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Posted by on May 31, 2006 in At TMV | 43 comments

Is it fair to blame the Marines Alone?


West Asia has a tough terrain with a different culture and civilization. It can bring out the best, or the worst, in a man who is sent to participate in an unending fight/war. Even the best soldiers can buckle under, notwithstanding their excellent training/arms. From heroic deeds to barbaric ones…This can happen if a soldier has a blurred objective and no time-frame regarding their engagement.

Some generals and senior officers who tried to bring this fact into focus have been asked to shut up or have been effectively sidelined. Anyone who has some idea of military traditions would be extremely worried at the games (almost like video games) the civilian leadership has been playing from the comfort of their cushy offices.

Two stories today poignantly bring out the unfolding tragedy whose unwitting victims are also soldiers who, under a good and capable civilian leadership, could have distinguished themselves in the battlefield and brought laurels to their countries.

The Independent states that US Marines will be court-martialled over the massacre of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha. The dead included women and children said to be as young as two.

“The parents of two US Marines said their sons were left traumatised after being asked to clean up the mess. One of the men, Lance Corporal Roel Ryan Briones, said he had taken photos quickly confiscated by investigators and carried bodies out of homes.

” ‘They ranged from little babies to adult males and females,’ he said. ‘I’ll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood.’

“His mother said: ‘He had to carry a little girl’s body. Her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots.’

“The accusations further undermine trust between the occupying forces and the Iraqi government. Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, launched a candid attack on what he said was a worrying number of civilian deaths from the gun barrels of American troops. ‘There is a limit to acceptable excuses,’ he said. ‘Yes, a mistake may happen, but there is an acceptable limit to mistakes.’

“Human rights groups are already referring to the killings in Haditha as ‘Iraq’s My Lai’ after the cold-blooded murder by US soldiers of more than 500 Vietnamese civilians in 1968.”

For more on Marines you can see Wikipedia.

Another news story notes that the month of May 2006 had been the bloodiest for Britain since Iraq was occupied three years ago, leaving 11 Britons dead, many injured and the calls for withdrawal more urgent than ever before. And the crescendo is rising about the “orderly withdrawal of British troops”.

“The outcry followed as details emerged of the latest young British soldiers to perish in Iraq: Lt Tom Mildinhall, a brilliant sportsman, scientist, musician and army officer, and L/Cpl Paul ‘Fas’ Farrelly, of Runcorn, Cheshire, a committed family man who leaves a wife and three children.”

In these sad circumstances I am reminded of a moving song of yesteryears:

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Gone to young girls, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young girls gone?

Gone to young men, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young men gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young men gone?

Gone to soldiers, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

And where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, a long time ago?

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

And where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?

Where have all the graveyards gone?

Gone to flowers, every one!

When will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

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Copyright 2006 The Moderate Voice
  • htom

    Before we ask whether they should be blamed alone, let’s get the reports, the charges, and the convictions. Maybe they shouldn’t be blamed at all. Strange idea, I know.

  • “Is it fair to blame the Marines Alone?”

    As a veteran, I really don’t like where you’re going with this.

    First, let us acknowledge that there are two official investigations underway, the results of which have not yet been released to the public. If any charges are to come out of this (as appears likely from all the leaked reports), there will be a legal process that must be followed according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There will be Article 32 hearings (indictments), after which the accused will be formally charged by a military judge, and face Courts Martial.

    Just like in the civilian world, they will have certain rights, including the presumption of innocence. Let us not assume that we know everything, and that the Marines (who have yet to be formally charged) are automatically guilty.

    Having said that, if they are eventually declared guilty by a jury of their peers, they will have nobody to blame but themselves. Hundreds of thousands of military personnel (including myself) have served in the Iraq theater since March 2003. Most of us managed to escape with our lives, bodies, and honor intact.

    Don’t you dare paint us all with the same broad brush. Don’t you dare excuse dishonorable and murderous behavior by blaming it on “the system.”

    We are all adults. We all know the rules of warfare. And <b>we are all accountable for our own actions.</b>

    Let justice be done, the innocent be exonerated, and the guilty be punished.

  • BrianOfAtlanta

    Events like this are the result of an abject failure of command on the ground at the time, and possibly further up the chain of command. However, it doesn’t go up to the civilian leadership. There’s nothing a president or Secretary of Defense can do to stop this kind of thing. In this kind of situation, where you are among a hostile populace, where anyone could be a potential combatant, it’s easy for things to get out of control. It’s imperative that commanders on the ground with the troops and the higher level commanders in the area drill it into the heads of their troops that the civilians in general are not combatants. Yeah, it means we may take a few more casualties, but that’s the way we fight.

    Troops are trained to kill the enemy. It’s one of the most important jobs of those in command of them that they never lose sight of who “the enemy” is and who it is not.

  • Robert Bell

    SMASH, Brian: Very thoughtful points. It seems to me that there are several interrelated issues.

    1. “Innocent until proven guilty” versus “Occam’s razor/most likely scenario”. That is to say, the standard of proof we would use if we were investigating a scientific problem versus some sort of trial involving a person is different.

    2. To what degree is a person responsible for their actions? There is a relevant discussion of the effect of fear and (essentially) very high heart rate on cognitive ability in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” in connection with the Amadou Diallou case. What this says is that under the right physical circumstances higher cognitive functions break down. Obviously airliner cabin pressure loss, alcohol, very deep scuba dives, high g’s, are other examples of what could cause this to happen. What is particularly dangerous about such a state is the person’s lack of awareness of their own impairment. There is another good description in Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”. There also seem to be subtle, unpredictable situational and social factors that modify behavior in strange ways – the Milgram experiments come to mind, but there is also the example of the woman who was attacked and killed in some big city (also discussed in Blink or The Tipping Point) and a crowd of onlookers just watched. Subsequent experiments determined that such indifference from a crowd is reduced if there are few onlookers – i.e. two people are more likely to intervene to save someone that twenty. My only point here is the notion that we are all “adults”, meaning that we are somehow rational moral calculating machines, is not at all a perfect description of the way our brains work, any more than Euclidean geometry fits the Einsteinian universe. We therefore can choose to hold people (especially ourselves) responsible for our actions, but we may be kidding ourselves.

    3. The organizational context matters. Certainly anyone who read about The Stanford Prison study (also in The Tipping Point), heard the statements from Cheney about “aggressive” interrogation techniques, would as a scientist, predict abuse, probably on a much wider scale than was actually reported.

    So I agree, it seems inappropriate to comment on the investigation until it’s complete. The investigation may shed light on what we might call the effects of the “system”, if any – whether the Marines in question were pushed beyond their reasonable operating limits, and what better procedures might be followed, if any.

  • Roberto

    I really believe you should separate “blame” from “accountability.” There’s plenty of “blame” for what’s going on in Iraq today and it goes beyond the military establishment.

    But the issue is not whether “the Marines” should be held accountable but whether these Marines should be held accountable. In that sense, I agree with SMASH. Something either happened or didn’t happened. If it happened, the prosecution – military or civilian – has to meet its burden, e.g., beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Let the process unfold. This is too serious to get ahead of the facts.

  • SMASH has it right. Already some have been held accountable since several officers were relieved of Command. Assuming the allegations are true, I don’t see how this one incident can condemn the Marine Corps or the leadership and chain of command that wasn’t there for the incident. One possible incident doesn’t make a systemic problem. Everyone over there gets tons of ROE and LOAC training.

  • Robert Bell

    Roberto: Much more concisely said than my ramble – there seems to be at least blame, accountability, *and* cause to consider, and each requires its own appropriate handling.

  • Roberto

    Robert, it’s never a ramble. Just the scenic route!

  • sh0ter

    My Lai anyone? I wrote a paper last semester that predicted that such an event was inevitable. Look for more of the same, because we have obviously learned nothing.

  • Look for more of the same, because we have obviously learned nothing.

    I disagree. Every member of the U.S. military — especially those who serve in front-line units — receives extensive training on the Laws of Armed Conflict. The Rules of Engagement in Iraq are somewhat restrictive, but unprovoked attacks on unarmed civilians are never authorized.

    Your thesis, if I read you correctly, is that everyone who serves in Iraq is a ticking time-bomb, ready to go off on innocent people at any moment. But you can’t excuse this sort of behavior, or blame it on someone else, with a bunch of psyschoanalytical buzzwords. Soldiers and Marines are put in similar situations every day in Iraq. The vast majority of them manage to handle the situation without resorting to wholesale slaughter.

    Be careful: if you’re implying that this type of behavior is common or even accepted in today’s military, you’re going to find a mob of veterans questioning your credentials and asking for specific evidence.

    You see, we have learned something from Vietnam: This time around we won’t let our honor be called into question without a serious challenge.

    Are you up to it?

  • Robert Bell

    sh*ter: (I have no idea what character that is between the sh and t).

    Exactly what *is* your thesis, how do you measure the explanatory and explained vars?

    SMASH: is it safe to assume that large amounts of effort go into the design of training programs, operational protocols, and screening criteria for military, and those have “continuously improved” since Vietnam?

  • sh0ter

    SMASH,

    My paper can be found here: http://www.student.gsu.edu/~rwhite18/Mylai.doc

    The thesis can be summarized as such: The circumstances of the war, i.e “blurred objective and no time-frame regarding their engagement,” caused an enviroment where these sort of atrocities are able to take place.

    I believe that the same sort of circumstances are at play in the Iraq war, which would allow for a simialr event to occur. This article shows that such an event has already happened.

    This isn’t about honor. It’s about protecting civillian lives.

  • SMASH: is it safe to assume that large amounts of effort go into the design of training programs, operational protocols, and screening criteria for military, and those have “continuously improved” since Vietnam?

    I can only speak for the period 1990 – present, but yes.

    For example, in addition to all the leadership training that we received, everyone at Annapolis was required to complete an intensive, semester-long course in military law, with numerous case studies in the UCMJ, Law of Armed Conflict, Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg Principles, etc.

    In addition, everyone in the military receives training on the Use of Deadly Force before each firearms training session. We also receive specific, detailed briefs on the Law of Armed Conflict and the local Rules of Engagement by a military lawyer upon entering a new theater of operations. And of course, there is required annual refresher training on all of these topics.

    Bottom line: this stuff is beaten into our brains ad nauseum. Nobody in uniform can plea ignorance on this one. Nobody.

  • This isn’t about honor. It’s about protecting civillian lives.

    Protecting civilian lives is entirely consistent with maintaining the honor of the United States Military.

    Thank you for sharing your paper. It’s an interesting point of view, but I don’t agree with your conclusion. Your argument that “the state of affairs of the fighting in Vietnam created an environment where a massacre was inevitable” isn’t supported by the facts.

    To the contrary, you hit on the crux of the matter in your description of Lt. Calley:

    Calley was known not to be able to read maps or carry out basic operations, and was generally considered to be a bad leader. Despite his ineptness Calley was made a platoon leader because of a shortage of officers

    It was, in fact, a handful of “bad apples” like Calley that made My Lai possible. Conversely, it was the heroic actions of men like Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn that brought the massacre to a halt and saved numerous innocent lives.

    Why didn’t you include them in your paper?

  • sh0ter

    Well it was only a three document analysis…

    As for Calley, true he was just a bad apple. However the fact that he made it far enough to be in command shows that a circumstance of the war(officers dying by the dozens) could be said to have created an enviroment where such things are possible.

  • Roberto

    I think SMASH is a little sensitive when it comes to criticism of the military. However, I think there can be consensus in that IF things happened the way they have been suggested in the media, i.e., that for some unjustified reason some or all of those soldiers lost it, snapped, overreacted, or otherwise acted in a way that would not have been reasonable or justifiable, using your average Marine as your standard for reasonableness and the Marine’s special training and instruction to measure whether it was justifiable, THEN what happened was a travestry and a disgrace for which some soldiers will, hopefully, be held accountable (WOW, that’s one heck of a run-on sentence!).

    There’s a distinction between saying that what’s alleged to have happened in Haditha can be expected to occur (which is what I got from sh0ter’s post) and saying that it is unavoidable because of the nature of Military service (which is how I think SMASH took it). I agree with sh0ter that those things can be expected to occur, particularly under the current conditions in Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. Even SMASH’s posts suggests as much:

    “Soldiers and Marines are put in similar situations every day in Iraq. The vast majority of them manage to handle the situation without resorting to wholesale slaughter.” (Emphasis provided.)

    In the end, soldiers are human beings. Even Marines. And even though I haven’t even held a firearm in my hands, let alone serve in the military, I think it’s fair to say that nobody really knows how people are going to react until the bullets are flying for real.

    If these allegations are true, these soldiers did something totally unforgivable and the ones who did not speak up when they learned of this are also guilty. But these soldiers are also victims. They have to be held accountable but they need help too.

  • JP

    Smash, I’m with you on waiting to see the facts and the justice system play out. That said, I disagree iwth people who argue that others shouldn’t even make such allegations for fear of demotivating the troops–if none of our troops “lost it” and committed such atrocities, there wouldn’t be anything to demotivate the troops.. that’s the way i look at it. If there’s such strong motivation against having atrocities discussed, it should be channeled into preventing them, not criticizing the dissenters.

  • billd

    seems to me there is no logical reason why smash and sh ter couldn’t both be right

  • Swaraaj

    If I kick and hurt a person seriously, will the police/court prosecute my leg or my head? Let us not wash our hands off a serious tragedy by taking a narrow view. This would be a recurring blot on humanity unless we go beyond the symptoms and look at the cause.

    Talking of “blurred objectives” in Iraq war, the observations of Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak,
    Air Force chief of staff (1990-94) in Rolling Stone merit attention. “The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have been overblown, because we were in Vietnam for a decade and it cost us 58,000 troops. We’ve been in Iraq for nineteen months and we’re still under 1,200 killed.

    “But there is one sense in which the parallel with Vietnam is valid. The American people were told that to win the Cold War we had to win Vietnam. But we now know that Vietnam was not only a diversion from winning the Cold War but probably delayed our winning it and made it cost more to win. Iraq is a diversion to the war on terror in exactly the same way Vietnam was a diversion to the Cold War.”

    I am also reminded about the famous episode when two powerful persons in England, who were great friends once, fell out. King Henry II in rage shouted in his court:”What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest.”

    The king’s exact words have been lost to history but his outrage inspired four knights to rid the realm of this annoying prelate. They arrived at Canterbury and immediately searched for the Archbishop. Becket fled to the Cathedral where a service was in progress. The knights found him at the altar, drew their swords and began hacking at their victim finally splitting his skull.

    So the present day “Kings” have to just speak aloud in a macho language to spur their young “knights” into “action”. So if we just blame the “knights” and seek “law and justice” and punish them for their barbaric acts, do we believe that the “Kings” of today are not acountable and are above the law and the justice system?

    Finally, are we all not conniving that the “leg” should be amputated while the “head” should survive?

  • Roberto

    Swaraaj, your leg/head analogy is really flawed because while it is clear you have full control over your leg no organization, military or civilian, has that same level of control over its members. A closer analogy would be to say “if I say a slur to an innocent bystander but I suffer from Tourette syndrome, how should I be punished?

    The other distinction is that, as SMASH noted, any miliary leader urging other soldiers to disregard their training and their rules of engagement and to just go out and make an example of somebody would run afoul of a laundry list of laws and procedures and should be held accountable. You’re assuming that’s what happened but right now we just don’t know.

    Let the process unfold.

  • What SMASH is objecting to, I half suspect, is a wholesale media jihad that is about to unfold against the U.S. Military in general and the United States Marines in particular. Those who have served in theater, such as SMASH, will find it incumbent upon themselves to stand up and speak out in the defense of the line infantryman and Marine rifleman. The MSM will not. They will look at this as a chance to severely wound the Administration and damage a war policy which they bitterly oppose and help the Democrats in the bargain. Whether we like it or not, there is a partisan dimension to this. Anyone who missed General John Batiste on O’Reilly last night could not missed the campaign against Rumsfeld and the Administration that will come out of this. If it turns out that this was a Mini-Me of My Lai, then I actually expect Haditha to result in Rumsfeld’s resignation, leading to one of Condi’s people to ascend to control of the DOD. This happened on his watch, as did Abu Ghraib. Not his fault, and it’s not fair, but fair is for Girl Scouts.

    All that being said, the MSM was already beginning the Delayed Stress Syndrome drumbeat that we heard from Vietnam. “Ticking Timebombs” and whatnot. This is what happens when the DOD does away with the embed program. They are eager to defame the armed services, simply because they cannot stand the fact that institutions such as the Marine Corps are held in such high regard by the public, while the press has to compete with used car dealers, politicians, and pimps for the nadir of the public trust.

    Those who were in uniform, such as SMASH, who blog and hold the attention of the public need to speak up constantly in the defense of those serving today. Those of us who haven’t served simply don’t have the credibility that servicemembers, active and reserve, do.

    All that still said, let the process of General Courts Martial unfold, pursuant to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This could become a capital case, so the less said out of uninvolved parties holding political office, such as John Murtha, the better. So far, the President has shown admirable restraint.

  • Salmineo

    More about this terrible incident is learned everyday. Unfortunately I have lost faith in the ability of the military to police itself. I firmly believe that the military would completely cover this up if it could. In my opinion the military should not even be allowed to prosecute beyond petty crime. The federal courts should be the judicial authority for the military.

  • Swaraaj,

    You wrote:

    So the present day “Kings” have to just speak aloud in a macho language to spur their young “knights” into “action”. So if we just blame the “knights” and seek “law and justice” and punish them for their barbaric acts, do we believe that the “Kings” of today are not acountable and are above the law and the justice system?

    You’re strongly implying that these Marines allgedly committed mass murder on the “suggestion” of their superiors. Yet you provide no basis for your accusation, besides the 800-year-old precedent of the assassination of Thomas Becket.

    Another commenter suggested that I’m “a little sensitive when it comes to criticism of the military.” You bet I am. My father, who was a pediatrician serving in the Navy at the time, was spat upon and called “baby killer” by an anti-war activist in the 1970’s. I have yet to be spat upon, but I have been called “fascist,” “warmonger,” and “murderer,” even though I’ve never had to fire a shot in anger. So yes, there’s a history here. And this generation of veterans isn’t going to stand by quietly as our honor is stolen and our reputation is slandered.

    But my main point is this: the U.S. Military, as an institution, goes to great lenghts to ensure that its members are fully cognizant of and act in compliance with the Laws of Armed Conflict. We train. We brief. We educate. And we do it over and over again.

    There is simply no basis whatsoever for you or anyone else to accuse the military of widespread and wanton disregard for the Laws of Armed Conflict. Any American Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine who commits war crimes simply cannot plea ignorance or that they were “just following orders.” The JAG corps would tear them to shreds in a heartbeat.

    So here’s my question to you, Swaraaj: Do you have any factual basis whatsoever for your accusation, or is this all just speculation?

    Well?

  • htom

    SMASH is not alone in being sensitive. Both of my parents served in WW2, both of my grandfathers served, and so did I.

    There was a guy who called me a “babykiller” and then tried to spit on me, but he missed and waddled away.

    I, too, want to see something other than rumors and anon reporting.

  • SMASH hardly needs my help in this disussion, but I wnated to point out an error in one of sh0ter’s points. It’s a small one, but reflective I think of a predominant lack of military knowledge by many of the military’s critics.

    As for Calley, true he was just a bad apple. However the fact that he made it far enough to be in command shows that a circumstance of the war(officers dying by the dozens) could be said to have created an enviroment where such things are possible.

    Calley was a Platoon Leader. Unless promoted out of the Enlisted ranks (and even then), he was a very junior officer (most often a 1st or 2nd Lieutenant, the lowest rank for officers).

    As such, he wasn’t elevated in any sense. He was a junior leader with the smallest unit of command.

  • One other observation. Finding some external condition or environment MORE responsible for the misbehavior of Soldiers is reprehensible.

    People who think such things are either looking to excuse or condone bad behavior, or want to redirect righteous anger and blame at other preferred targets. I think we know where lies Swaraaj’s target.

    This is analogous to the “psychosociological” explanations for criminal behavior, and just as poorly considered.

    To let war criminals like Calley off the hook in such a fashion is, as SMASH suggests, to damn the vast majority of honorable, law abiding, and moral soldiers who somehow keep themselves from committing war crimes.

  • Greyhawk

    Yes, but where have all the flowers gone?

  • Himler

    I like these marines, they remind me of my boys in Russia and Poland. I think you Americans now have an SS of your own. I am proud to call the marines my brothers!

    H. Himler

  • sh0ter

    Dadmanly,

    The enviroment isn’t MORE responsible, somebody still has to pull the trigger. My argument is not meant to take resposiblity away from the soilders at all, but simply to show that fighting this type of war makes things like this easier to happen.

  • Himler

    When we were fighting the sub human Russian dogs, just like you fight the sub humans in Iraq, we had to let them know that attacks against our men would be dealt with severely. The Hadaitha action is what you need more of in order gain the upper hand. As Victor Davis Hansen told my good friend Hugh Hewitt, “you must humiliate them”. Every time an IED goes off, take 100 people from the ville and execute them. Hey it worked for us! The marines have now shown they have the meddle for this kind of hard work needed for victory and the glory of our dear leader Bush!

    H. Himler

  • Collective guilt?

    Collective responsibility. Whether they do good or ill, the American military represents the will of the American public and as such, yes, we are responsible for their actions. Yes we are responsible for Haditha and for Viet Nam. We are also responsible for the liberation of France at Normandy as well. And for the hundreds of humanitarian efforts our military undertakes each year, such as after the tsunami in Thailand and after the earthquake in Pakistan. And for the removal of a sadistic perverted dictator in Iraq.

    As I have said before, it is impossible to send a few hundred thousand people even to Disneyland without there being some loose nuts in the mix. Add to that the pressures of war, and there are bound to be some problems. Whether this is the case in Haditha remains to be seen. And what if the truth is somewhere in the middle? What if the Marines did lose it AND there there were bona-fide terrorists and bomb-makers in some of those houses? We do the best we can to pick the right people and give them the training they need to do the job. But they are human, and they can break, and have flaws. And they are also held responsible for their actions, whether on the battlefield and off of it, and whether they are in uniform or not, unlike most civilians.

    One last thing, a mistake many make is that they seem to think that the American public is also unchanged since Viet Nam. I think that by and large, we have a lot more nuanced grasp on the issues than certain talk show hosts would give us credit for. And we have far more sources of information and opinion at our fingertips than those that went before us. The American public are not quite the sheep some think us to be. Baaa.

  • Swaraaj

    There is a serious problem somewhere. Either my language is difficult to understand or someone is getting too emotional to follow my line of argument.

    SMASH says: “Swaraaj…You’re strongly implying that these Marines allgedly committed mass murder on the suggestion of their superiors. Yet you provide no basis for your accusation, besides the 800-year-old precedent of the assassination of Thomas Becket.

    Swaraaj wrote: “So the present day ‘Kings’ have to just speak aloud in a macho language to spur their young ‘knights’ into ‘action’. So if we just blame the ‘knights’ and seek ‘law and justice’ and punish them for their barbaric acts, do we believe that the ‘Kings’ of today are not accountable and are above the law and the justice system?”

    Let me clarify. When I said the “kings” of today I meant the top leaders…Bush and Blair and their advisers. They may not have said to soldiers to go and kill people. But the policy of “war on terror” is such that it is likely to jeopardise the reputation of soldiers because the “terrorist” is not visible. A soldier is generally trained to fight another soldier.

    Terrorists take refuge among common people, especially if they happen to share the same citizenship. Now a common man/woman is caught between the terror unleashed by the terrorist and the soldier. A soldier becomes ruthless when he realises that he cannot distinguish between a terrorist and an innocent civilian. These incidents also happen in Kashmir.

    I really wonder how you can avoid such tragedies. I can understand that these basic things are still not clear to a majority of Americans because they have lived for long without terrorist violence until it came home in its horrible manifestation on 9/11. In all these years of the “war on terror’ there is not much success. I really don’t know what is the way out. But civilian policy plays a crucial role.

    In India we have lived with terrorist violence for very long with certain neighbours providing tacit and direct support (a large volume of evidence has been given to the U.S. Administration a number of times but to no avail).

    Holly has sent me today a report that “A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani engineer who bought and sold nuclear knowledge and supplies (Iran, Iraq, Libya) in the international black market, appears to be safe from prosecution. Pakistan isn’t pursuing charges against him, and cases in Germany and Switzerland are languishing. Meanwhile, experts say Khan’s network is still up and running.” And yet Pakistan government is American administration’s best friend. Do look up A.Q.Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, in Google.

    Ignorance, it is said, is bliss.

  • As a Vietnam era vet who is all too familiar with the cries of the jackals on the left, I take extreme offense to the idea that all it takes is the right pressure and men break under the stress of war. Good men do not break, and the military is full of good men (and women), just as it was in Vietnam. The claim that we were babykillers is a lie promulgated by those for whom truth is unimportant.

    This time it will not go unchallenged. And the John Kerry lie that the leadership was in on it also will not be tolerated.

  • Swaraaj,
    “A soldier becomes ruthless when he realises that he cannot distinguish between a terrorist and an innocent civilian.”

    The coalition military has been at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, going to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties, damage to mosques, etc.

    Ironically, a strong argument can be made that if such care had not been taken, the security situation would be much better and fewer Iraqi lives would have been lost by now.

  • Swaraaj wrote:

    Let me clarify. When I said the “kings” of today I meant the top leaders…Bush and Blair and their advisers. They may not have said to soldiers to go and kill people. But the policy of “war on terror” is such that it is likely to jeopardise the reputation of soldiers because the “terrorist” is not visible. A soldier is generally trained to fight another soldier.

    So it’s all Bush and Blair’s fault, for making their respective militaries go out and fight terrorists.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Salmineo

    Smash is wrong. Troops don’t recieve “extensive” training before entering armed conflict. We are talking humanity training. IMO none of the training a Marine recieves changes his basic occupation as an assualt troop. Whats happening is that they are useing Assault troops as neighborhood foot patrols. The Army leg units are somewhat better suited for this than Marines. Sure you can use Marines but there has to be more than just urban warfare “how to assualt a town without leveling it first” type training. Marines are more edgy, higher strung, than an Army Infantry unit. However humanitarian training is good for all troops.

    My suggestion: Extensive International Committee of the Red Cross training DONE BY the ICRC at the unit level. Not just the “brush on brush off” 30 minute indoc, but the real McCoy.

  • geoffgo06

    Swaraag,

    Vietnam was a diversion, only if you believe the communists (NV, China, Russia, et al, combined about 1/3 of the world’s poulation) would have stopped at Saigon, and not prosecuted their war south and west.

    Since we cannot know for sure, you have the right to your opinion. Having served in the USAF (1960-1965), I can vouch for the fact: That wasn’t our belief at the time, and only our willingness to fight about it kept it from escalating to everywhere else.

    Of course, your thinking is absent any remorse for the millions who were killed/oppressed, because we left prematurely, which encouraged the communist regimes to start afresh, aroud the world.

    To hold your lofty position, your thinking must be devoid of criticism of the ROE.

    Nukes = no troops lost, NGOs involved in recovery
    Continuous Heavy bombardment = few troops lost
    Anyway else = US troops die

    Winning the hearts and minds is obviously easier when fewer hearts and minds are around to win. See Japan &Germany.

    Do you imagine Hanoi would not have surrendered in 1965, had we started Rolling Thunder on day 1?

  • Salmineo,

    Things have changed since the 1970s. Marines today train for Low Intensity Conficts (“Dirty Little Wars”) much more than they did in the past.

    Urban combat such as what the Marines face today in Iraq today is precisely what they’re trained to do.

  • flaime

    While this has been beat to death here, I think it’s important to point that Hadiha has little in common with My Lai…My Lai was a massacre planned by officers. Repsonsibility was, if I remember correctly (I was like 4 when it happened), shown to go all the way up to a commanding general. It was the systematic execution of 500 civilians in an attempt to intimitade and coerce the population.

    This was 5 low level individuals who, if the stories are accurate, snapped and went on a vengeance based killing spree. The officers have been relieved of their commands not for the killing, but because they are accused of covering up and conducting an insufficient investigation. While it was too many and unnecessary, if true, this was only 12 civilians. It had nothing to do with either official misconduct on the part of officers or a plan to systematically intimidate the populace.

  • flaime

    <blockquote>

    Ironically, a strong argument can be made that if such care had not been taken, the security situation would be much better and fewer Iraqi lives would have been lost by now.
    </blockquote>

    A stronger argument can be made that if our military still had the capabiliy to put 1.5 Million men on the ground in Iraq, the security situation would be much better and fewer Iraqi lives would have been lost by now. Occupation requires boots on the ground. G. H. W. Bush knew this and had just reduced the military by 6 divisions. That’s why he didn’t invade Iraq in 1990. His son failed to understand this, and in my opinion, the lack of available men (I believe this occupation required at least 500,000 to be done effectively) is what has caused so much difficulty.

  • Salmineo

    Smash

    Anyway, its still not humanitarian training for combatants. With this training a Marine can say to himself that he knows he did what was right because he has been given a guidline.

    [The 1970’s]….are you sure you got that timeline right?

    It appears to me that some young men are going too far. This happens, but they must pay. (IMO they will destroy themselves over it eventually anyway)

    I know one thing that will prove absolutly true; there are many American witnesses in each incident, and, in time the truth will come out. Always does.

  • Yes Sal, the 1970s. Surely you remember the final years of the Vietnam War? I was just a babe then, it’s true, but I do know my history.

  • Salmineo

    Smash

    There is nothing you can do. Hiditha has dishonored the Marines. I agree that for every incident like this the world will perceive three, but who said it was a fair world? Its not the first time the Marines have been dishonored, nor do I expect it to be the last.

    In yesterdays world we could say the “Germans” are attacking us, now we phrase it as the “Nazi German government” is attacking us. There is much less room for acceptable collateral damage.

    Maybe that is the military’s problem? What our military thinks is acceptable collateral damage, is not acceptable to the world. The cost of war just might be higher and paid in a different currency than what our military accounts for.

    PING:
    TITLE: Haditha: jackpot for the antiwar Left
    BLOG NAME: reverse_vampyr
    I’m even more surprised to find so many on the Left willing to not only believe it, but are tripping over themselves in their rush to judgement as well as spraining their shoulders while they try to pat themselves on the back for their opposition of …

    PING:
    TITLE: Haditha and “Collective Guilt”
    BLOG NAME: The Indepundit
    AT THE MODERATE VOICE, Swaraaj Chauhan writes on the Haditha incident, “Is it fair to blame the Marines Alone?” West Asia has a tough terrain with a different culture and civilization. It can bring out the best, or the worst,…

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