A Failure of Leadership

"In Haditha, families of those killed keep an ear cocked to a foreign station, Radio Monte Carlo, waiting for any news of a trial of the Marines.

"They are waiting for the sentence — although they are convinced that the sentence will be like one for someone who killed a dog in the United States," said Waleed Mohammed, a lawyer preparing a file for Iraqi courts and the United Nations, if the U.S. trial disappoints. "Because Iraqis have become like dogs in the eyes of Americans.”"  Knickmeyer for the Washpost


I have written that we should wait for the outcome of ongoing investigations before judging what happened in Haditha in the Euphrates River Valley.  I continue to think that.

Nevertheless, this story in the Post should remind us all that individuals in the armed forces must be held accountable for their actions under military law.  If that is not done, then the institution becomes liable and culpable for what its members did OR FAILED TO DO.

It is probable that whatever happened in Haditha occurred because a junior leader failed in his responsibility.  It is also probable that more senior leaders failed in their responsibility to take appropriate action after the fact.  Three officers of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment have been relieved of command pending further action.  It may well be that responsibility after the fact runs much higher up the chain of command than that.  All should be held to account for their actions or inaction whether these failures were before or after the fact.

To fail to do so would be to betray the US Marine Corps and the armed forces of the United States in general.

Pat Lang


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19 Responses to A Failure of Leadership

  1. Chris Bray says:

    Much to the credit of the Marine Corps that those three battalion officers were relieved pending completion of the investigation, however. The recent norm seems to be that accountability is distributed only at the lowest levels, and the marines are sending a very different message. Good for them.
    The same could be said for the Marine Corps commandant getting on a plane to Iraq to talk directly to marines about respect for innocent life.
    This is an impressive organization that confronts a very serious allegation. They appear to be confronting it with honor.

  2. John Howley says:

    Unfortunately, Chris, the Marine commandant is not empowered to place the onus where it belongs — on the Commander in Chief (Bush, not Cheney). It is Bush’s strategic errors that have resulted in three years of occupation in Iraq. History shows that whenever aggressive combat troops are used to police a hostile civilian population , tragedy is the inevitable result. It is a tribute to the discipline of our soldiers that there have not been more such atrocities in Iraq. The longer we stay there, the more there will be.
    (This is the point Murtha is trying to make.)
    Good soldiers cannot make up for the mistakes of bad leaders. The responsibility for the tragedy in Haditha belongs, in the first place, with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

  3. Patrick Henry says:

    I Respect your Cautionary and non Judgemental Poisition Until We Know All the FACTS and Circumstances..
    Just because this has Already Turned into a Propoganda Event With Blaring Headlines..Suffficient to INFLAME the Muslim World and Public Opinion..
    We can already see how People Are REACTING “EmotionallY”..to what they are being TOLOD…You and i know there are many Factors Involved in this type of Event..
    And You are Right…This go’s all the Way to the TOP…That includes the Commander In Chief…and Don Rumsfled…Who have Put Our Troops Repeatedly in this this Bad Situation in the First place..
    A Situation that SHOULD NOT EXIST.. and a Situation that I Troops SHOULD NOT Have to Be enduring..
    I watched a documkentary on TV a few days ago…Featuring MARINE~ Squads going into a Hot Zone..in a Convoy of tracked Vehicles…It showed them up Close and Live..Interacting with each other…smiling..laughing…just being a bunch of nice guys..Typical Good American Kids..Good enough to want to wear the Uniform…and Serve thier Nation..in thier Quarters and in a Safe Zone..before the operation..
    It showed them preparing for…and Debarking on the Mission..Easch Squad in itys Tracked vehiclwe..
    It showed them going Into the Hot Zone..
    It showed One Tracked Vehicle Completely Deastoryed in a Massive Explosion..of Flasming HELL..
    It showed the rest of the TEAM looking back…getting out and going back to the Carnage..
    Finding Only bits and Pieces of thier Buddys blown all over the place…and Hoping they could find a Name Tag or something…so Thwey would know who was Killed..
    it one Marine who said said his Reaction after thast was to want to get on a Roof TOP…Find a TARGET…and KILL IT..
    A Normal reaction..To WAR..
    The Documentary also showed the EMOTIONAL Tool on these Marines…LONG AFTER that Incidient happened..
    Yes Pat..
    Others are MORE Responsible for the Dilemma going on in Iraq..
    When there is World Rage…UN Rage..at what the real Terrorists…and whatMass Murderers in Iraq are doing..THYE~ REAL ATROCITY..
    Then..perhaps they can Judge Our Marines…Our Troopers..
    I am sorry they are There..
    in Repeasted DEPLOYMENTS..
    Must be Emotionally Draining..
    Terrible Abuse of Our MILITARY..
    I am sorry they are put in these circumstances..
    in the First place..
    I am sorry if they have become anything like the ENEMY..Must be Hard..
    WAR does that to people..
    Thats why as far as the Integrity of the United States…it had Better be a JUSTIFIABLE WAR…
    MR. PRESIDENT…George W.(War Hawk) Bush..

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Nevertheless, individual responsibility and command responsibility must be upheld as principles or the already ugly business of war would degenerate even farther.
    Do we want the marines to feel that they can do whatever they please to whomever they please?
    If you want that, you should think it over. Soldiers don’t much like civilians in general. pl

  5. Patrict Henry says:

    Yes SIR..
    Thats what has always made US Americans Different from Our Enemys..
    You are RIGHT..On ALL points..
    There must be DISCLIPLINE..
    And…the Military MUST set the Example..
    Because the CIVILIAN POLITICIANS…Dont..
    One of those previously mentioned MARINES…suffering Deep emotional TRAUMA…was interview at His Home afterWards..
    Fly fishing with a Buddy…a Fellow Marine..
    He said that all he wants are Marines…Combat Vets around him…
    To Talk too..
    Because in His Opinion..
    They are the ONLY Ones..
    Who really Understand..
    I believe that just as Many Factors are Taken into Account…and Used As DEFENSE…in “CIVIAL” trials..
    Including Temporary Insanity..Emotional stress etc..
    That these Troopers get some GOOD Legal representation..
    and a FAIR TRIAL..
    Under the “Circumstances..”
    I know ..that as a Combat vet who has “Been there and DONE That.” That you know what I mean…Col.Lang..
    You asked Us NOt to pre-Judge the Situation..
    If There are “EXTRODIONARY’ Circumstances..Involved..
    Let any Disclipine..
    Let any Punishment..
    Be Appropiate..and JUDICIOUS..
    Fair and Balanced..

  6. Patrick Henry says:

    WE All Know WHY..Curious..
    and I Understand the Point you are Trying to Make..and the Feelings and Emotions behind them..
    Sure..We can and must Use Use Disclipline in the Haditha situation..
    But…while we Prosecute The Case…Those Responsible for DISORDERLY CONDUCT..BAD CONDUCT..
    for thier ACTIONS..
    I Thnk this Is also an opportunity to Posecute the WAR…andf ALL those responsible for MAKING it Happen..
    We ALL know what they DID…and WHY..
    BAD CONDUCT..Terrible Errors in Judgement…The same Errors in Judgement that can be Applied to those reasponsible in this Case..
    Because MANY Lifes Have Been Lost..Military and civilian..as a Result in those ORDERS..
    We Had a Legitimate WAR to Persue in IRAQ..
    A “Justifiable War”
    We Had an Identifiable ENEMY..to Hunt and KILL..
    or Capture..Real Combat Situation..
    We are Here..The Enemy is There..
    We Knew where He was..unlike our enemys and the suicidal killers in the Iraq WAR..
    How do you FIGHT…IEDS..?
    An INVISIBLE Enemy..
    Assassins…Thiefs in the Night..??
    And see your Buddys Slaughtered by an UNSEEN Enemy every day..
    Must be HELL..
    So..Why sent our TROOPS to HELL…??

  7. Patrick Henry says:

    Make That ..”we had a Legitimate war to Pursue…In..
    There is Nothing Legitimate about the War in Iraq..

  8. Patrick Henry says:

    That Marine Combat Situation I referred to is coming on TV Again..in 10 Minutes on the A&E Channel..
    Its Called…”Combat Diary..
    The Marines of Lima Company..”

  9. Larry Mitchell says:

    Writers sorting out the history of US involvement in Vietnam give the USMC pretty good marks in the area of pacification and working with the locals. Army Special Forces is similarly remembered.
    I have read some pretty encouraging articles about this type of military involvement in Iraq as well, but nothing very recent. This Wash Post article by Nir Rosen makes it sound like US forces may have a reduced presence on the streets: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/26/AR2006052601578.html
    This makes me wonder whether the GIs are becoming unsure of their overall mission and their tour is becoming little more that a frustrating battle for survival (not that that element is not there to some extent under the best of conditions). Anyone have any insight as to what the reality is?

  10. Curious says:

    This is how one player sees our action. (eg. it is a failure of leadership)
    that chimp is destroying the nation in a stride. He doesn’t comprehend the totality of small events in the world caused by his frat boy world view.
    The problem is that the US economy has become dependent on Chinese trade imports and on Chinese holdings of US Treasury securities. China today is the largest holder of dollar reserves in the form of US Treasury paper worth an estimated US$825 billion. Were Beijing to decide to exit the US bond market, even in part, it would cause a dollar free-fall and collapse of the $7 trillion US real-estate market, a wave of US bank failures, and huge unemployment. It’s a real option, even if unlikely at the moment.
    Hu, though, didn’t waste time or tears over the Bush affront. He immediately went to Saudi Arabia for a three-day state visit where he signed trade, defense and security agreements. This is no small slap in the face to Washington by the traditionally “loyal” Saudi royal house.
    Hu signed a deal for Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) of Saudi Arabia to build a $5.2 billion oil refinery and petrochemical project in northeastern China. At the beginning of this year, Saudi King Abdullah was in Beijing for a full state visit.

  11. Curious says:

    So colonel, what is your take on this news? This in light of strela popping up in Iraq?
    “Today the SCO, which has to date been blacked out almost entirely in US mainstream media, is defining a new political counterweight to US hegemony and its “unipolar” world. At the next SCO meeting on June 15, Iran will be invited to become a full SCO member. ”
    Obviously after June 15, Iran and RC/CN are formally in same strategic sphere. So Bolton can do all his song and dance about unified western civilization, but nobody else cares. Since there are two veto powers holding up everything about Iran.
    And China and Russia haven’t even began supplying armor piercing weapons to Iraq. Once that sort of equipments enter Iraq, games over. Superbase or no superbase, there is no way we gonna be able to move in Iraq without heavy pain, let alone “winning”. whatever that is.
    Game is over. Bush lost the diplomatic front. That Cheney “little tantrum” speech has thrown Russia squarely into the other side. That was one of the biggest diplomatic blunder EVER in modern history. Cheney thinks Russia is some sort of bigger Nigeria or Tajikistan, instead of a guy who can produce armor piercing weaponries on the cheap or flood the planet with manpad at the price of expensive dinner.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    massive fubar. will take a generation to re-build relationships and keep things from running completely off the rails. Big temptation somewhen in the future to “solve” things with bombs. pl

  13. Karen Kwiatkovski pointed out a good point about the state of affairs with the US media: CNN and the WashPost and the whole ‘liberal media’ have been reporting, with big fanfare, the story of Haditha.
    Which happened to be old news. Knight Ridder reported on it om May 15 already. It needed a Murtha to come out and point to the story to report on it. Without him they would probably have waited on before touching the subject.

  14. PL,
    I have long thought, that as US options on Iran are so limited, the only one left in their quiver is bombing them. They can’t threaten embargo, because they embargo them for 25 years now. So instead, they try to persuades other to join, with quite limited success.
    Atm, the US can offer Iran nothing but not to bomb them. Which is exactly what they do when they say: ‘all options are on the table’.
    Iran will in face of this, prudently, insist on security guarantees. Security guarantees, however, can come only from the United States, and Iran knows it. This is why the U.S. has to be part of any serious negotiations. The Europeans simply can’t address security issues without the US.
    And indeed, the stubborn isolation and the insistence of the US to refuse direct talks is threatening to kill negotiations, and their failure will only make the ‘bomb option’ more attractive to the hardliners. The only way to escape this is trying to re-gain options by talking with Iran, but the hardliners will fervently oppose that.
    I think a serious dialogue on the cultural and religious level as proposed by Ahmedinejad in his letter would be most fascinating. Pretty much along the line of Ijtihad as you pointed out in March.

  15. Paul says:

    The incidents in Haditha and that of Abu Ghraib highlight more than just failures in leadership. The acts themselves are deplorable but what is more so, is/was the lack of any significant investigation until the media showed interest.
    These incidents highlight some of the problems resulting from the 86 Defense Reorganization Act – Goldwater – Nichols. The COCOMs have the authority to prosecute the war – their mantra has always been for the services to provide the bodies and leave the COCOM to fight the war. But….the COCOMs have failed in their oversight role. Congress and DoD need to reexamine how oversight is conducted given the current rules and roles.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    And that is not a failure in leadership? pl

  17. Paul says:

    I agree without a doubt that this is a failure in leadership. But I think that the COCOMs have shirked their responsiblity and consistently put the onus on the services through inaction. Not that the services are or should be immune, training is a critical compenent.

  18. Curious says:

    Failure of leadership of the day. Instead of chosing, “mister fix it” with good experiance on international currency exchange, Bush pick a Nixon stooge as next treasury
    The market reacted violently, DOW down almost 2%.
    The point? Bush will continue to eff the nation. He doesn’t get it. That everything is tied together at certain inflection point, once there are enough eff up in the system.
    All the big money and people on the know are preparing for a collosal Bush eff up that will finally brings down the entire system. (Dollar collapse) All statistic are pointing that way fast.

  19. Carol Murphy says:

    Wrong. USMC is a snobby ego club of narcissists who see “civilians” as lesser life forms. There is no honor in this. They are also incompetent boobs that drive around in wheeled trucks without armor and cannot leave roads where bombs are waiting for them. When their egos are bruised they retaliate on those who can’t fight back. The USMC brass were offered last year brand new tracks with multiple armor layers from Congressman Duncan Hunter and they refused because it would hurt their ego image as infantry on foot that don’t need any help. Now they are dying in droves and can’t secure Anbar province while massacre hungry and we are supposed to feel sorry for them?
    We need to disband the USMC ego club of peer approval seeking narcissists before they are ordered to turn on American civilians and prove their manhood.

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