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Posted by on Jun 2, 2006 in At TMV | 16 comments

Marines and the Mahabharata: Lessons From the Haditha Tragedy In Iraq

I thank Salmineo for the interesting comments on my post “Is It Fair To Blame The Marines Alone?“. Salmineo said: “(American) troops don’t receive ‘extensive’ training before entering armed conflict. We are talking humanity training. IMO none of the training a Marine receives changes his basic occupation as an assault troop.

“What’s happening is that they are using 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 assault 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.”

Thank you Salmineo.

I am reminded of the fact that in ancient India the wars were fought strictly according to the established Rules of Engagement. The Kurukshetra war forms an essential component of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. According to various archaeological, astronomical and literary evidence, the Kurukshetra war took place around 3067 BCE in the modern day state of Haryana in India.

The rules of engagement:
The two supreme commanders met and framed “rules of ethical conduct”, dharmayuddha, for the war. The rules included:
* Fighting must begin no earlier than sunrise and end exactly at sunset.
* Multiple warriors may not attack a single warrior.
* Two warriors may “duel,” or engage in prolonged personal combat, only if they carry the same weapons and they are on the same mount (no mount, a horse, an elephant, or a chariot).
* No warrior may kill or injure a warrior who has surrendered.
* One who surrenders becomes a prisoner of war and a slave.
* No warrior may kill or injure an unarmed warrior.
* No warrior may kill or injure an unconscious warrior.
* No warrior may kill or injure a person or animal not taking part in the war.
* No warrior may kill or injure a warrior whose back is turned away.
* No warrior may attack a woman.
* No warrior may strike an animal not considered a direct threat.
* The rules specific to each weapon must be followed. For example, it is prohibited to strike below the waist in mace warfare.
* Warriors may not engage in any “unfair” warfare whatsoever.

And these rules were strictly adhered to. But what do we do when the opponent is a terrorist? However, I agree with Salmineo that Marines and other soldiers need to be given proper training so that they can handle the civilians in a humane manner.

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