Friday, June 02, 2006

Fire the coach

When a team makes consistent mistakes, fails dramatically over and over, the owners start looking for a new coach.

Today's news brings further evidence that Don Rumsfeld needs to go. On top of the Haditha massacre, which now brings exhumations, two other attacks on civilians by American troops came to light.

First, troops fired on civilians in Kabul. A cargo truck got into a fatal accident, and to disperse the subsequent rioting, American soldiers fired at the crowd. There's a decent chance that the soldiers actually were being threatened by some people in the crowd, so this on its own probably isn't a big problem.

The trend is troublesome, since a video of a massacre in the town of Ishaqi also turned up yesterday. The events had first been reported in March, but the Pentagon denied any wrongdoing. The video matches other photographs from the scene and seems to contradict Pentagon denials.

Finally, we have Haditha. As I said, the investigators of that attack on civilians have decided to disinter some of the people killed to try to determine how American soldiers came to kill women and children. This too was reported last March, and again the Pentagon denied any wrongdoing. Further investigation within the military revealed that the soldiers were probably not firing at people who set and IED, but were exacting some sort of collective revenge against a town near where an IED went off.

The Iraqi prime minister wants his own staff to take over the investigation, telling the Times that the American-led forces "do not respect the Iraqi people; they crush them by vehicles and kill them by suspicion." That's a failure in a key goal of our actions in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and for such a failure, you don't blame the players, you blame the coach. These incidents come from the poor relationship between the military and the civilians and the instability that has followed after years of occupation, as well as the stress attendant upon an overstretched and understaffed military. Soldier don't bear the blame for those structural problems, though they certainly are responsible for their individual actions.

Don Rumsfeld and George Bush set the conditions these soldiers operate in, and this blood is on their hands.