Whether the US attack at Mogr el-Deeb slaughtered foreign fighters in their hideout or innocent Iraqis at a wedding is a diversion from the core moral issue…the attack itself.

The Bush-revised rules of engagement that led to the May 19 massacre and so many more are at the heart of the madness.

Whatever happened to, “Come out with your hands up!” ?

Even the Comics Code (which regulates comic book content) requires the good guys in war and action titles to give the bad guys their fair chance to surrender. Attack without provocation or regard for innocents is always the hallmark of the bad guys. And yet even the U.S. army’s version of Mogr el-Deeb events doesn’t say the victims were given a white flag option.

From a military standpoint, overwhelming force superiority not only affords but encourages the option of seeking peaceful enemy surrender. It is fundamentally the most desirable outcome. No bodies to count, no munitions wasted. And useful intel is far more likely gleaned from a living subject than a dead one. Plus, they just may be innocent.

On the other hand, going in bombs away and guns a’blazin makes the loss of intelligence inevitable. Documents might burn, CD-roms could melt – while money trails and serial numbers go up in smoke with the money. Plus, they just may be innocent.

In the May massacre, the army says it attacked “suspected” combatants at a location “believed to be” a safe house. So by the army’s own words, they weren’t entirely sure.

Meanwhile, AP reports the army surveyed the location and left before returning later to attack. No one’s version of events says the army took enemy fire in the initial recon.

Strategically, an easily-surrounded desert location, far from urban complications, seems an attractive target for siege and surrender, not slaughter. By all accounts, this was armor, gunships, artillery, and vastly superior numbers of soldiers versus a lightly-populated objective of tents, huts and pickup trucks. So why shoot first?

The answer goes all the way to the top, to the first day of the war when George Bush shot first.

Based on so-called “timely information,” Bush ordered a “pre-emptive” strike on a location where Saddam and top Iraqi officials were believed to be meeting. In this action, an urban block was decimated in a barrage that simply accepted innocent casualties as part of the equation. A whole block of Baghdad was sacrificed in an attempt to kill one man.

The so-named “shock and awe” bombing campaign which followed – while touted as a campaign of surgical precision – also allowed for immeasurable “collateral damage,” the military’s clinical term for innocent victims.

From there, the macabre Bush rules of engagement have played out again and again at all levels of command - resulting in thousands – some report 10,000 – dead in three “war of terror” years…

Much has been said about the philosophical underpinnings of Bush’s murderous pre-emption policies and their cancerous effects on our security and prestige. What is not yet fully addressed is how this drastically lower moral ground will affect recruiting. Will the best and brightest flock to the military if its core principles no longer match the cherished American traditions of fairness, honor and mercy? What kind of people, and with what values, will enlist instead? And what about our compassionate scientists and engineers? Where will their gifts go?

Clearly, the road back to sanity, humanity and the America we love will be long and hard but we will find our way. Getting Bush out of the White House and into the courthouse is the first step.

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