too, turned out to be a dud. Undaunted, the troops switched weapons and hit the patch with a $180,000 air-launched AGM-65 Maverick missile. The strike resulted in one E.K.I.A. The surviving MAM egressed the patch and ingressed the house again. It was ridiculous. The Harrier came back around and dropped a third 500-pound bomb directly through the roof, blowing the whole house and everyone in it to bloody shreds.

    This was McConnell's reality as Haditha settled down for the night. He gave a talk at Sparta Base, in which for once he did not overstretch. He said: Men, we've had a tough day, it's sad about Terrazas, but everyone functioned pretty well, so good job and keep at it. He did not mention—and apparently did not much think about—all the noncombatants who had died. Look, this was Iraq. The clearing operations on Route Chestnut did not stand out as being significantly different from the other main act of the day, the use of missiles and bombs against a house that may well have contained a family. God knows there were enough body parts now scattered through the ruins. Killing face-to-face with an M16 allows you at least some chance to desist from slaughtering women and children, which is not true once a bomb is called down on a house ...

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    Default See...

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBird View Post
    Dont you just love lack of accountability. And watch, America will forget it even happened in a couple of weeks as a hot new scandal from hollywood pops up.
    ... my post here before you continue at SWC.

    I am not sure if your e-mail to The Partisan (aka Syrian Sister) will get through as she was banned.
    Last edited by SWJED; 09-06-2007 at 03:44 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBird View Post
    Dont you just love lack of accountability. And watch, America will forget it even happened in a couple of weeks as a hot new scandal from hollywood pops up.
    This is not un-biased forum and opinions like yours, and true and honest criticism (even when supported with news or official reports) have no merit when US military is on line... Sooner you get that longer you will stay. But, judging by some reactions on your first post, you are in cross lines already.

    Good luck.

  19. #19
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    Default No, not un-biased. Not parochial, either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarajevo071 View Post
    This is not un-biased forum and opinions like yours, and true and honest criticism (even when supported with news or official reports) have no merit when US military is on line... Sooner you get that longer you will stay. But, judging by some reactions on your first post, you are in cross lines already.

    Good luck.
    Un-biased -- unfortunately not, though we try. I know Sarajevo071 has the scars from bearing with us. Thanks.

    We are a bit better at accepting opinions and true and honest criticism when they are supported with news, references, or at least a little thoughtful individual analysis. We aren't much good at critical drive-bys with no substance, even less so when they're a first post.

    There's no reason why we shouldn't be equally intolerant of pro-US drive-bys of the same ilk. I guess that's the bias coming through. We do tend to ignore those rather than pounce on them, but they are no more valued or desired. Oh well. Like I said, we're not perfect.

    Feel free to dissent wildly, in thoughtful and substantive posts. We need to accept that. And if/when you do, I hope you will find me, SWJED, and all the moderators fully on your side. We must get there.

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    There is an extensive discussion of Haditha, ROE, and related matters in this thread: Dealing With Haditha

    Newer members please read through this before jumping in, unaware, into the current discussion.

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