can only be described as a further collapse of the claims that Marines carried
out a massacre at Haditha, the company commander of the Marines involved in the
firefight has had charges against him dropped. These charges centered around an
alleged failure to follow up on the reports of the firefight in which civilians
and insurgents were killed. In essence, an attempted media offensive by
insurgents has not only fallen apart, it holds the potential to discredit those
in the anti-war movement who latched on to those claims.
Like the Battle of Jenin in
2002, Haditha was a firefight where civilians were caught between terrorists
and troops engaging them. The goal was, if defeated in the actual battle, to
make the public relations aftermath so messy that the public would demand
retribution against the United States. The attempt to make Jenin such a case
backfired when investigations showed that more terrorists than civilians died.
Haditha was a little different for two reasons: One, more civilians than
terrorists died, and two, the terrorists got lucky because some discrepancies
(arguably due to the fog of war) were seized upon by the media.
That said, upon a closer review,
the claims of a massacre (and a cover-up) have gone nowhere. If anything, the
only thing that has been determined was a mishandled aftermath that left enough
room for the phony claims to require an investigation. But in pushing the
investigation, and trying to use it to advance an anti-war agenda, some
politicians and the terrorists were banking on at least a court-martial. With
the dismissals, that is not likely to happen, and at least one politician who
has echoed claims of a massacre was recently confronted over that in a video
that is making the rounds among the blogosphere.
Still, the terrorists have not
emerged empty-handed. The claims of the massacre were trumpeted, and that will
aid recruiting for a while. At least one foreign press outlet still refers to
Haditha as a massacre, which will still lessen the sting of the dismissals. As
such, a larger talent pool for future attacks is likely.
However, the U.S. military
will be learning its lessons from this media battle. Lessons learned will be passed
along, down to the smallest units. That will make it much harder for future
phony claims of massacres to stick. In essence, one can really only try to
exploit an incident like this once - and the fact that this media offensive is
failing will make it harder to use it in the future. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)