Saturday, May 05, 2007

Battlefield Ethics

Picture this: You're a soldier. You're deployed into a combat theater to fight an insurgent enemy hiding among a civilian population. This enemy dresses, walks, talks, eats, sleeps and shits just like the civilians he dwells among. He hides in plain sight. Nearly everyone (both civilian and enemy) have deeply rooted affiliations with and strong loyalties to various tribal entities that promote separatism, not to mention the many religious sects and political factions that surve only to further divide the population. Just about the only thing that anyone agrees on is that they hate you, your Army, your country and your religion...basically everything you stand for. They've been told their entire lives that you are Satan, that you are the devil incarnate. From mosques to preschools, you are referred to as an infadel. They believe you to be unclean and unworthy to trod the very dirt on their streets. In short...they hate you. You live in this environment, separated from your family for an average of 12 to 18 months at a time. You are hot, sweaty and dirty nearly 18 hours of every day. This may be your second or even third deployment to this hellhole. At any time you could be hit by a snipers bullet or a roadside bomb. You are always a target. Your days are spent kicking doors, searching houses and questioning an evasive populous about the presence of insurgents that many of them secretly support. You are jocked up and in a tactical mode nearly every waken hour....actually....24 hours a day, because you know you dream about this shit. You've attended many memorials for your fallen comrades. You've popped one to many salutes to a pair of empty boots. Amazingly enough, you manage to keep the faith. After all, faith and hope go hand in hand and without faith and hope....what else is there? Have you got the picture? Now...take whatever idea you think that picture gives you of the hell a United States soldier or Marine endures and double it. Maybe that'll get you close.

Now try to stay in character as I pose a couple of scenarios and questions. After entering one of the many homes you search every day, a woman makes a dash for a closet as you enter the home, while shouting in a language you don't understand. Is she going for a gun? You remember hearing a story of a Soldier who was shot by a woman while searching her home. A Soldier intercepts her and forcefully slams her to the floor. She yells at him and tries to get up as other members of the family rush into the room. They must also be secured quickly so the Soldier kicks her to the floor. A teenage boy runs toward the soldier as if to tackle him in a desperate attempt to defend his mother but the Soldier reacts as he was trained and the kid meets the butt of a rifle. After the home is secure, your interpretor is allowed to enter and you discover that the woman was only rushing to the closet to get a garment to cover her head because she believes it is indecent for her to be seen with her head uncovered. Here's question #1...Do you report that Soldier for kicking the civilian? Do you end his career and subject him to a Court Martial because he buttstroked an unarmed kid?'re in character here. You're the guy I painted in the picture above. you?

While you're mulling that over, here's another. A rash of IED explosions has rocked the neighborhood you patrol every day. Along with 5 Iraqi civilians, one of your friends is killed. Another is severely injured and goes home with one less leg than he came with. Your forces are augmented with Iraqi National Police and an aggressive sweep is conducted. Intel leads you to a small home where a suspect is located with a large weapons cache and several intact modified fused weapons in the vehicle parked outside. These bombs are complete and ready for placement but it's obvious from the lack of bomb making materials that the bombs were not made in that home. That means he's either not the bomb maker or he made them somewhere else. You witness a Soldier punch him in the face as he is bound by the wrists and ankles. He strikes him repeatedly as an Iraqi interpretor asks him where the bombs were made. After some "convincing", i.e., threatening to let the INP come in the room and take a crack at him, he reveals the location of a garage just two blocks away where two more men and a large supply of bomb making materials are seized. This discovery has saved lives...many lives...maybe your life. The prisoner has minor facial injuries but is still very much alive. So here's question #2...Do you care that this prisoner was tortured? I've posted on this subject before, so you know how I feel...what about you?

Not suprisingly, a recent AP report seems to villainize the American Soldier and Marine for their "ethics" on the battlefield. The article paints the picture of a battle weary Soldier who's significantly less than gentle with the people he encounters everyday. I don't necessarily disagree with that assessment. What I do disagree with is that the Soldier or Marine is acting improperly. I ask myself if they weren't quite so incumbered by the multi-culturalistic, politically correct, non-offenders and were allowed to be a little more "heavy handed", would the Iraqis continue to allow these insurgents to operate so freely in their midst or would they cooperate...if for no other reason, than out of fear? I don't defend a US serviceman who rapes a 14 year old girl and then murders her and her family. But I also don't believe you can toss that serviceman into the same "ethical barrel" as one who's just trying to stay alive. I can't even see mentioning them in the same article.

War is a nasty business, and it's a business best finished as quickly as possible. It's high time the US quit fiddle fartin' around with the business of being nice. These people are going to hate us no matter how we conduct ourselves. As a matter of fact, so is the rest of the world. Screw 'em! I'm not saying we should kill and torture innocent civilians, but on the same token, we ought not be seen as a bunch of panty waist pushovers either. Crossing the United States military in a war zone should hurt. Selling them out or setting them up should be painful indeed.