This story is a microcosm of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On 9/11, elusive attackers killed Americans, so America invaded a country from the same region as the attackers' home. On 11/19/05, a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha, Iraq, so other Marines broke into nearby houses and killed everyone they saw:
Then one of the Marines took charge and began shouting, said Fahmi, who was watching from his roof. Fahmi said he saw the Marine direct other Marines into the house closest to the blast, about 50 yards away.
It was the home of 76-year-old Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali. Although he had used a wheelchair since diabetes forced a leg amputation years ago, Ali was always one of the first on his block to go out every morning, scattering scraps for his chickens and hosing the dust of the arid western town from his driveway, neighbors said.
In the house with Ali and his 66-year-old wife, Khamisa Tuma Ali, were three of the middle-aged male members of their family, at least one daughter-in-law and four children -- 4-year-old Abdullah, 8-year-old Iman, 5-year-old Abdul Rahman and 2-month-old Asia.
Marines entered shooting, witnesses recalled. Most of the shots -- in Ali's house and two others -- were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor, physicians at Haditha's hospital said.
A daughter-in-law, identified as Hibbah, escaped with Asia, survivors and neighbors said. Iman and Abdul Rahman were shot but survived. Four-year-old Abdullah, Ali and the rest died.
Ali took nine rounds in the chest and abdomen, leaving his intestines spilling out of the exit wounds in his back, according to his death certificate.
The Marines moved to the house next door, Fahmi said.
Inside were 43-year-old Khafif, 41-year-old Aeda Yasin Ahmed, an 8-year-old son, five young daughters and a 1-year-old girl staying with the family, according to death certificates and neighbors.
The Marines shot them at close range and hurled grenades into the kitchen and bathroom, survivors and neighbors said later. Khafif's pleas could be heard across the neighborhood. Four of the girls died screaming.
Only 13-year-old Safa Younis lived -- saved, she said, by her mother's blood spilling onto her, making her look dead when she fell, limp, in a faint.
The Marines went on to murder nine more men, including a group of five who stumbled on the bombing scene by chance in a taxi.
What the Marines did in Haditha is collective punishment, which is a war crime. They had no reason to believe that the people they killed were a threat; instead, killings were intended to avenge the attack that someone else had carried out. Bush had no reason to believe Iraq was a threat or connected to 9/11; instead, the invasion was intended to punish other Arabs and Muslims, and to placate an American public that felt weak and vulnerable.
But elevated to the level of Congressional authorizations and Presidential orders, the war crime of collective punishment is transmuted into legitimate national policy. There will be no legal accounting for what Bush has done. Morally, however, he and his counselors are indistinguishable from the Marines in Haditha.