Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war "is lost" and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month.
Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is "just the tip of the iceberg" with overstressed, out-of-control Americans soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally.
"We are in trouble in Iraq," says retired army general Barry McCaffrey. "Our forces can’t sustain this pace, and I’m afraid the American people are walking away from this war."
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has clamped a tight security lid on the increasingly pessimistic reports coming out of field commanders in Iraq, threatening swift action against any military personnel who leak details to the press or public.
The wife of a staff sergeant with Kilo Company, the Marine Unit charged with killing civilians at Haditha, tells Newsweek magazine that the unit was a hotbed of drug abuse, alcoholism and violence.
"There were problems in Kilo company with drugs, alcohol, hazing [violent initiation games], you name it," she said. "I think it’s more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha."
Journalists stationed with the unit described Kilo Company and the Third Batallion of Marines as a "unit out of control," where morale had plummeted and rules went out the window.
Similar reports emerge from military units throughout Iraq and even the Iraqi prime minister describes American soldiers as trigger happy goons with little regard for the lives of civilians.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki says the murder of Iraqi civilians has become a "daily phenomenon" by American troops who "do not respect the Iraqi people."
"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is completely unacceptable," Maliki said. The White House tried to play down Maliki’s comments, saying the prime minister was "misquoted" although Maliki himself has yet to made such a public claim.
”Can anyone blame Iraqis for joining the resistance now?” Mustafa al-Ani, an Iraqi analyst living in Dubai, told The Chicago Tribune. ”The resistance and the terrorists alike are feeding off the misbehavior of the American soldiers.”
As the resistance mounts and daily violence escalates, the overstressed U.S. units are unable to control the mounting violence and conclusions escalate that the war is lost.
"Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," says Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.
The former commander of American forces in Northern Iraq admits incidents like Haditha add to the impression that the U.S. cannot win the war.
"Allegations such as this, regardless of how they are borne out by the facts, can have an effect on the ability of U.S. forces to continue to operate," says Army Brig. Gen. Carter Ham.
Others say the incident just shows the U.S. has lost he "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people.
"When something like Haditha happens, it gives the impression that Americans can’t be trusted to provide security, which is the most important thing to Iraqis on a day-to-day level," says Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It tends to confirm all of the worst interpretations of the United States, and not simply in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and in the region."