Collateral Damage 

The "stress of combat" and other issues.

So, Haditha becomes another of the names at which we wince, along with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and My Lai. Tell you what: Let's not use the "stress of combat" excuse this time. According to neighbors, the girls in the family of Younis Khafif -- the one who kept pleading in English: "I am a friend. I am good." -- were 14, 10, 5, 3, and 1. What are they going to say? "Under stress of combat, we thought the baby was 2"?

"We have a Haditha every day," said Muhanned Jasim, an Iraqi merchant. "Were [those killed in Haditha] the first Iraqis to be killed for no reason?" asked Ghasan Jayih, a pharmacist. Well no, but we Americans don't count collateral damage unless we're forced to. We prefer to ignore collateral damage, especially if they're under 5.

Someone else with a greater taste for the ironies of technology will have to explain why this "Haditha" was uncovered in part by a soldier taking photos with his cell phone. Good work by Time magazine and Colonel Gregory Watt. Apologies are owed by any on the right to Representative John Murtha, who warned of Haditha early, though none of us is holding our breath. The attacks on Murtha's patriotism were despicable. When will that tactic wear out?

Meanwhile, back at the full-force fun festival known as Washington, D.C., here's a moment to cherish: Two weeks ago, Amir Taheri had an op-ed article in the Canadian National Post claiming the Iranians have a law requiring Jews to wear yellow badges. It turned out to be a complete fabrication and has been the subject of much contempt among bloggers. So Tuesday, Taheri was invited to the White House along with other "experts" to give the president their "honest opinions." With advice like that, our war in Iran will be a slam dunk.

Speaking of slam dunks, Bud Trillin of The Nation is on a tear about Bush's picks for the Medal of Freedom. First, he gave it to old "Slam Dunk" George Tenet himself, after pushing him out as head of the CIA. Then, Paul Bremer got the medal. Remember him? He's the guy who screwed up Iraq beyond recall in the first year.

We're lurching into the ludicrous. So we're thinking, who else belongs on this distinguished roster? "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown, of course. And what about the guy in charge of implementing the Social Security drug plan. Or how about Rumsfeld? By golly, there's a man who never made a mistake.

I think that lets out Tony Blair, who joined Bush in a mistake-admit-athon last week. (The prez is sorry he talked "too tough" to the terrorists.) Neither Bush nor Blair thought to name "the war in Iraq," for example, a mistake. But, as The Economist rather unkindly put it, their meeting was "The Axis of Feeble."

Ever hopeful that some good might yet be pulled from the rubble, the appointment of Henry Paulson as Treasury secretary raises hope among the never-say-die crowd. He's good on global warming -- how's that for a change? But the real irony is that the administration had to bring in someone who can "soothe Wall Street," which is said to be "nervous." This whole administration has been eager to favor and grant tax breaks to "Wall Street." How dare the ungrateful louses be "nervous"?

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