After I criticized the American left’s shrillness, Gordo told me that some abuses are bad enough that they’re worth being shrill about. He was right: some atrocities are so disgusting they should be made public as vehemently as possible.
[Link] A US Marines unit frustrated by the hunt for insurgents east of Baghdad picked on an innocent man, bound his hands and feet, threw him into a roadside hole and shot him in the head at least 10 times, according to the testimony of a unit medic being court-martialled at his home base in California.
Petty Officer Melson Bacos, 21, received a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the town of Hamdaniya last April. In exchange for his testimony, however, that was reduced to no more than one year of actual time served. Seven members of the unit are awaiting their own courts martial in a case that crystallises much of the random violence of the Iraq occupation.
Bacos described how his unit was hunting for a suspected insurgent who had eluded them three times. When a house they were searching turned out to be empty, he said, they decided to seize one of the neighbours and pretend they had caught him planting a roadside bomb.
Occasionally, in order to argue in a language most Americans will accept, I forget the reasons I’m anti-American and argue from a pro-American realist perspective. Events like this remind me why there is no moral basis for pro-Americanism nowadays. Before you tell me that it’s good that these people are court-martialed, remember that generally, discovering one military atrocity is like finding one cockroach.
But even here, there’s a purely realist angle. Ineffective anti-terrorism policies lead to more terrorist attacks for obvious reasons, and also to more atrocities as frustrated soldiers vent their anger at civilians. When the Peruvian military couldn’t catch members of Shining Path, it harassed civilians; when the US military can’t find insurgents, it harasses innocent Iraqis.
If the foiled August 10th plot in Britain demonstrates a clear success for the police approach to terrorism, this murder represents a clear failure of the military approach.