Letters

In fog of war, atrocities are both understandable and inexcusable

Regarding Daniel Schorr's June 2 Opinion column, "Haditha: A new cloud in the fog of war": Mr. Schorr compares the alleged "massacre" in Haditha to My Lai. But I would call the alleged massacre by US Marines of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last November a "crime of passion."

After suffering the loss of 20 marines last August in Haditha and nearby Parwana, the killing of Marine Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas was probably the last straw for his comrades and is what led to the ensuing deaths of Iraqis.

That does not excuse an alleged massacre, but it certainly explains it. Add to the deaths of their comrades, the soldiers' repeated tours of duty, combat fatigue, and the "fog of war" with an enemy who is often embedded with civilians, and there is a volatile mix that can lead to murder.

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Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, has said that, "Out of those 150,000 [multinational] soldiers, I'd dare say that 99.9 percent of them are doing the right thing."

If guilty, the marines deserve to be punished accordingly, but we must also take into account perhaps only slightly mitigating circumstances of massive deaths of their comrades and the messiness of a grueling and only escalating insurgency.
Ona Bunce
Bethesda, Md.

In response to the June 2 article, "War atrocities: awareness grows, tolerance drops": From my experience during the Vietnam War and from working with vets and other war survivors since then, the extremities of war terrorize everyone. And humans react, as the article describes. We can easily commit atrocities or violent acts ourselves when we feel that survival of our squad or our family is at stake. Ask any combat veteran or any mother.

And the responsibility for atrocities is shared. It is not just the people on the ground who are responsible for atrocities. It is the people who are higher up in the chain of command who set the military culture and who seem to believe in torture and break the rules, who are responsible, too. The best way to avoid these incidents is to get our troops out of Iraq. They've done their job. Get them home before the next atrocity.
Lee Thorn
San Francisco

Regarding the June 1 article, "Can the military effectively investigate itself?": I served four and a half years in the Army in World War II. We were educated in the Articles of War. We knew it was a crime to harm civilians or to shoot an enemy who had surrendered. Since then, we have learned about atrocities committed by German, Russian, Chinese, and other troops - including our own US troops at My Lai.

How can anyone today plead ignorance of what war crimes are? If troops were not trained in what constitutes a war crime, then that was a command failure.
George Sicular
Palm Desert, Calif.

Drilling for oil in US only makes sense

Regarding Philip Gold's May 30 Opinion piece, "Consider responsible drilling on US soil": I think Mr. Gold has found an intelligent way of doing what a lot of people think should and could be done in this country.

Taking away Congress members' risk of being voted out of office by having an independent group present worthwhile areas of the US to drill in, and then giving Congress a simple "all or nothing" vote, makes good sense to me.
John Preston
Center, Texas

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