About Haditha, Americans today agree on but one thing.
If Marines did shoot and kill women and children, either in rage or reprisal after the killing of one of their own, and if this alleged atrocity was covered up, those responsible must be punished. That such things happen in every war, even "the Good War," does not excuse them.
But if we are agreed upon that, Haditha, nevertheless -- and again assuming the charges are true -- is going to wound this country deeply and divide us bitterly. For two cultures are heading for a collision.
The first is the culture of the Marine Corps, hierarchical and familial. Marines are an extended family. They believe in loyalty up and loyalty down. Their tradition is not only to retrieve their wounded, but retrieve their dead.
They are as proud of the retreat from Chosin Reservoir to the sea, when surrounded by Chinese troops in 1950, as they are of the victories of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. Legendarily, they take care of their own. In a fight, they stand by their own. And a fight for the reputation of the Corps, unlike any in its history, may be coming. And, if it is, Middle America will be on the side of the Marines.
The culture of the dominant liberal media, however, is different. It has been so since Watergate. To the big media, the whistle-blower -- the individual who exposes for the press the sins or scandals of church or state, politics or government -- is the real moral hero to be cherished and celebrated.
In 2006, one Pulitzer Prize went to The Washington Post for revealing that NATO allies were secretly allowing the CIA to bring terror suspects into their countries for interrogation. Another went to The New York Times for exposing the super-secret program of the National Security Agency to monitor U.S. overseas calls to and from individuals under suspicion of terrorist connections.
To advance "the people's right to know" of official misconduct, the media claim rights denied to other citizens: the right not to have to testify to grand juries about sources, the right not to have their notes inspected even by prosecutors with warrants. They are the high priests of the secular society.
In the Nixon era, the media celebrated their own for their roles in scandals that were considered media triumphs: the exposure of My Lai, publication of the secret Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandal that brought down the president. Journalists reveled in exposing past excesses of the FBI and the CIA. Both institutions were demoralized and damaged not simply by the revelations, but by the extended and hostile publicity.