Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Extra: What Impact Will Zarqawi's Death Have On the Iraq Insurgency?

With Iraq's No. 1 Terrorist Now Gone, Insurgency Could Begin to Wane -- But Likely Not Before a Wave of Revenge Attacks by Zarqawi's Followers

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News

LONDON -- The death late Wednesday of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is obviously a major success for the new Iraqi government and for the United States. But it remains to be seen if this marks the beginning of the end of the deadly insurgency.

If it significantly weakens the al-Qaida structure in Iraq, it could open the way for easier contacts between the government and other insurgents, who are Iraqi nationalists more than radical Islamists seeking to set up an Islamic theocracy not only in Iraq but across the region.

It might also lead to a lessening of intra-Muslim tensions between Sunnis and Shias, whom Zarqawi targeted.

The new government -- Iraq's first constitutionally-elected one -- will have to seize this opportunity if it is not to suffer the fate of its predecessor post-Saddam administrations, which came to office with hope and left with disappointment.

However, the death of one man does not necessarily bring a breakthrough.

Will Zarqawi's Followers Explode in Revenge Attacks?

One recalls the euphoria after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003. President Bush declared then: "A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq."

His closest ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, echoed his words: "Let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people of Iraq."

It did not happen, as we have seen.

And even after Zarqawi's death, neither the al-Qaida elements nor the Iraqi nationalists will give up. Indeed, Zarqawi's removal might well bring about an explosion of revenge attacks by his followers.

And getting the nationalists into talks and into politics is going to be a long, drawn-out affair, since they have their price to exact in the form of demands for an early U.S. withdrawal.

The current Iraqi government and its security forces are not strong enough to stand alone.

One Hopeful Sign: A Lessening of Sunni-Shia Tensions

If there is one sign of hope, though, it is that just before he was killed, the Jordanian-born Zarqawi was calling for conflict between Iraq's minority Sunnis, of whom he was one, and the country's majority Shias, whom he despised.

In a recent audio tape, in which the speaker is said to be Zarqawi, the Shias are attacked as collaborators and any attempt at Sunni-Shia reconciliation is rejected. The speaker calls on Iraqis to "wake up, pay attention and prepare to confront the poisons of the Shia snakes.

"Forget about those advocating the end of sectarianism and calling for national unity," he adds.

With Zarqawi's removal, there might be more chance of reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias.

Conflict between them has led to many deaths recently. Some say that a civil war has already started, though others not. Whatever it is called, many are dying.

Zarqawi had for long been an enemy of the Shias.

A Vow to Osama bin Laden to Launch a Four-Pronged Jihad in Iraq

In June 2004, a letter believed to be from Zarqawi sent to al_Qaida leader to Osama Bin Laden warned of difficult times, but expressed a determination to attack four targets: the U.S. forces; the Kurds (even though they are mostly Sunnis); the Iraqi police, army and their agents; and the Shias.

It described the Iraqi police and army as "the eyes of the occupiers, the ears with which they hear, and the hand with which they strike."

The holy warriors -- the muhejedeen -- were determined to target them before the occupation takes hold, the Zarqawi letter vowed.

In fact, they've had considerable success.

How much that has been due personally to Zarqawi is impossible to assess. It's likely though that he's had a considerable impact in terms of leadership, tactics and inspiration.

Not All Jihadists Cared for Zarqawi's Extreme Muslim-on-Muslim Violence

But he was not a one-man band. There has in fact been some discussion about how central a role Zarqawi had been playing of late.

[CNN quoted intelligence sources Friday as saying that U.S. forces may have been tipped off by an al-Qaida in Iraq insider. And there have been numerous unconfirmed reports that Osama bin Laden himself may have grown sour on Zarqawi because of his bloody anti-Shia attacks.

[Speculation is rife that bin Laden was viewing Zarqawi as a rival -- possibly even a threat -- to his leadership of the global al-Qaida terror network.

[Richard Falkenrath, a former adviser to Bush who is now a security analyst for CNN, said the Zarqawi operation may help U.S. intelligence agents get insurgents to turn on one another.
Captured insurgents, tricked into thinking "they've been ratted out," Falkenrath said, "reveal more information that can lead to further captures."

[It's the kind of tactic FBI agents "would use against the Mafia," Falkenrath said. "They try to get them from within."]

Earlier this year, a new central body called the Muhejedeen Council was formed to try to unify parts of the insurgency, but Zarqawi's name was not mentioned.

If Zarqawi was being by-passed, that indicates perhaps that other elements were growing stronger and are therefore not going to be affected by his absence.

# # #

Volume I, Number 30
Guest Commentary Copyright 2006, British Broadcasting Corporation.

"The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

# # #


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Thursday, June 08, 2006


Head of al-Qaida in Iraq Killed in U.S. Air Raid

(Updated 7:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, June 8, 2006)

BBC News

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced.

"We have eliminated Zarqawi," al-Maliki said at a Baghdad news conference Thursday morning, sparking sustained applause. The U.S. said he was killed in an air raid near Baquba, north of the Iraqi capital.

The Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was considered the figurehead of the Sunni insurgency. Al-Qaida in Iraq has been blamed for hundreds of bombings that have killed thousands of Shiite Muslims and U.S. forces.

Analysts warned that his death did not mean the insurgency in Iraq would subside -- and that there might even be an explosion of revenge attacks by his followers. Indeed, violence continued on Thursday as 13 people were killed and 28 injured in a bomb on a Baghdad market, police said.

The head of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, General George Casey, said Zarqawi was killed Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. Baghdad Time (10:15 a.m. EDT) in an air strike against an "isolated safe house... approximately eight kilometers [five miles] north of Baquba."

"Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike," he said, followed shortly afterwards by coalition forces.

Zarqawi was said to have been in a meeting with associates at the time. Several other people were reported to have been killed in the raid.

Casey said Zarqawi's body was identified through fingerprints, facial recognition and known scars. He promised to give more details on the raid later on Thursday.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Zarqawi's death marked "a great success for Iraq and the global war on terror... Zarqawi was the godfather of sectarian killing and terror in Iraq."

But he cautioned that it would not end violence in the country.

Zarqawi has been accused of leading the rash of kidnappings and beheadings of foreign workers.

It has been suggested that he appeared personally on one video posted on the Internet, cutting off the head of an American hostage.

Mistakes by Zarqawi May Have Led to His Downfall

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was not a global mastermind like his mentor, al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, says the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner. Instead, he was a bloodthirsty and violent thug, who made enemies and several mistakes that might have contributed to his downfall.

These included featuring in a video that appeared earlier this year, and ordering a triple suicide bombing against hotels in Amman, Jordan, last November, that killed 60 people, our correspondent says.

A Jordanian official told The Associated Press that Jordanian agents had contributed to the operation against Zarqawi, and had analysed the video in which he appeared to pinpoint where it was filmed.

The Iraqi prime mnister did not mention Jordan, but said intelligence from Iraqis had helped track down Zarqawi, who had a £13 million ($25 million U.S.) price on his head -- the same bounty as that offered by the U.S. for Bin Laden.

"What happened today is a result of co-operation for which we have been asking from our masses and the citizens of our country," he said.

Al-Miliki urged Iraqis to join political dialogue rather than violence, vowing to "carry on on the same path... by killing all the terrorists."

Shortly after the announcement of Zarqawi's death, the Iraqi parliament approved al-Maliki's nominees for the key government posts of defense and interior ministers. The two crucial roles had remained unfilled despite the formation of a coalition government.

Volume I, Number 29
Copyright 2006, British Broadcasting Corporation.
"The 'Skeeter Bites Report" Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, June 05, 2006

History Repeating: 'Vietnam in the Desert' Now Has Own Version of My Lai Massacre

Comparisons of U.S. Marine Rampage at Haditha With 1968 Atrocity in Vietnam are Inevitable, But What Happened at My Lai Was Much Worse

* * *

Those who cannot learn from the past
are condemned to repeat it.

-- George Santayana

They say the next big thing is here,
They say The Revolution's near.
But to me it just seems quite clear
That it's all just a little bit
history repeating.
-- Shirley Bassey

* * *

By Skeeter Sanders

It's been over two months since President Bush, in an extraordinary White House news conference, all but acknowledged publicly what many Americans had been saying privately: That the Iraq War was morphing into a desert version of the Vietnam War (See my March 26 blog, "Iraq: Vietnam in the Desert").

The president admitted to reporters on March 21 that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq for years beyond the end of his tenure as commander-in-chief in 2009 and that it would be up to his successor to determine when they'll come home.

It was an uncomfortable moment for Bush, in sharp contrast to his triumphant mood on May 1, 2003, when, standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he boldly declared under a “Mission Accomplished” banner that “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended” following the forced removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship the previous month.

But the U.S. military deployment in Iraq has continued in the more than three years since then, despite Hussein's ouster from power and his subesequent capture, because of an ongoing and increasingly bloody guerrilla insurgency that neither the Bush administration nor the Pentagon had anticipated.

Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam Continue to Mount

In recent weeks, the insurgency has taken on a magintude reminiscent of the infamous Tet Offensive by the communist North Vietnamese army and its Viet Cong guerrilla allies in 1968 that proved to be a turning point in the Vietnam War.

But now, in the most incredible example yet that history is indeed repeating itself, it appears that the Iraq War has produced its own version, nearly four decades later, of the one incident of the Vietnam War that, more than any other, brought disgrace and dishonor to our country and to our armed forces: The infamous My Lai massacre.

As this week's edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report was being prepared, at least three investigations into what happened last November in the western Iraqi town of Haditha -- two by the U.S., the third by the Iraqi government -- were under way.

But no matter what the ultimate outcome of those probes, it's now all but impossible -- especially for Americans of the Baby Boomer generation who were most affected by the Vietnam War -- to avoid making comparisons between Haditha and My Lai.

>Yet although such comparisons are indeed inevitable, a thorough re-examination of the My Lai massacre -- the darkest chapter in U.S. military history since the Civil War -- makes it clear that the 1968 atrocity in Vietnam was much worse than anything uncovered so far in Haditha.

A Shooting Rampage After Deadly Bomb Blast Under Humvee

On the morning of November 19 last year, according to Time magazine -- which first broke the story in its March 27 edition -- a Marine convoy of four Humvees were on a routine patrol in a residential area of Haditha when a white taxicab with four young Iraqi men aboard approached the convoy from the opposite direction.

The Marines, members of the Ramadi-based Kilo Company, made hand-and-arm signals for the taxi to stop. But as the taxi halted near the first Humvee, a remote-controlled roadside bomb exploded underneath the fourth Humvee, killing its driver, Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas.

Two other Marines were injured in the blast, the force of which shattered windows up to 150 yards away, the magazine reported.

Suspecting that the four men aboard the taxi had either set off the bomb or were acting as spotters, the Marines ordered the men and the driver, who by then had stepped out of the taxi, to lie face-down on the ground. Instead, the men started to run away. The Marines then aimed their machine guns at the fleeing men and fired, killing them instantly.

An official communique issued the following day from the Marine base in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other.

But as the days and weeks following the communique, details of what actually happened in Haditha that fateful November morning would turn out to be far more shocking than what was initially reported. It turned out that the only shots in Haditha were fired by the Marines and that the 15 Iraqis killed that day -- including seven women and three children -- were actually shot to death inside their homes in the Marines' fusillades of indiscriminate gunfire.

Pentagon investigators' reconstruction of events, combined with the accounts of Haditha residents interviewed by Time -- including six townspeople who lost relatives in the shootings -- paint a picture of a devastatingly violent response by a group of U.S. Marines who "snapped" after losing one of their own to the roadside bomb and who believed they were under attack by insurgents.

A Nine-Year-Old Girl's Chilling Account of Mass Killing of Her Family

Time quoted nine-year-old Eman Waleed, who lived in a house 150 yards from the blast site, as saying that after the explosion, "We did what we always do when there's an explosion: My father went into his room with the Qu'ran and prayed that the family will be spared any harm."

Speaking through an interpreter, the girl said the rest of her family -- her mother, grandfather, grandmother, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles -- gathered in the living room immediately following the blast.

According to military officials familiar with the investigation, the Marines said they came under fire from the direction of the Waleed home immediately after the bomb detonated. A group of Marines then headed toward the house. Eman said she heard "a lot of shooting, so none of us went outside."

When the Marines burst into the Waleed home, Eman said, they were shouting in English. "First, they went into my father's room, where he was reading the Qu'ran," she claims, "and we heard shots." According to Eman, the Marines then returned to the living room.

"I Watched Them Shoot My Grandparents"

"I couldn't see their faces very well -- only their guns sticking into the doorway," Eman toldTime. "I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my [grandmother]."

The girl told the magazine the troops then started shooting toward the corner of the room where she and her eight-year-old brother, Abdul Rahman, were hiding; the other adults immediately threw themselves over the children to shield them from the hail of bullets, dying in the process.

Eman said her leg was hit by a piece of shrapnel in the barrage and Abdul Rahman was shot near his shoulder. "We were lying there, bleeding, and it hurt so much," she said.

Shortly afterward, several Iraqi soldiers arrived. "They carried us in their arms," Eman told Time. "I was crying, shouting 'Why did you do this to our family?' And one Iraqi soldier told me, 'We didn't do it. The Americans did.'"

Americans Stunned by Video Footage of Blood-Splattered Aftermath

The horrific magnitude of the killings was driven home to Americans via their TV screens last Monday -- Memorial Day -- with the broadcast of graphic video footage of what Haditha residents and human-rights activists said was the blood-splattered aftermath of the Marines' assault.

After Time presented U.S. military officials in Baghdad with Haditha residents' accounts of the Marines' actions, the Pentagon opened its own investigation in January, interviewing 28 people, including the members of Kilo Company, the families of the victims and local doctors.

The magazine, citing unnamed military officials, reported the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the initial Marine communique, the 15 civilians killed on November 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents.

Following Time's publication of its story, the investigation was turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which is conducting a criminal probe to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians.

Separate Pentagon Probe Unearths Evidence of Cover-Up

The Washington Post, citing a high-ranking U.S. Army official, reported Wednesday that a separate Pentagon investigation of how Marine commanders handled the reporting of events in Haditha will conclude that some officers gave false information to their superiors, who then failed to adequately scrutinize reports that should have caught their attention.

Headed by Army Major General Eldon Bargewell, the Pentagon probe is expected to call for changes in how U.S. troops are trained for duty in Iraq, The Post quoted the unidentified Army official as saying.

The investigation is likely to result in murder charges against several Marines and dereliction-of-duty counts against others, CNN reported Thursday, citing unnamed Pentagon sources. The officer in charge of Kilo Company has been relieved of his command, along with two other company commanders, the network said.

The preliminary investigation was conducted by an Army colonel, Gregory Watt, who, according to CNN, questioned the officers, including battalion chief Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani and Kilo Company commander Captain Lucas McConnell, as well as rank-and-file Marines at the scene of the killings.

Bush Vows "Punishment" If Atrocities Are Proven; Baghdad Opens Its Own Probe

A visibly shaken Bush, in his first public comment on the Haditha incident, said Wednesday that if the Pentagon's investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing, those involved will be punished. "I am troubled by the initial news stories," Bush said. "If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment."

The president promised to make public "all the details" of the Pentagon's inquiry, which is expected to be completed by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government on Thursday announced its own investigation into the Haditha incident.

"It appears to be a horrible crime," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a Baghdad news conference. "A large number of men, women and children have been eliminated because of an explosion that targeted a vehicle of the multinational forces."

Al-Maliki called for talks between U.S. military leaders and the Iraqi government "to redefine the obligations of coalition forces."

Haditha Dominates Sunday TV Talk Shows

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making the rounds of the Sunday TV talk shows, said the Haditha case was being handled "at the highest levels" and promised a "serious and thorough investigation."

"That's what democracies do when there are allegations of misconduct," she told CNN's "Late Edition." And when those investigations are finished, I'm sure that there will be appropriate punishment if people are indeed found guilty."

Several senators also hit the TV talk-show circuit Sunday, declaring that the probe of Haditha must go beyond the accused Marines and up the military chain of command to rule out any possibility of a cover-up.

"The test will be whether the leadership in the Defense Department and in the administration does not try to ... say it was just a few Marines or a few soldiers, but looks to see if this is part of a larger systemic problem," Senator Jack Reed (R-South Carolina), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told "Fox News Sunday."

Meanwhile, Senator Carl Levin, the committee's ranking Democrat, told CNN's "Late Edition" that there was "a real possibility of a cover-up," questioning why it took four months between the time the massacre took place last November and Time'sstory revealing it was published in March.

Biden Again Calls for Defense Chief Rumsfeld to Quit

Senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the incident "is further proof of poor Pentagon leadership," and renewed his call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "He should be gone," said Biden, who told host Tim Russert that he had been calling for Rumsfeld's resignation for two years.

Ironically, Rumsfeld was in Vietnam, arriving in Hanoi on Sunday for a visit aimed at boosting U.S. security ties with a former enemy that now shares Washington's unease about China's rising military might. He was scheduled to hold talks today (Monday) with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Van Tra and Prime Minister Pham Van Khai.

He praised Hanoi for its cooperation in finding the remains of soldiers who went missing during the Vietnam War for allowing U.S. forces unlimited overflights during rescue missions after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

As Horrible as It Was, Haditha Pales in Comparison to My Lai

The domestic political fallout from the Haditha incident will take days, if not weeks, to play out. But already, the White House is deeply concerned that Haditha could do to American public support for the Iraq War what the My Lai massacre in 1968 did to public support for the U.S. war effort in Vietnam -- especially among Americans of the Baby Boom generation who came of age during and were deeply polarized by the Vietnam War.

Yet as horrific as Haditha appears to be, it pales in comparison to what happened at My Lai nearly four decades ago.

During the Vietnam War, the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam was a suspected haven for guerrillas of the communist North Vietnamese army and other cadres of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, better known as the Viet Cong.

Informally renamed "Pinkville" by the U.S. military due to the pink color printed on maps of the region, the province was frequently bombed and shelled. By 1968, almost all homes in the province had been damaged or destroyed.

It was of primary importance to the Pentagon at the time that as many Viet Cong operatives be eliminated as possible. Accordingly, rather than measuring success by the acquisition of territory or strategic locations, as was the case in previous wars, Vietnam missions were evaluated based on their "body count" -- the number of presumed Viet Cong operatives killed.

Soldiers were encouraged by higher command to exaggerate body counts in order to give the impression of military success. Owing to that pressure -- and to the fact that it was often very difficult for Viet Cong operatives to be distinguished from non-combatants -- there was often a wide discrepancy between the declared body count for a particular mission and the number of actual enemy operatives killed.

It also led to a high number of "collateral damage" incidents in which non-combatant Vietnamese civilians were killed by U.S. troops.

U.S. Intelligence Thought My Lai Harbored a Viet Cong Battalion

During the Viet Cong's Tet offensive of 1968, attacks were carried out in Quang Ngai province by the 48th battalion of the Viet Cong. U.S. military intelligence formed the view that the 48th battalion, having retreated, was taking refuge in the village of Song My.

A number of hamlets within that village -- labeled as My Lai 1, 2, 3 and 4 -- were suspected of harboring the 48th. A major offensive on those hamlets was planned by U.S. forces.

On the eve of the attack -- March 15, 1968 -- the Army's Charlie Company was advised by the U.S. military command based in the South Vietnamese capital Saigon that any genuine civilians at My Lai would have left their homes to go to market by 7:00 a.m. local time the following day. They were told that they could assume that all who remained behind were either Viet Cong or active Viet Cong sympathizers.

The orders were then handed down: Destroy the village.

At the briefing, Captain Ernest Medina was asked whether the order included the killing of women and children; those present at the briefing later gave different accounts of Medina's response.

Troops Go Into My Lai With Weapons Blazing

But when the soldiers stormed the village on the morning of March 16, 1968, they found no Viet Cong insurgents or sympathizers. One platoon of soldiers, led by Lieutenant William Calley, went on a rampage of indiscriminate shooting, killing hundreds of civilians –- primarily old men, women, children and babies. Some were tortured or raped.

Under orders by Calley, dozens of unarmed villagers were herded into a ditch and executed with automatic firearms. At one stage, Calley expressed his intent to throw hand grenades into a trench filled with villagers.

U.S. Army Helicopter Crew Acts to Shield Terrified Villagers

Outraged at the sight of the carnage, a U.S. Army helicopter gunship crew dramatically intervened to stop the killing by landing their OH-23 aircraft between the marauding troops and terrified villagers hiding inside a palm-roofed hut. The pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr., angrily confronted Lieutenant Stephen Brooks, who was preparing to blow up the hut.

Despite being outranked, Thompson ordered Brooks and his platoon to immediately stop their attacks on the villagers -- or else he would order his crew to open fire on the platoon. Seeing the helicopter's heavy machine guns pointed directly at them, Brooks' troops obeyed Thompson's order.

With the support of the other two members of his helicopter crew — Specialist Lawrence Colburn and Specialist Glenn Andreotta — Thompson ordered two other nearby helicopter gunships to conduct an aerial evacuation of the surviving villagers.

The helicopter crew members were credited with saving at least 11 lives, but were later reviled by hard-line conservatives as traitors. It was not until 1998, following the broadcast of a TV documentary on the massacre, that Andreotta (posthumously), Colburn and Thompson were awarded the Soldier's Medal, the Army's highest award for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy.

Three weeks after the massacre, Andreotta was killed when his aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam.

Exact Death Toll At My Lai May Never Be Known

Even after nearly four decades, the precise number of civilians killed at My Lai remains unclear. The toll varies from source to source, with the body count ranging between 250 and 300 by Calley's estimate and 347, according to an official Pentagon inquiry. A memorial monument that now stands at the site of the massacre lists 504 names of people killed in the massacre, their ages ranging from one to 82 years of age.

The final death toll may never be known, but according to the report of a South Vietnamese army lieutenant to his superiors, what happened at My Lai was an "atrocious" incident of bloodletting by an armed force "seeking to vent its fury."

Calley Exposed, Court-Martialed, Convicted

Michael Bernhardt, an enlisted man in Calley's platoon, refused to take part in the massacre and later came forward to expose the atrocities, which led to the Army charging 14 officers in 1970 with suppressing information related to the incident. Most of these charges, however, were dropped. But Calley was ultimately court-martialed.

Calley was convicted in 1971 of premeditated murder in ordering the shootings and initially sentenced to life in prison; two days later, however, President Richard Nixon ordered him released from prison, pending appeal of his sentence. Calley served 3½ years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was then ordered freed by Federal Judge J. Robert Elliot.

Calley claimed that he was following orders from his captain, Ernest Medina; Medina denied giving the orders and was acquitted at a separate trial. Most of the soldiers involved in the My Lai incident were no longer enlisted. Of the 26 men initially charged, Calley was the only one convicted.

Thirty Years Later, An Emotional Reunion With Survivors

The 1998 TV documentary on My Lai included footage of Thompson and Colburn returning to the village for an emotional reunion with survivors at ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of the massacre.

An especially poignant moment for Thompson came when he was reunited with Do Hoa, who was just eight years old when Thompson rescued her from the irrigation ditch where so many of her fellow villagers were killed.

Thompson and Colburn also dedicated a new elementary school named in their honor for the children of the village.

Thompson died of cancer last January and was buried with full military honors. Colburn, who was at Thompson's bedside when he died, now runs a medical-supply company outside Atlanta.

Lessons of My Lai to Play Out in Haditha?

The My Lai massacre stands as one of the darkest chapters in modern American military history. It is required study at all four of the nation's armed forces academies. And the lessons of My Lai may yet be played out as the investigation of the Haditha massacre continues.

Already, the Pentagon has ordered American military commanders to hold ethical training on battlefield conduct. Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, field commander of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said the ethical training would emphasize "professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat," as well as Iraqi cultural expectations.

"As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," he said in a statement. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many." The training will be conducted in units in the next 30 days and was aimed at reinforcing training service members received before coming to Iraq.

Al-Qaida and Other Extremists Will Surely Exploit Haditha

Unfortunately, no matter what the Pentagon does, al-Qaida and other Muslim extremists will surely exploit the Haditha massacre to whip up Islamist outrage and recruit new members to their terrorist networks.

Already, there has been a dramatic upsurge in deadly attacks by insurgents across Iraq -- including a deadly ambush in Baghdad on Saturday by gunmen of a car carrying five Russian diplomats. One envoy was killed and the other three were kidnapped.

But this blogger's real fear is that as a result of Haditha, the likelihood of new terrorist attacks on U.S. soil has increased dramatically.

# # #

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Effective today, this blog has a new publication day. From now on, new articles of "The 'Skeeter Bites Report" will be published every Monday. The change has been made to take in late-breaking news developments that occur on Sundays (Example: the appearance of newsmakers on the Sunday-morning TV talk shows) without having to post an update on Monday. As a result, the day that the weekly e-mail sent to subscribers detailing each week's new article will be sent during the overnight hours on Sunday night/Monday morning.

# # #

Volume I, Number 28
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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