Anyone who supports launching a war should be clear-sighted enough to know that, when the troops go in, a few of them will kill civilians, bomb schools, torture prisoners. It happens in every war in history, even the good ones. Individual Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians did bad things in World War II, and World War I. These aren't stunning surprises, they're inevitable: It might be a bombed mosque or a gunned-down pregnant woman or a slaughtered wedding party, but it will certainly be something. And, in the scales of history, it makes no difference to the justice of the cause and the need for victory.
For three years, coalition forces in Iraq behaved so well that a salivating Vietnam culture had to make do with the thinnest of pickings: one depraved jailhouse, a prisoner on a dog leash with a pair of Victoria's Secret panties on his head and an unusually positioned banana. "Just look at the way U.S. Army reservist Lynndie England holds the leash of the naked, bearded Iraqi," wrote Robert Fisk, dean of the global media's Middle Eastern correspondents. "No sadistic movie could outdo the damage of this image. In September 2001, the planes smashed into the buildings; today, Lynndie smashes to pieces our entire morality with just one tug on the leash." Down, boy.
But now at last the media have their story. They're off the leash. And, if the worst rumors are true, those 10 Marines will come to symbolize the 99.99 percent of their comrades who every day do great things for the Iraqi and Afghan people. In 2004, in the wake of Abu Ghraib, I wrote "there is something not just ridiculous but unbecoming about a hyperpower 300 million strong whose elites -- from the deranged former vice president down -- want the outcome of a war, and the fate of a nation, to hinge on one freaky jailhouse; elites who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, as long as it's pain-free, squeaky-clean and over in a week. The sheer silliness dishonors the memory of all those we're supposed to be remembering this Memorial Day."