Bill O'Reilly has a point.
I'll let that odd sentence sink in while I swear that I have NOT recently received a severe hammer blow to the head, been exposed to toxic fumes or found myself on a three day Peyote bender staggering through the desert in Eastern Oregon.
Progressives, from Randi Rhodes to Keith Olbermann to the guys at Crooks and Liars are jumping all over statements O'Reilly made during an interview of Gen. Wesley Clark a couple of days ago in which O'Reilly basically accused American forces in WW2 of committing atrocities similar to those recently revealed as having been perpertrated by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq.
Rhodes, whose father served as an infantryman in Europe during the war, seemed to take great offense to O'Reilly's remarks. During a prolonged rant on her national show she went out of her way to try draw a distinction between shooting S.S. soldiers who had been shooting at our troops moments before surrendering or burning Japanese soldiers to death who were dug into caves on Pacific islands and the cold-blooded execution of civilian men, women and children cowering in their homes in Iraq. Her definition of atrocity hinges on whether the person being executed by U.S. troops was a combatant (or recent combatant) or a civilian.
While there is no doubt that captured Axis troops sometimes faced summary execution (Eisenhower issued an infamous order near the end of the war basically instructing that no German sniper would be taken alive,) it's difficult to find a documented instance of Allied soldiers executing unarmed European civilians. Nevertheless; it would be the height of absurdity to assume such atrocities never took place by American forces in the Second World War.
I wonder if Rhodes has ever heard the cities Nagasaki or Hiroshima. Wrong theater of the war? Then how about Dresden? On the low end of estimates of civilian casualties 25,000 non-combatants were killed in the carpet-bombing of that strategically unimportant city alone. Shock and awe aren't simply modern neocon military constructs. Terror is not just a tactic of crazy islamic fanatics. Civilians are never "off limits" in a war the United States was involved in, even to U.S. troops and even a war as just and righteous as a war to stop the tyranny of fascism.
Of course none of that supports O'Reilly's larger argument that the atrocities of other U.S. soldiers in other wars somehow absolve this administration or the Marines at Haditha of atrocities in THIS war*. Quite the opposite is true. The reality that war is a horrible, bloody terrible thing that often moots moral questions by it's very nature should never be an act of choice. This President picked this unnecessary war and bears culpability for it's atrocities.
* As a side note - I'm to lazy to check it at this point but wasn't O'Reilly one of those clowns who just recently was jumping all over John Kerry's post-Vietnam war assertions that U.S. troops committed atrocities in THAT conflict? Hypocrite much? Ah, where would conservatives be without moral relativism and deliberate self-induced ADD?