Our Marines killed more than a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians and then tried to cover it up.
Then they again killed two more women, one of them pregnant, and this time they could not cover it up as the witnesses spoke and the media published a report on the incident. Had people not spoken and had the media not reported, the alleged massacre committed by the Marines might still have been an act of heroism done to defend our interests against terrorists. Who knows how many such incidents have been covered up because there were no witnesses or no one spoke about them.
Can we draw a parallel between what the Marines did and what Osama bin Laden did to us here in America on September 11? Some might call such an idea outrageous. Some may even say that it is unpatriotic to think like this.
However, looking at the facts, there are strong parallels between what Osama bin Ladenâ€™s 19 men did on September and what the Marines did in Iraq.
In Osamaâ€™s words, he did what he did on September 11, 2001, to avenge injustices that he accused us of committing in the Middle East. He used religious idioms to justify it. For the Marines, they did what they to avenge the death of one of their own. They went on a rampage and justified their actions saying they had done their work in self defense.
The parallel does not stop there. Osama claims that he is waging a poilitico-religious war against the US. The Marines also argue that they are in Iraq to promote democracy and freedom.
Ironically, though the inspiration for each atrocity was similar, the reaction to each atrocity was different. Osamaâ€™s killings were considered part of a war of civilizations. The Marinesâ€™ massacre was described as an unfortunate event committed under stress. Osamaâ€™s killing was presented as part of a universal war against democracy and freedom, while the Marinesâ€™ killing was presented as an act of unjustified but understandable â€œheat of the momentâ€ excess. Osama was projected as a spokesperson of Islam, while the Marinesâ€™ were presented as individuals living the agony of war every day. Osamaâ€™s action resulted in demands (by some extremists) of changing Islam or removing passages from the Qur`an that he allegedly used to justify his action. While the Marinesâ€™ action resulted in demands to have more inquiry into the Marines. In the case of Osama, Islam was declared a villain. In the case of the Marines, personal stress was described as the main reason behind the act.
Interestingly, almost all of the Marines are said to be influenced by right wing evangelical church leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Grahm. For almost four years, many of our Marines have often heard attacks against Islam by Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, or Jerry Falwell.
Of course there are many in the Pentagon who also speak the language of these right-wing church leaders. Who does not remember Boykin for making anti-Muslim statements, and even by our previous Attorney General Ashcroft. Even President Bush called his war a â€œcrusade.â€ Obviously, in an atmosphere where hatred is preached from the pulpit and secular places, it is not unimaginable to think of such actions. But what lessons should we learn from these two incidents.
1. Groups cannot be held responsible for the action of a few individuals whether they happen to be Bin Laden or soldiers.
2. Groups might have individuals that promote violence and hatred, yet it is the individual who commits the act of violence.
3. Religion is not be blamed for either the attacks of Bin Laden or the massacres by Marines, even though those who committed these heinous crimes often pretended to be religious.
What was done by Osama was far bigger in scope and implication than what was done by the Marines. But there were similarities: both parties were unable to find a better mechanism to deal with perceived injustice. Both were responsible for senseless killing. Both killed innocents. Both killed others only on the basis of their being other (by religion or nationality) than themselves. Both parties killed mercilessly, and both were in a state of denial for sometime.
Osama kept people guessing about his action until he finally admitted that it was he who had selected 19 people to carry out the mission. The Marines remained silent about Haditha (and presumably many other atrocities) and tried to cover it up until their cover story was blown.
We should not be surprised if we later hear of other gruesome acts. After all, we learned of many of our atrocities in Vietnam only after the war was over.
But by then it will be too late, at least for the victims.