Now that we have reached the one place we most wanted to avoid, it will not do to focus blame narrowly on the Marine unit suspected of carrying out these killings and ignore the administration officials, from President Bush on down, who made the chances of this sort of disaster so much greater by deliberately blurring the rules governing the conduct of American soldiers in the field. The inquiry also needs to critically examine the behavior of top commanders responsible for ensuring lawful and professional conduct and of midlevel officers who apparently covered up the Haditha incident for months until journalists' inquiries forced a more honest review.
So far, nothing in President Bush's repeated statements on the issue offers any real assurance that the White House and the Pentagon will not once again try to protect the most senior military and political ranks from proper accountability. This is the pattern that this administration has repeatedly followed in the past — in the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, in the beating deaths of prisoners at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and in the serial abuses of justice and constitutional principle at Guantánamo Bay
These damage control operations have done a great job of shielding the reputations of top military commanders and high-ranking Pentagon officials. But it has been at the expense of things that are far more precious: America's international reputation and the honor of the United States military. The overwhelming majority of American troops in Iraq are dedicated military professionals, doing their best to behave correctly under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Their good name requires a serious inquiry, not another deflection of blame to the lowest-ranking troops on the scene...
...It should not surprise anyone that this war — launched on the basis of false intelligence analysis, managed by a Pentagon exempted from normal standards of command responsibility and still far from achieving minimally acceptable results — is increasingly unpopular with the American people. At the very least, the public is now entitled to straight answers on what went wrong at Haditha and who, besides those at the bottom of the chain of command, will be required to take responsibility for it.
The Bush Administration will most definitely protect officers and policies in this matter, there is no doubt about it.
But will the press allow them to? It is one thing for a pinhead like O'Reilly to slander American soldiers of the past to defend the Bush Administration today. As slimy as that is, from him, it is hardly surprising. It is another thing for "legitimate" journalists like John Roberts and Wolf Blitzer to cavalierly re-write it. These folks "enabled us" into this war, it sure looks like they are going to "enable us" to stay there.
The more they cover their asses in the Bush Administration and the Rumsfeld DOD, the worse it gets. The papering over of Abu Ghraib has led to a situation where the investigation and clearing of soldiers actions at Ishiqa is not believed by the the Iraqi population, let alone the government we've helped put in place. A conspiracy to diminish error or cruelty is only going to lessen whatever chances are left after three years of fuck ups to get out of Iraq with a chance it won't turn to shit (and that I think is unduly optimistic), it also increases the danger to the Americans left in that country (stuck) at the moment.
But it is, and always has been, about covering their asses.