My Lai is the name of the place in South Vietnam where a massacre occurred — a massacre carried out by American troops. For many people, the entire war in Vietnam came down to those two words — My Lai — and one more word: massacre.
The same thing is about to happen in Iraq and the name this time is Haditha.
It was last November and according to the story that is now shaping up, Marines went on a rampage after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb. In the end, it appears they killed 24 people, including women and children.
The original story of the incident said the civilians were also killed by the roadside bomb that killed the Marine. That appears to be not true and the military is running a full-scale investigation.
If it turns out to be not true, then the crime is doubled: first the massacre, then the cover-up.
I'm against massacres of civilians — I think we all are. I'm against cover-ups — you probably are too.
But I'm also against taking an incident in which our troops overreact and commit an arguably criminal act and making it stand for the entire war.
The war in Iraq is not the story of massacres by Americans. If Iraqis know their own history they know this is true. Massacres have been committed in Iraq by warring parties for millennia piled on millennia. This is the part of the world that was in on the massacre game early, played it often and the last character to be up to his eyeballs in massacres was the very guy we went in to regime change: Saddam Hussein himself.
Those people who oppose the war and want to make those who supported it pay with shame, embarrassment and a complete loss of credibility and reputation, want desperately for this massacre — if it turns out to be what happened — to be the name this war is known by forever. Haditha — My Lai — Iraq — Vietnam: it all fits together neatly in a slime fest designed to win elections and set the direction of the history books.
The Iraq War may not be the best war we ever fought. When the dust settles we'll know for sure. But it accomplished a great goal that no one else had managed for the last 15 years at least: ridding the world of Saddam. No matter what the political spinners say, that was a great thing.
And the Iraq War should be known for that fact — Saddam is gone — not for one incident of alleged revenge killing in a place called Haditha.
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