Organized Inhumanity: Haditha & the U.S. Military Machine

6-11-06, 11:05am

The cause for the Haditha massacre of civilians by U.S. Marines on November 19, 2005 (one incident out of many that have occurred in Iraq) lies in the social psychology of the members of the US military machine, and the way they have been trained and re-socialized to conduct international warfare. It is not a lack of training but rather their training itself that caused the incident. In World War 2, deliberate targeting of non-combatant civilians was perfected by the U.S and its European Allies, and the US military has honored and respected that (barbaric) tradition in every war it has conducted since then. These incidents cannot be isolated by geographic location, or particular conflict, hence for causation we must look inside the structure of the military institution itself.

Such behavior by the U.S. military involves dehumanizing the enemy and anyone who resembles them and eliminating them as easy as one would a cockroach: a dehumanized 'thing' looks the same whether it is a six year old child, a woman, a grandfather or an insurgent, and as part of such dehumanization, more so with the American and European forces, race plays a crucial role in discrediting the opponent’s claims to humanity. We can empirically confirm this conclusion by analyzing the language U.S. soldiers have been using to describe Iraqis (similar to how the Vietnamese were dehumanized during the Vietnam War by them) even in their very public letters to family and friends. The racial nature of such dehumanization was recognized by Bonner F. Fellers, General MacArthur’s military secretary and chief of psychological warfare operations, who called the civilian bombings of Japanese cities by the Allies, “the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history” [internal memorandum dated June 17, 1945]. Regarding this ruthless killing of Japanese civilians, he stated: 'The war with Europe was both political and social; the war in the Pacific was racial.' (Quoted by John Dower, Embracing Defeat 1999:286). No 'invisible hand' was guiding these bombings, they were centrally planned and incorporated within the psyche of the institutions which has reproduced them ever since.

Blaming such atrocities on the nature of insurgent attacks as some in the media have alluded to, is inaccurate because they occur in the open battlefield as well, like what happened on the 'highway of death' in Gulf War 1, where the attacks were totally unprovoked. Civilian massacres by government (or in this case international invaders), cannot be blamed on insurgent tactics, they (the insurgents) have the invasion and occupation as their cause. Successful insurrections like the Cuban one are popular movements, they do not involve baiting government forces to deliberately target the public time and again- which would alienate those movements and take away their popular support.

The Iraqi resistance movement, though marred by sectarian violence, is largely a popular movement where the official government, shadowed by the occupiers has no legitimacy: A poll conducted for by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland (January, 2006) found that nearly half of Iraqis openly approved of attacks on US-led forces-including nine out of 10 Sunnis and a majority indicated that their lives would improve once the US left Iraq (

Further, better equipped, better trained, better resourced government forces (or in this case, the US invasion forces) could easily grasp this trend and guard against it, if that were the case. Neither can the cause be attributed to 'snapping' by over stressed U.S.soldiers. Those soldiers are well seasoned in seeing death, day and night. Rather, it lies in the way these soldiers are trained, re-socialized during training into being lethal killing machines that dehumanize anyone and anything resembling the enemy. If that were not the case, we would see many more desertions in this force and as a result a much more fluid structure less military institution, unlike the one that exists today. The U.S. military machine, regardless of the official platitudes has perfected the random, inhumane, impersonal killing of civilians on a large scale be it in numerous small scale massacres or large-scale bombings of civilian cities.

Muhammed Asadi can be reached at: