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Posted by on Jan 24, 2010 in Politics, War | 6 comments

Can you blame soldiers for getting killed?

It sounds like a crazy question, but it’s coming from Andrew Exum, formerly an infantry officers and Army Ranger. Exum’s comments are a response to Leon Panetta’s insistence that no one should blame either a CIA officer or a soldier who is killed in the line of duty.

Panetta assumes that [it] is beyond the pale to say that Marines or U.S. soldiers died in a firefight due to poor war-fighting skills, but that in fact has happened quite regularly over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every single firefight U.S. soldiers and Marines engage in is subject to an admirably honest after action review (AAR).

Exum doesn’t say, but would probably agree, that it is politically unthinkable to say that soldiers or Marines died because of their own incompetence. Presumably, there are some exceptions out there if you look hard enough. But imagine if George Bush or Dick Cheney ever said that a portion of our casualties in Iraq are the fault of the victims. And have you ever read an article in the NY Times or WaPo that began “Four American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb yesterday because they chose the wrong road to drive on and missed obvious warning signs (such as freshly dug earth) that a bomb had been planted nearby.”

I didn’t think so.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly