As you read this, think of Bradley Manning. A guy in
The Court Martial of Sgt. Wuterich
Who's Watching Whose Back?
by CLANCY SIGAL
January 30, 2012
Last week's farce of the court martial of Marine
sergeant Frank Wuterich at
is a license to murder. Everyone, especially the
Iraqis, seems to understand this except the American
public from President Obama on down. Wuterich led an
eight-man combat team of Marines in a killing orgy in
Haditha, western Iraq, in 2005, that massacred 24
unarmed civilians including 11 women and kids. All
witnesses, including the Marines, testified that what
occurred was basically an execution not a fire fight.
Wuterich could have faced 152 years in the brig. But
under a plea deal, after a six year long investigation
begun only when a Time magazine reporter began asking
questions, and marked by a string of official lies,
Wuterich was let off with a wrist slap, a reduction in
rank and no prison time. None of the other Marines
will be punished.
All the members of Wuterich's military court were
chosen for prior combat experience because they
presumably knew what the "fog of war" could do to a man
under stress. Thus, the issue became not one of guilt
or innocence, or degree of culpability, but: what would
you do in the boots of this fallible, frightened, angry
Under the current rules of engagement, dramatized a few
days ago when Navy Seals daringly rescued two hostages,
including an American woman, from Somali kidnappers who
were shot down, anything is permissible if you feel
yourself - or you later tell investigators - that you
were under threat.
Obama loves his Seals, which is the same unit that
killed Osama Bin Laden in
focus on mission, fanatic discipline, unit solidarity,
tactical skills, mastery of killer weapons and courage,
they are - the President insists - what we civilians
should ALL be like.
It's no secret Obama has a crush on, or been
intimidated by, his generals - all those ribbons, all
that braid! Allegedly they answer to their Commander
in Chief rather than the reverse, but in reality he
gives them pretty much everything they want, and
glorifies their military adventures as the very best
Now he's gone overboard, in his 25 January state of the
union speech to both houses of Congress - and in an
election year speaking over their heads to the rest of us.
Ritual flattery was to be expected. But his fawning
went over the line into real, hardass absurdity,
starting with his opening, "We gather tonight knowing
that this generation of heroes has made the United
States safer and more respected around the world."
What world does Obama live in?
But then he got down to business by contrasting the
greatness and glory of the military with our present,
well, what shall we call it?, decay, disappointment,
depravity of American democracy. "At a time," he
thundered, "when too many of our institutions have let
us down, they exceed all expectations."
Then the kicker: "Imagine what we could accomplish if
we followed their example!"
Uh huh. As a former conscript, who liked the military
and almost re-upped, what I know best about this
hierarchical, do-as-you're-told organization is that it
is, and is supposed to be, undemocratic and that you
follow orders without question...or else. Messy,
argumentative loudmouth democracy is not on Obama's
agenda, military quick-step is. Or rather, his fantasy
of military life, since he never served. "They're not
consumed by personal ambition. They don't obsess over
their differences. They focus on the mission at
hand...Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed
Yes, imagine. A militarized civilian life is
Just a couple of days ago military helicopters hovered
practicing for what nobody will tell us except, in a
tightlipped police statement, "to ensure the military's
ability to operate in urban environments". And the
Blackhawks will be back soon, it's promised. Local
police departments all over
Federal Aviation Authority to relax rules to permit
more domestic use of unmanned Reaper drones for "urban
monitoring"; i.e. domestic surveillance.
Miami-Dade police already use UAVs to catch alleged
criminals...and, I assume, to spy on Occupy protestors.
No, it can't be, not the Saul Alinsky disciple and
antiwar liberal Obama moving us closer to the police
state that fringe groups and politicians like Ron Paul
have warned us about?
One reason why Obama said we should copy the military
is that "you know that there's someone behind you,
watching your back."
That's what worries me.
CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter in