May 10, 2008

What Are They Fighting For?

The ever wonderful Chris Floyd points out the decrepitude of "rules of engagement" during war.
Shoot, Kill, Lie, Repeat: America's New Moral Universe
Written by Chris Floyd Friday, 09 May 2008
Tell me that this doesn't sound like something out of a history of Nazi tactics in World War II:

The rules [of engagement]t explicitly allowed the killing of unarmed Iraqis under certain circumstances...Specifically, the snipers were allowed to shoot unarmed people running away from explosions or firefights....Of course, it's not unusual for innocent people to run from explosions.
Didier, who has since been promoted to captain, said that "if that individual makes contact with you and then breaks contact of their own accord and disarms themselves while they are breaking contact, they are still an engageable target because they are not wounded, nor did they surrender." He explained, "They are only breaking contact so that they can engage coalition forces at a later time." In court, Sgt. Anthony Murphy, one of the snipers who was responsible for a questionable kill, testified that he interpreted this order about breaking contact so they can engage at a later time as: "Engage fleeing local nationals without weapons."

In other words, if an innocent, unarmed Iraqi runs away to seek safety from a suicide bombing, a missile attack or a gunfight — which any human being would instinctively do — then he is fair game to be killed by an American sniper.
The excerpt above comes from a story in, "Killing by the Numbers," about an "elite" U.S. sniper squad that murdered a captured, unarmed civilian in cold blood. A more detailed excerpt follows below, but I'd like to deal briefly with one ancillary aspect first.
The story expands to talk more generally about the sniper program in Iraq, and is careful — overly careful — to emphasize that the snipers responsible for so many "questionable kills" are operating in very stressful conditions: sleep-deprived, sweltering in deadly heat, surrounded by potential "hostiles," at constant risk of attack. All true, of course, but it prompts this simple question: What the hell are they doing there in the first place? Why are they squatting and sweltering in "hides" in a foreign land, looking to kill people who never attacked the United States?
Yes, it is entirely understandable that a soldier subjected to nerve-wracking, physically tormenting conditions might fail to act with reason, patience, judgement and prudence. But is this supposed to be some kind of excuse for crimes committed within the context of a larger crime: a war of aggression, the military invasion and occupation of a foreign country without any provocation? Surely many of the Nazi atrocities were committed by men under unbearable mental and physical strain as well. So what? Were they absolved of their crimes? And more importantly — were their leaders absolved for instigating the larger crime that engendered these atrocities?
For as the story also shows, the "questionable kills" by American snipers derive largely from the murderous "rules of engagement" they are given by their superiors — and by the anxiety of their officers to produce big "kill numbers" to appease the bloodlust — and PR needs — of the thugs in the White House and their "counterinsurgency genius," David Petraeus. [...]
A detailed recount of another two other incidences follow, but I'd rather return to the theme that people suffer in war, all people, soldiers and citizens alike.
[...] It goes without saying that the officers who put these men in this situation — not to mention the civilian "leaders" in Washington who instigated the mass murder in Iraq — suffered not the slightest adverse consequence of this crime, for which they bear the primary responsibility.
[...] When even the scapegoats escape justice, what possible hope can there be that the perpetrators and abettors of the Nazi-like war crime in Iraq will ever pay the price — or even suffer the slightest trouble — for their monstrous outrage?
Bravo, Chris, and write on, please!

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