Rules of Engagement

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What do you take away from this story on what happened in Haditha, Iraq, where 24 of the town's residents were killed by U.S. forces?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am watching the broadcast right now, and there are many comments and thoughts. As a veteran of Viet Nam, and 36 plus years of combined service, Active, Reserve and National Guard, I am still deeply concerned with the situation of the soldiers and Marines, and with the civilians.

Toward the end of the broadcast, there were the last interviews with eyewitnesses. including a young girl, and a young boy. The boy stated that his father or grandfather was sitting reading the Koran, when the Americans came in an shot him. I do not know what Islamic devotion requires of those in prayer or daily devotion, but I find it hard to accept that anyone in Haditha, after hearing an IED explosion, and many minutes of gun fire would be sitting reading. He may have been reading, prior to the explosion, but after, would have been seeking cover, or looking after the safety of their family.

I am a regular PBS viewer, and had been in contact with many of my friends who are still in uniform, to watch your program tonight. During all my years of service, I swore to obey all lawful orders, but never swore to not ask questions or seek information.

Sioux Falls, SD

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have to agree with Mr. Dare from Wisconsin. How can anyone judge and try soldiers for events that take place in the heat of battle when the enemy looks much like any other citizen. Soldiers are soldiers, not social workers. I'm sorry but it seems like the press is always on the side of our enemy.

Betty Johnson
Jacksonville, Fl

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am glad that the general public has finally heard a more in depth presentation of this event. To date, all we have read in the popular press is "Mai Lai Revisited".

I wish Frontline had been able to discuss the physical evidence more fully, but perhaps that would compromise the court martials. In any event, the personal accounts of both Marines and Iraqi civilians who witnessed this incident are colored by "the fog of war" and "political and personal alliances". Neither should be taken as factual without corroborating evidence.

The continued presence of the Marines in Haditha is not advisable. They will continue to represent the "wound" this event has inflicted on the people there. Neither does "winning the hearts and minds" strike me as the primary "mission" of the Corp.

These young men are not diplomats but combat trained fighters. We should not expect them to perform perfectly in this newly assigned task.

Karen Trester
Green Bay, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

When the President sends you off on a fools errand, with all the lies and all the crap theatrics and you are left to maintain your humanity in a hellhole that you helped create, I think we can expect this kind of thing.

Not to excuse it, but realize nothing good can come from something so ill conceived.I feel compassion for these Marines, my nephew was a Marine corpral killed in Karbala in 2003. I dread the day that the final accounting of the dead Iraqis is known and know well that as with Vietnam, America is going to forever be asking itself why?

james bradach
portland, oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

The main thing I got out of watching this program is how the Rules themselves are incorrect.

American soldiers should not have to "Clear a house" in the manner that occured in Haditha. Someone on the program himself said that these Marines were used as "Blunt force" If a Swat Team had been used, they would have approached the entire matter differently. My point is that this type of urban warfare has to be approached carefully - not using men as if they were small tanks. The approach that was used was too dangerous for the men and too dangerous knowing that several civilians could be inside.

The rules of engagement need to be changed. Using a Swat Team approch, or tactics like that make more sense. This is not a typical battlefield for these soldiers. Their traditional training should be modified.

One man commented that hesitation is not a bad thing. If a moment is taken to think, it would probably ultimately improve a soldier's aim.

Lily Maskew
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The "Rules of Engagement" production only remphasized that both the US military forces AND the major media do not consider Iraqi lives of any value. Imagine, although we were treated to reason to view the humanity of Marines who carried out the murders of the people of Haditha, the people the Marines killed were just more Iraqi bodies as far as the documentary was concerned: They had no names? They had no life before this?

The children, the women, the men gunned down? Who were they? What were their lives like? What hopes did they have? What did THEIR relatives and friends have to say about them? About what the Marines did to them?

Frontline had no interest in this. Isn't this an indictment of both Frontline and PBS? Isn't it shameful, embarrassing?! O

Marilyn Vogt-Downey
Brooklyn, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the Democratic Senator (ex-Marine)that tried and convicted these young Marines in the press before all the facts were in should be drawn and quartered. I truly hope the courts these brave americans face will be more fair than what I witnessed tonight. If it looks like a duck, has webbed feet and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Insurgents may not always be so easy to identify. Innocent people die in every war, and the fact women and children died as a result of this mission was unfortunate. When life and death decisions have to be made in the blink of an eye, how can any court find these men guilty?As an eight year Air Force veteran and a veteran of Viet Nam (1967-1968)I salute these young men and thank them for their dedication.

Monte Taets
Oklahoma City, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

The officers who prosecuted this case should be prosecuted themselves. To automatically assume that a marine is lying, and believe villagers from an area that is sympathetic to the insurgents is disgusting. As a father of a navy petty officer, I think i'm more wary of the NCIS that any damage control firefighting action he might have to undertake on his ship.

James A. kelly
west roxbury, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Two thoughts:

1) We can not win a war where our soldiers are afraid of being prosecuted for collateral damage. We can not win a war against an enemy who will willingly set up their own people to be killed in order to raise the ire of the American moral conscience.

2) Congressmen who act recklessly in order to politicize their own personal or party's agenda should be censored by their peers and the American people. Congressman Murtha should be held accountable for his shameful actions. He is a disgrace to the office.

Winona Lake, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

An excellent report. These young Marines are shot at every day, and despised by the Iraqi people. The rules of engagement are not crystal clear in combat, any combat vet will tell you that. John Murtha is a disgrace to this country and to the Corps. And the Hammarabi video was Al Qaeda propaganda. Let's get them out of I raq before there are more Marines killed, or more likely, charged as criminals.

Hank Coffey
Batavia, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

How can the U.S. armed forces avoid killing innocent civilians in Iraq? It can pull its forces out of Iraq immediately. I cannot put too much blame on individual members of the forces. They have been put in a position that must often be impossible. They should be relieved of that burden. The people of Iraq should be compensated and protected. They have suffered greatly as a result of American agression. As have American troops, who have been asked to give their lives to further the interests of corporate economic interests. And they have given their lives.

It is their politicians, George W. Bush in chief, who ought to be tried for war crimes. The war in Iraq is illegal and immoral and a blot on America's reputation. I hope it weighs more on the consciences of the men responsible for it than on the men and women who have tried to wage it.

Elizabeth Pickett
Toronto, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

Granted, I'm only halfway through watching the program, but it is very clear to me that producers of this show need to be able to see through the eyes of those who were there.

Unless you have been through the situations these Marines have, it's impossible to report on their reactions without bias. Politics and public opinion have no place in war. The purpose of war is to accomplish a mission for the greater good. Once "the greater good" has been established, it needs to be left to the "boots on the ground" to accomplish this mission. NOT politicians, the media or a naive public.

Jason Dare
STOUGHTON, Wisconsin

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posted february 19, 2008

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