Emphasizing Ethics Even as Bullets Fly
The Haditha case undermines U.S. credibility
Questions. Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Nabil Abdul Kadir, who has been chosen to lead the center, says he gets plenty of questions from his fellow generals, particularly in the wake of Haditha. "They ask, 'What can we learn from the Americans?'" he says. "And 'What they are saying--how can we believe in it?'" He says that there were Iraqi troops on the scene in Haditha as well and that he hasn't been entirely pleased with the conduct of some Iraqi Army soldiers in the streets. "They are not behaving properly with civilians. But they have to be very careful in their behavior. It is a matter of life and death for the country," he says. "You can see that the gap now is widening between civilians and the military," Kadir adds, a gap that began under Saddam Hussein's rule. "I want to see that gap closed, completely."
On the question of Haditha, Danny and his fellow translators at the leadership center are generally understanding. Some U.S. military officials remark that, well, they should be: "They are in a glass house, and all their windows are broken," says one. Others note that the Iraqis can also learn from the U.S. judicial process. Actually, Danny and his fellow translators tend to agree on both counts. "Of course, I cannot lie. This crosses our mind--that the coalition, they are doing mistakes," he says. "But they have admitted it, and this is a lot. They are saying, 'It happened, and I will not deny it.'" The idea of taking responsibility "is a healthy thing that we can learn from," Danny adds. "It was not the policy of the coalition to do something like that."
In the end, the ramifications of Haditha--and the success of coalition forces--hinge on questions of leadership, say military officials. The Haditha investigation is expected to reveal wrongdoing by the accused marines' superiors in trying to cover up their crimes. If so, say military officials, emphasizing good leadership--in both Iraqi and American forces--will be more important than ever. "If leaders are moral, if they are ethical, if they make sound decisions based on the right criteria, then hopefully their troops will make the right decisions under pressure," says Lt. Col. Kenneth McCreary, the coalition director of the new leadership center.
At the 4th ID headquarters, General Thurman contemplates the job ahead in the six months his division has remaining in Iraq. "I don't think we're going to win any more hearts and minds over here," he says. "But what we can do is gain their trust."
Iraqi General Abdul Kadir agrees and says the Iraqis need to do their part to encourage that process. Every Friday, he heads to the street markets in Baghdad, hoping to build a modest library of books from Iraqi philosophers, thinkers, and leaders to add to the leadership center's collection. The library now, he says, is quite limited--"many books have been destroyed in the war." These writings will help, he says, to respond to the critiques from his fellow generals--about Haditha, about how Iraq has nothing to learn from America. "Then I can say," says Abdul Kadir, "that I am not teaching you American values. They are our values, too."