A Haditha footnote

This is a footnote to the key points John makes below in “All Haditha, all the time.” On Friday the Wahington Post ran a double-bylined story by Josh White and Thomas Ricks on Haditha: “Investigators of Haditha killings look to exhume bodies.” (Today Ricks returns with yet another Haditha story.) Friday’s story includes this passage:

Aine Donovan, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College and a former Naval Academy professor, said Marines have more ethics training than most troops and that there is no excuse for what happened.”

If you look at what happened in Haditha, you had soldiers stressed to the point of no return, and they snapped,” Donovan said. “This will be remembered as the worst episode of this war. This will damage the entire profession. You’re never going to restore peace by killing civilians.”

The judgment expressed by Professor Donovan as quoted in the article seems premature. Today I wrote her to ask if the quote was accurate. Professor Donovan responded with characteristic Dartmouth collegiality:

Greetings from Hanover! Yes, I was interviewed for a story…by Josh White and Tom Ricks. I was certainly not misquoted… but I was abbreviated to the point that my comments felt not quite right. I fully understand that a reporter has a limited amount of space to get his or her story out, but in my conversation I certainly qualified that IF the situation proved true (that Marines were involved in misdeeds) then it was a horrendous act that should be prosecuted. The way the story ran made it seem like I believed the Marines were guilty before the incident had even been investigated. That saddened me… and people who contacted me from the front lines! I look forward to seeing you on one of your visits to campus!

Best wishes, Aine

Aine Donovan, Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics
Associate Professor, Tuck School of Business
Dartmouth College

The point made by Professor Donovan as quoted by the Post quotation is inarguable. Who defends the innocent massacre of civilians? The question, however, is whether that is what occurred. The true point of the Post’s quotation of Professor Donovan seems to be the requisite daily dose of demoralization.

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