Monday, October 17, 2005

Anyone who runs is V.C. Anyone who stands still, is a well-disciplined V.C.

COLONEL'S TOUGHEST DUTY Battalion commander pays his respects, apologizes to Iraqis whose civilian relatives have been killed by anonymous GIs in passing patrols and convoys Anna Badkhen, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, October 14, 2005

Tikrit, Iraq -- Nebras Khalid Nasser understood this much: Insurgents often killed people in Beiji, a northern Iraqi town where he lived with his pregnant wife and their year-old son. He needed to move his family to Tikrit, a safer city about 40 miles to the south. He helped his wife, Zahoya, into his brother-in-law's beat-up Toyota sedan. They started driving south. They saw a U.S. military convoy.

A shot rang out.

Blood poured from Zahoya's head. Then she died....

....U.S. military officials do not keep track of Iraqi civilians who have died from U.S. fire. The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index said last month that 8,347 to 14,576 Iraqis had been killed by acts of war since 2003, but the estimates were not broken down by type of incident. Other groups attempting to track civilian deaths put the number even higher. Wood estimated that since his battalion was deployed here in January, U.S. soldiers had killed about 10 Iraqi civilians in this sector of north central Iraq.... ....Often the deaths are the result of split-second decisions made by U.S. soldiers who have to weigh the risk of being blown up by insurgents, who use car bombs as their weapon of choice, against the possibility of killing innocent civilians. Although U.S. troops in Iraq use their weapons far more carefully than they did at the beginning of the war, innocent civilians still get killed....

The frequency of these collateral deaths should come as no surprise to anyone. Our soldiers are in an impossible situation. As the article states these young men and women are in a war zone that starts where their feet end. The enemy is invisible, exposes themselves for a few critical seconds if at all, and then disappears into the civilian populace. This is the essence of guerilla warfare and why it is almost impossible to defeat entirely.

When a US soldier makes a mistake that results in civilian deaths it becomes an advertisement for the insurgency. It erases any good or progress that has been done by our forces and transforms it into an imperial effort designed to benefit what becomes perceived as a puppet regime and an aggressive occupation.

The other ugly side to this is the condition that arises when an individual soldier comes to see the entire population as they "enemy". The helicopter gunner scene from Full Metal Jacket, while fictional, provides the perfect example:

Private Joker: How can you shoot women and children?
Door Gunner
: Easy... you don't lead 'em so much. [laughs] Ain't war hell?!

War becomes a bloody and simplified process. Why don't they understand that we are there to free them? Why don't our Iraqis, fight like their Iraqis? It is the White man's burden for the 21st century.

Eightball: Personally, I think, uh... they don't really want to be involved in this war. You know, I mean... they sort of took away our freedom and gave it to the, to the gookers, you know. But they don't want it. They'd rather be alive than free, I guess. Poor dumb bastards.

....Both victims apparently were shot by U.S. soldiers from other units passing through Beiji, where insurgents mount regular attacks on Americans, Iraqi security forces and Iraq's oil pipeline. Neither convoy stopped to help the civilians the soldiers had shot. It would be pretty much impossible to ascertain which U.S. unit was passing through the area at the time and track down those who did the shooting, Wood said. "Seems like I pick up a lot of people's pieces around here," he said. "These ... patrols that drive around and shoot people have been a thorn in everybody's side all year."
Faced with a war they do not understand. Faced with circumstances no amount of training can prepare them for our soldiers are left to try to make rational decisions in an irrational situation. As for the commanders, can you here the echo:

Pogue Colonel: Son, all I've ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese (Iraqi), because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It's a hardball world, son. We've gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.

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