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Thread: What it means when the US goes to war

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    Default What it means when the US goes to war

    What it means when the US goes to war
    by Chris Hedges
    Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations". Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of soda, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

    Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing - the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm - to murder - the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.

    The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq.

    American marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.

    The reality behind the myth, however, is very different.
    ...
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JF07Ak01.html

    Chris Hedges is the former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author of several books including War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. This piece has been adapted from the introduction to the just-published, Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (Nation Books), which he has co-authored with Laila al-Arian.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    I haven't yet experienced war -- so take my words for what they're worth. As a Catholic and an officer, it seems that there's a moral dilemma in war because innocent life is taken. But I think that moral dilemma is often misunderstood, and in some cases artificial, constructed to make a political point. For example, the article compares US forces in Iraq to NAZI Germany's extermination policy. I'm certain there's a moral difference in responding to threats and rounding up civilians with the intention of shooting them in mass. Have there been mistakes? Yes. Are these mistakes sometimes fatal? Yes. And is criminal activity committed at times? Yes. People can barely keep their milk from souring in the fridge -- how can we expect a large, bureacratic warfighting machine to not make mistakes?

    And I think we've done much work in addressing the problems faced by Soldiers and civilians, as far as "murder" is concerned. Sometimes I wonder if we're pushing it too far (e.g. I recall several years ago a Major who was relieved because he had fired a shot near an insurgent's head during interrogation), but I know the rules are in place ultimately to protect our soldiers and our interests.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    What makes the American military unique is that murder, genocide, etc are not our strategy, tactic, or policy. In the rare instances where an American purposely murders or harms an enemy or civilian, he/she is charged and tried, while the rest of the military and the American public are disgusted. American Soldiers as murderers is a popular, but wrong, image and legacy of Vietnam, created to end the war and disparage the troops. Bad things happen, war is hell, but we hold are troops to a standard.

    My Soldiers experienced IEDs and ambushes in Iraq, but did not rage out at civilians. They reacted to the attacks with battle drills and courage, and continued their mission. There were no shooting sprees, even after injury or a truck destroyed. The one mission where they actually saw the insurgents, they returned accurate and controlled fire at the individuals shooting at them, not wild bursts regardless of the surroundings.

    I can't speak for others, and I am sure accidents have happened, but if any unit had a policy of shoot 'em all, they would quickly be found out, and they would fail in their mission. Soldiers who make an honest mistake need the support and counseling to ensure they don't blame themselves and live with an un-necessary inner burden.

    Though not beloved by all, I am quite certain a statue of a US Soldier in Iraq (or elsewhere) would not earn a nickname similar to the often referred Eastern European Soviet Soldier statue "The Unknown Rapist." Americans are different.

    Off the soapbox.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Well, overall I've found our soldiers to be amazingly discriminate when pulling the trigger. Yes, I've seen some instances where the soldier could have done things differently - they are far and few between, and continue to grow more scarce. Yes I've seen instances where civilians were caught in the middle - mostly due to insurgent actions. I've seen both U.S. and Iraq Army and Police officers make a bad shot, or a wrong call - almost always for the right reasons - they were shooting at a confirmed enemy. I've seen far more instances where insurgents deliberately killed civilians, and willingly took advantage of civilians to mask an ambush. I've seen over a dozen civilians killed in a single SVBIED aimed at a single U.S. HMMWV in which none of the soldiers were killed. It almost always involved children. I've seen countless U.S. and Iraqi soldiers treat and evac wounded civilians from the results of terrorist SVBIED into an IP station, mortar attacks, IEDs, etc. I've seen far, far more uplifting and compassionate acts by ISF and U.S. forces toward civilians that saved countless lives while craven terrorist made their exfil and went off to some hole to lick their wounds so they could kill civilians again.

    Perhaps Mr. Hedges might get out a bit more. He honestly would not have to look far to find the type of examples I just spoke of. However, that might require weening himself from poetic diatribe to serve his pale vision of reality.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Hedges is entitled to his opinions and to state them.

    I am entitled to mine. I think he's an idiot who talked to people that would reinforce his views and penned a rather silly diatribe. Of course war is not pretty and there is no real glory in it; it's hard and dirty work, period. It is not pleasant and it does bad things to innocent people. War is immoral and stupid.

    Regrettably, wars occur. Some are necessary. Many think this one is not, many think it is. Time will tell

    Sarajevo did no more than post it under Hedge's title; fair enough. Whether he believes what Hedges wrote is unknown but I'm sure he'll tell us and give us his rationale for believing Hedges if he does.

    Ordinarily I don't waste time responding to such idiocy. This one is pathetic enough in its whining to merit an exception. His final paragraph reads like a parody:

    "Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits - few people in pulpits have much worth listening to - but are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must listen to and heed to know ourselves. They tell us war is a soulless void. They have seen and tasted how war plunges us into perversion, trauma, and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies that have the redemptive power to save us from ourselves."
    Sad, unmitigated foolishness. Stupid, too.

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    Default ...and I have my own opinion.

    Ken W., like you correctly assumed (I suppose) my post showing you my opinion on the matter… Many times I tried to have dialog with you (many people) here and I read many post where you talking about reasons for this or that and none of you ever accepted real responsibility, never be honest openly, never admit that actions of aggressions toward you coming from your actions of aggression toward others, never look on your own doing and reaction on that but always look at other reasons for terror, war and threats… Always something or someone else but never you and your actions (reasons why Iraqi people are hating you and fighting you is “wrong” Islamic ideology, money and foreign elements” but never like reactions of bombings, killings and rapes by US soldiers!?) . That is absolutely amazing to me. And every time I tried to talk with some of you, you will never step up and be honest but just shut me down and even ban me.

    So, no, you will not read what I really think and feel (I think article is AMAZINGLY open and honest, and talks about real picture you all ignoring for either being to pride or to patriotic to admit)… Nor should I hope anymore that we can talk openly and like equals. The first post I did here (deciding to post again and try to have some conversations here after I was banned) was deleted minute after I post it! Strangely, post appeared after but first reaction on my post told me volumes. They are many more things to say and to explain, but I just don’t see possibility here nor chance for that… And with that I will finish leaving you the floor and this (your) place to rant against me and my opinions and beliefs.
    Last edited by Sarajevo071; 06-10-2008 at 03:07 AM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You're entitled to your opinion but unless you've been there

    and actually witnessed what takes place on the ground, you have to develop that opinion based on your own convictions or beliefs and on what others say. You may be right and you may be wrong -- point is you don't know whats right, only what you believe and have read.

    You have engaged in dialog with me and with others and have done so reasonably on occasion. I hope I've been reasonable on occasion. I do not know why you got banned but I do know you get a little abrasive at times. Everybody does that and weblogs are not the greatest communication medium. Still, you provide value here and you have provided a lot of good links. If you elect to go, that's your choice but I'd hate to see it.

    As to your positions in the post above; I don't think I've seen anyone here deny aggression on our part; I know I haven't nor have I denied any responsibility for that aggression. We have disagreed on whether it was merited or not; I think it was and you think not. That to me should be acceptable; people can disagree. Just because you don't agree with me is no reason to think you're evil or dishonest; we just happen to see the same facts and come to different conclusions. I haven't seen anyone here deny the occasional rape and murder by us, that bad things happen or that we got overly aggressive in the early days in Iraq.

    I think most of us understand that many Iraqis do hate us and that most all of them wish we were gone. So I don't think you're being fair by saying no one has accepted these things.

    On the article; he hates war -- who doesn't. I've been in a few and I sure hate it. However, IMO, he goes to an extreme and he has interviewed people who have told him what he wants to hear. It seems that you want to hear that as well. What he's ignoring but I believe you're smart enough not to ignore is that those people he believes have lost their souls or part of their minds are a minority; that happens to about 5 -15% of the people in any war; war is trauma, pure and simple. He forgets the other 85-95% who have acted as honorably and fairly as they can and who are not traumatized.

    I recall one exchange between you an I wherein you complained that the US was evil to all Muslims -- when I pointed out that we had sort of helped in Bosnia, your reply was "yes but..." and said that we took to long to do that!

    If that's the way you wish to see it, that's the way you will see it -- but it's not right to accuse others of not admitting flaws and responsibility when one is determined to find fault and not really interested in exchanging views. That may be an incorrect assessment of why you're here, to find fault -- but that's the way you come across. Look at the posts above these three of yours and mine -- not one bluster, denial or unreasonable comment in my opinion; just a rebuttal of the tenor of Hedges article.

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    Interesting diatribe.....

    When I read stuff like this, I always wonder if the writer holds the same opinion of the US intervention in Kosovo (now, of course, that was courtesy of an administration from a different political viewpoint), or Haiti, or even let's say a potential military intervention in Darfur.

    Of course, I'm sure Mr. Hedges would hold to his same principles no matter the environment, be it geographic, military, or political.

    Yeah.

    In fact, would Mr. Hedges also prefer that our humanitarian efforts by our military in response to recent natural disasters like a Tsunami should be avoided, because members of the military could overreact in creating a security environment resulting from such an "atrocity producing situation" (a natural atrocity, but still an "atrocity")?
    Last edited by Watcher In The Middle; 06-10-2008 at 03:53 AM. Reason: No need on my part to vent. Just question...

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    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarajevo071 View Post
    Always something or someone else but never you and your actions (reasons why Iraqi people are hating you and fighting you is “wrong” Islamic ideology, money and foreign elements” but never like reactions of bombings, killings and rapes by US soldiers!?)
    I don't think anyone has argued that such things aren't factors. This is the root of the extreme emphasis on perception and "information operations" currently being made throughout the military. Atrocities on a battlefield - whether premeditated like the 101st Airborne's rape case a few years ago in Mahmoudiya, purposeful in the heat of battle, or accidental - are as old as war itself, and hardly limited to insurgency. Even an Ambrose-style popular history of World War II will have numerous instances of American soldiers accidentally killing civilians with artillery fire or shooting Germans attempting to surrender in the heat of a firefight.

    Americans are perhaps more messianic than most peoples and can therefore be more defensive about these happenings, but I don't think anyone here denies that they occur, or that they can have an impact on an insurgency. Certainly the Mahmoudiya rapes were at least the stated rationale for the kidnappings of US soldiers in Yousifiya, and atrocities can spur nationalist resistance sentiments among a population. Our cordon-and-search techniques and detainee operations, I would argue, definitely contributed to the Sunni insurgency in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Anger and resentment from indiscriminate use of American firepower in Vietnam helped the Viet Cong.

    I think we had more currency, so to speak, to spend in France or Italy in World War II in terms of atrocities before the population soured on us. We were unquestionably liberating their nations from the Nazis, and the local populations understood the tremendous effort it took to defeat them, and as such wasn't about to turn on us because of occasional civilian casualties inflicted by American firepower. To an extent I believe this held in Korea as well. In the Vietnamese "People's War" every wrongful death or property destruction eventually became a rod for our own back - this continues in Iraq. Hence, again, the extreme emphasis on avoiding such incidents; look at the rapid and extremely apologetic response for the Qur'an shooting incident and the passing out of Christian tokens in Fallujah.

    Finally, the proliferation, decentralization, and dramatically increased worldwide access to media (both its production and consumption) has made these incidents more visible and accessible to the public. Shooting a German prisoner in World War II as he left a house with his hands above his head is as regrettable as the Marine killing a wounded enemy fighter with a single shot to the head in Fallujah in 2004 - yet the former incident happened countless times in WWII with nary a mention in the media (American or German) and the Fallujah incident was shown endlessly on CNN and even more endlessly on al Jazeera, al Arabiyya, and the like. Every time such an event occurs, it is made known to more people, and its impact is far greater. Vietnam was the television war - Iraq has gone from the 24-television news war to the blog/YouTube/cellphone camera war. None of this is to say that committing such acts is in any way justified, but I believe that to be the legitimate context, and as such why it seems so unique and profound to someone like Hedges.

    (I think article is AMAZINGLY open and honest, and talks about real picture you all ignoring for either being to pride or to patriotic to admit)
    I admit - the article doesn't exactly give me a nice warm feeling. It makes me defensive, and I believe much of it to be somewhat ignorant, but I can agree with your stated concept that cases of wrongdoing or atrocity are [a part] of the reason behind insurgencies in Vietnam, Iraq, or elsewhere. But I emphasize part, because poor American treatment of detainees did not spark JAM or other Shi'ite militias; nor are those smugglers and organized crime elements who resist the Iraqi government and the Americans doing so because they are redressing American atrocities.



    For what it's worth, Sarajevo, I urge you to stay. You are a viewpoint we don't have, and while it may be hard for us to stomach some of what you tell us (and undoubtedly harder for you to stomach what we write), I think it's probably good for all concerned.

    Just as Abu Buckwheat wrote about the moral hard deck on the Lone Survivor thread, I don't think it's bad to be reminded that we cannot overlook these occurrences because we know we tried harder than anybody else would to avoid them, or only try to prevent them because it complicates a COIN effort. They need to be prevented if possible and prosecuted if necessary because they are wrong. . .

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Default Ken,

    OK, my post is still here and you answered nicely to me so I will answer back…

    I was not in Iraq, you are correct, but I was in the war for 4 years (live it, breathe it, eat it) with no bases and no safe heavens for R&R. I bleed it, I cried for my teenager brothers killed for being Muslims, my girlfriend at the time was taken on rape, I lost at least two dozen friends and brothers in arms, I lost my home, country, my whole life… So, yes, I know hate and I know war and atrocities in it.

    If I mistype my apologies but I didn’t meant to say that people here denying bad things happened, what I am trying to say is that when those are happened you will not jump to denounce those and call for justice (like you denounce and accusing “other side” putting more and more people into that one group instead to look at that ONE incident and ONE person or ONE group who did it). When US soldiers kill or rape you all here say "let's wait for official statements or court proceedings", but when attack came from another side you are all full of judgments and “solutions”. Another thing is, when US soldiers kill innocent people, that’s always accidents and someone else’s fault but not when others do something and innocents get killed. Is not possible other making “mistakes” too?

    Now you are to jumping on conclusions… How do you know that he did not talk with other people to? Point of his article (his book actually) is animalistic human nature and war that give us excuses and motives. Other opinions have no merit on point he is trying to show. Especially since (his another point) everyone in US (public in large and media) lying about real cost of war and lying about victims. Civilians or soldiers. And you should know this better then me. And knowing that, you should be angry on such behavior by US administration or the media. But, that’s between you and people who lied and manipulated American sons and daughters to go there and do such a things, bleed and get killed or maimed for no real reason nor American security.

    You are right when you point on those numbers and other, honorable people (he did mention some of them) and my point all this time is that “other side” is similar… Some people fight because they hate but others only to defend them self and to stop injustice. If war is hell and trauma then it is hell and trauma for everyone.

    You are remembering correctly about our conversations but did I mention why US (finally) decided to do something? After all that I went thru, all that I know, saw and learn, I can freely say that US did not help Bosnia due they “human nature” or “democracy” but they step up one for reason only… Failure to help us (refusal to help us for years, giving the Christian serbs and croats time to finish they job) opened doors for Mujahidden to came in, for Iran and for group that we now know like the AQ... Only reasons US “helped” was from the fear that white, European Muslims will get to hate US and fall under influence of Arab Mujahidden. C’mon, let’s be honest. You waited 3 years to put boots on the ground to help Muslims and only 3 months to go in and help Christians in East Timor?

    Going back on your first comments… I don’t think I need to be there to know how is look like and what is going on. I don’t need to see every clip of attacks (either side) to know how that looks like there. And then, I can see aftermath of “justice” for killings in Iraq and Afghanistan by US soldiers. After 2 years handful with minor sentences and much, much more with slap on the wrist. On the other hand, for the same crimes (indiscriminately attacks and killings of civilians) groups and groups of people are shoot at, bombed, they homes invaded… Difference? Victims are American civilians or soldiers. If one guy get to shoot at you, you will responded with everything all around you (like so many cases in Iraq and Afghanistan proves), killing many innocent civilians in they homes or on the streets, but if one of your guy kills someone well that’s just big ops and should be understood because “war is hell”… And, not to forget, we can't just jump on the conclusions but we need to wait for (American?!) justice… Well, where is justice for others in Iraq and Afghanistan who didn’t have a thing to do with 9/11 then?!

    See, it is not how I see it or someone else… It is only one way to look at things. Right or wrong way. Justice for all, remember. On the end (my apologies for ranting this long) I will ask again what I ask many times before here: After all this how do you expect for any Muslim to step up and help you when you imprisoned and killed, and still do, his innocent Muslim brothers and sisters?! Having this war, this injustice and onslaught already turn half Muslims away. What will happen if others follow that first group?


    PS.
    About my “abrasiveness” and not being fair… Like I always said: my words and my attitudes are reflection of what I see and get from others. I am honest and open, and I am not afraid of voicing my opinions or feelings. Especially when I feel I am right.

    Thank you for your honest and open talks and responses. Sometimes when I talk to you (or to someone else) I also talk to other people here and responding on they words and opinions. That's when I can sound that bad. Please do not take my words to much personally.

    You do have my respect and my thanks for your open mind and honest talk. Many more here too.
    Last edited by Sarajevo071; 06-10-2008 at 06:32 AM.

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    Default MattC,

    Actually they did, MattC. Maybe not here and now but I read so much “reports” and “papers” and “studies” (latest one from the US Senate Committee on HS about “Violent Islamist Extremism and Internet) where writer spend pages and pages “proving” that Islamic extremist videos (war footage and tape attacks) with AQ messages making people terrorists. Not a word about anger of Muslims on invasions, killings and rapes… And what about those one million Iraqi kids killed “thanks” to US sanctions? Same sanctions Albright said that are “worthy” risk and “sacrifices”.

    And then I see here all this smart, professional, educated and experience people talking about same things with same ideas not calculating killings, torture, rapes like big factors!? Don’t you think if some your soldiers have different attitudes and bigger morals, less racism and bigotry, all this would be different game?! Do you realize that AQ was marginal organization that Muslims ignored en mass until you start bombing and killing kids in Iraq and Afghanistan?! Until renditions, Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, tortures, rapes… In my country they say, "what one idiot can do, hundreds of smart can't fix it".

    And, please, stop minimizing war atrocities insisting that those killings and incidental and in the heat of a firefight. Not all of them are. Not are all attacks by insurgency deliberate attacks on civilians (logic is if US soldiers can “by accident” kill dozens civilians then other can to, right?). Bunch of them are deliberate created by hate, bigotry and revenge. Those are war crimes by any definition.

    I agree with you with your parallels on WWII and today’s war and with part media plays in it, but we are here and now and I know more about today then about war my grand father (RA) was in… I believe I read Iraqis from Basra in The Telegraph saying something like, “Brits like occupators were more brutal then US but they were more fair and respectful”. That is huge for one to understand and learn from it. I did searches and I did interrogations and I know that one can do them in different manner then how US is doing in Iraq or Afghanistan. Plus, supporting all those moronic leaders, dictators and tortures is not helping US avoid guilt for tortures in Egypt, SA or whenever… I believe that’s what US justice system calls “guilt by association”, right?

    Now, when you talk about all those incident and how they were not responded in some big way… I think they were.

    Look at Bosnia. Case of Bosnia (and deliberated staying on the sides by Europe and US) was used like recruitment cry and “revenge” for WTC bombing and then for recruiting some of the 9/11 attackers… Case of Fatima (raped by Americans in Abu Gharib) and her plea was responded by numerous attacks in Iraq… Case of those stupid cartoons was responded in couple different countries… Abu Gharib was respond on to and it is still in minds of many…. And almost monthly there is some more cases to remember and be angry for.

    PS. Thank you for your words. I am happy is someone can understand me and be open to my words and what I am trying to say, and to be open and honest back. Who knows, maybe we all have chance after all?
    Last edited by Sarajevo071; 06-10-2008 at 06:42 AM.

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    The article is a gross insult to all who serve, and have served, in Iraq. It is simply an anti-war diatribe that uses the current conflict as a target for exaggerated rhetoric that paints all of the troops in-country as criminals. I was utterly disgusted by his use of Reserve Police Bn 101 as a comparative point for US soldier actions. Using phrases like unchecked orgy of death, license to kill with impunity, abuse of the powerless becomes a perverted sport, etc. ad nauseum makes it sound as if OIF is a rerun of the worst of the Balkan conflicts or that our forces are Nazi-equivalents. It is all literary imagery and absolutely no substance.

    Sarajevo - you continue to look at all events through the prism of Bosnia. This twists your vision and mitigates against a clear view of events in their context. This is especially evident by your constant harping on the crime of rape of civilians - which has been very rare in Iraq, in stark contrast to what occurred in the Balkans. Yes, individual crimes have taken place in Iraq - which the services do their best to address. Tragic accidents happen - which do have a horrible impact upon Iraqi families. However, what this article states - that the US is engaged in and encourages systemic violence directed against Iraqi civilians is utterly and completely false. The article is little more than one long narrative insult of the US armed forces.

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    Any given person is shaped by his experienced and what he learned or witnessed. To say that I am and other not (by they own bias and experience, or patriotic feeling or what they learn) is gross misrepresentation. I mean, you can say whatever you wish to diminish my opinion but I think Bosnia helped me to understand everything better. Of course, I notice you didn't say I was not right and that my examples was not true.

    You, like American and the member of US Armed Forces have right to feel that way and I expected that reactions, but to say that it is not true or that other members of Military did not say this or that... I don't know. There are soldiers talking about those things for years! All of them veterans and (former maybe) big US patriots, your own former brothers in arms... Just because one doesn't like certain thing it doesn't meant it is not true.

    Won't you call US sanctions and then bombardment, invasion and occupation of Iraq "systemic violence directed against Iraqi civilians", since we all know that around 75% victims in modern wars are civilians? How do you wage war on country, killing they civilians without being engaged in "systemic violence"?

    Now excuse me, I have to go....

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    Hi Sarajevo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarajevo071 View Post
    If I mistype my apologies but I didn’t meant to say that people here denying bad things happened, what I am trying to say is that when those are happened you will not jump to denounce those and call for justice (like you denounce and accusing “other side” putting more and more people into that one group instead to look at that ONE incident and ONE person or ONE group who did it). When US soldiers kill or rape you all here say "let's wait for official statements or court proceedings", but when attack came from another side you are all full of judgments and “solutions”. Another thing is, when US soldiers kill innocent people, that’s always accidents and someone else’s fault but not when others do something and innocents get killed. Is not possible other making “mistakes” too?
    I'm afraid that may be part of human nature . Speaking only to the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, I certainly agree with you that that is the public reaction. Let me pull out some of the different factors, though.

    First, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, US and Coalition troops are, technically, operating in support of the government (A government might be a better descriptor, but the constructed social context is of the government). There are certain things that go with this, in particular actually having access to the people who may (or may not) have committed the "atrocity" (I put that in quotes since all that initially exists is an accusation, not because I'm denying that they have or may happen). So it is both easy and generally viewed as legitimate (via a supposed rule of law) to require that there be investigations, hearings, etc. Within the general context of Western legal systems, one of the first claims of innocence is almost always "it was an accident".

    Now we come to the other sides...

    The supposed perpetrators (again, let's toss out a presumption of innocence) are not readily accessible. They cannot be investigated, or even identified most of the time, although the crime scene can examined. Certain radical irhabi elements have established a pattern of action that, contrary to the Qu'ran, is indiscriminate in its killings (e.g. suicide bombers, IEDs, etc.). This constructs almost any action taken by "them" (whoever THAT may be !), as being controlled not by "law" but by the breaking of "law" (of all types). The worst part about all of this is that quilt is established by association and not by trial because a trial is impossible at present.

    You asked if it was possible for the other to make mistakes - of course it is! No question about that at all. But how can you tell? How often does an irhabi group apologize for an "atrocity"? How often do they punish the people who committed it? And, most importantly for this current discussion, how often are these apologies and punishments reported in the Western media which is, after all, one of the main sources of how perceptions are formed in the West (and we are talking about Western attitudes here)?

    Sarajevo, I know you could turn around and point to cases where atrocities have been committed by Western forces that have never been brought to trial. Let me save you the trouble; yes they exist (the Blackwater case in Baghdad being a great example). This really does make me angry - from all that I have heard, those SOBs should have been tried, convicted and, IMHO, executed for their actions. I hope they will be tried in the future. I honestly see hat case, and one or two others I have heard of, as the irhabi getting away with their crimes (BTW, I have no hesitation in using that term either). At the same time, I think that it is crucial to note that other irhabi groups are getting away with their crimes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarajevo071 View Post
    Only reasons US “helped” was from the fear that white, European Muslims will get to hate US and fall under influence of Arab Mujahidden. C’mon, let’s be honest. You waited 3 years to put boots on the ground to help Muslims and only 3 months to go in and help Christians in East Timor?
    Nah, here I think you are really wrong - I honestly don't think that the vast majority of the US cares what white, European Muslims think about them - they know that all Europeans hate the US ! With a few exceptions, and I'll admit some of them are prominent, this is not about religion so much as it is about realpolitik.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  15. #15
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Nah, here I think you are really wrong - I honestly don't think that the vast majority of the US cares what white, European Muslims think about them - they know that all Europeans hate the US ! With a few exceptions, and I'll admit some of them are prominent, this is not about religion so much as it is about realpolitik.
    Not even realpolitik - domestic politics in the United States. After Somalia in 1993, there was zero enthusiasm in the Clinton Administration (and, as is often forgotten, even less in Congress) for nation building or humanitarian relief operations. This was a sentiment in the White House, the Capitol, and among the population at large. Balkans, Rwanda, etc. We didn't even intervene in East Timor - we supported the Australians as they took the lead.

    My point is that the slow US response in the Balkans had little to do with any discrimination against religion, ethnicity, or nationality - it had to do with a government paralyzed by the fear of the domestic political opposition a similar mission gone awry (Somalia) had engendered.

    And don't forget that when the US was pushing for "lift and strike" after Srebrenica, there was no enthusiasm for it within the Western alliance as a whole. There were many factors involved in the tragic and unconscionable delays in proper UN/NATO/US responses to the Balkans crisis, as with Rwanda and others.

    Finally, Sarajevo, I'd argue not that all such incidents are in the heat of battle, but that a good percentage of them are. Not that that in anyway excuses them - it simply is the reality of combat, and not limited to insurgency (take that for what it's worth coming from someone who has most definitely NOT seen combat).

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default It is not the critic who counts...

    I will take a separate side to this debate which will probably be refuted by all. I believe there is some truth to Hedges’ piece, but it’s only a partial truth. He selectively interviewed veterans who did not practice COIN, live amongst the populace, and work to secure the populace. Furthermore, Hedges needs to study the concept of jus in bellum before throwing out terms like murder.
    However, his overall premise is correct- War sucks. It is brutal, ugly, and tragic. People die, and psychological scars abound. Yet, it is a part of our nature.

    As with the natural condition of mankind, over time we swell with the pride of nationalism, disdain for our neighbors, or coveting of other’s property. In those times, we make war. From the secret jealousy of Cain to the collective madness of Hitler’s Germany, we murder one or millions. This decision is reached regardless of the state of modernity, industrialization, democracy, or rationalization- it is part of the cycle of life. Locke’s social contract becomes void.

    We enter a state of compartmentalized psychosis, and it can only be resolved by the sword.

    It is what it is.

    The below metaphor describes the nature of our work much better than wanton rape and murder.

    INITIAL STAGE: “STOP THE BLEEDING”
    5-4. Initially, COIN operations are similar to emergency first aid for the patient. The goal is to protect the population, break the insurgents’ initiative and momentum, and set the conditions for further engagement. Limited offensive operations may be undertaken, but are complemented by stability operations focused on civil security. During this stage, friendly and enemy information needed to complete the common operational picture is collected and initial running estimates are developed. Counterinsurgents also begin shaping the information environment, including the expectations of the local populace. -FM 3-24 COIN

    Hopefully, the American intervention in Iraq will lead to a better future for the Iraqis. Regardless, the secondary and tertiary effects will be felt on that society for years- PTSD, population displacement, loss of friends and family, loss of faith.

    Again, Kern’s has no right to attack the man in the arena. Although we may stumble at times, at least we are in the breech.

    "Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world."
    Last edited by MikeF; 06-10-2008 at 04:33 PM. Reason: gramatical

  17. #17
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Sarajevo, thanks for the response.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarajevo071 View Post
    OK, my post is still here and you answered nicely to me so I will answer back…
    A lot of what you say has been answered by others so to save space, I'm going to just address a few things
    I was not in Iraq, you are correct, but I was in the war for 4 years (live it, breathe it, eat it) with no bases and no safe heavens for R&R. I bleed it, I cried for my teenager brothers killed for being Muslims, my girlfriend at the time was taken on rape, I lost at least two dozen friends and brothers in arms, I lost my home, country, my whole life… So, yes, I know hate and I know war and atrocities in it.
    Proving that war is dumb and terrible. We both know that and Hedges is correct on that score. Still, he is a vehement anti war campaigner and while we are all products of our experiences, we can draw different conclusions from the same sorts of experiences. We are all entitled to our beliefs -- and to have them respected by others.
    ...When US soldiers kill or rape you all here say "let's wait for official statements or court proceedings", but when attack came from another side you are all full of judgments and “solutions”. Another thing is, when US soldiers kill innocent people, that’s always accidents and someone else’s fault but not when others do something and innocents get killed. Is not possible other making “mistakes” too?
    I acknowledge some do that; others of us do not -- and yes, it is probable that the 'other side' makes as many or even more mistakes than we do.
    Now you are to jumping on conclusions… How do you know that he did not talk with other people to? Point of his article (his book actually) is animalistic human nature and war that give us excuses and motives.
    I don't jump to conclusions, too old to jump. I based my comment on the article in which he gave no alternate views.
    Other opinions have no merit on point he is trying to show. Especially since (his another point) everyone in US (public in large and media) lying about real cost of war and lying about victims. Civilians or soldiers. And you should know this better then me. And knowing that, you should be angry on such behavior by US administration or the media. But, that’s between you and people who lied and manipulated American sons and daughters to go there and do such a things, bleed and get killed or maimed for no real reason nor American security.
    I do not know that. In fact, I disagree with it. Does some of that covering or omitting occur? Sure. However, mostly, the truth tends to come out. I do not agree that the fact we are in Iraq has no bearing on American security; as I said earlier, if the four earlier Presidents had done their job in the face of 22 years of provocations from the ME, Bush wouldn't have been moved to do what he did.
    You are remembering correctly about our conversations but did I mention why US (finally) decided to do something? After all that I went thru, all that I know, saw and learn, I can freely say that US did not help Bosnia due they “human nature” or “democracy” but they step up one for reason only… Failure to help us (refusal to help us for years, giving the Christian serbs and croats time to finish they job) opened doors for Mujahidden to came in, for Iran and for group that we now know like the AQ... Only reasons US “helped” was from the fear that white, European Muslims will get to hate US and fall under influence of Arab Mujahidden. C’mon, let’s be honest. You waited 3 years to put boots on the ground to help Muslims and only 3 months to go in and help Christians in East Timor?
    I think you're wrong on several counts. First, the delay in coming to aid the Bosnians was due to our trying to avoid a war and get the Europeans to do something; only when it became too obvious they were not going to without our involvement did we get to work. If there's a fault there, it was in trying to make 'diplomacy' work. In Timor, the issue wasn't Christians -- it was that the Australians were going in without waiting, did go in and then we decide to help. Had Europe been faster in helping the Bosnians, I have no reason to believe we wouldn't have been just as quick there.
    See, it is not how I see it or someone else… It is only one way to look at things. Right or wrong way. Justice for all, remember. On the end (my apologies for ranting this long) I will ask again what I ask many times before here: After all this how do you expect for any Muslim to step up and help you when you imprisoned and killed, and still do, his innocent Muslim brothers and sisters?! Having this war, this injustice and onslaught already turn half Muslims away. What will happen if others follow that first group?
    Been my experience that perceptions can be wrong. let me give you an example. You see this as an attack by evil christian America on poor Muslims. Many others do -- or say they do -- as well. Most of us see it as a bunch of Americans who happen to be Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Mormon, Shintoist, Confucian, Coptic, Taoists and, yes, Muslim, attacking Iraq -- not Iraqis, not Muslims -- Iraq; specifically Saddam Hussein's Iraq to send the message to the ME (NOT to Muslims, to the ME) to stop the attacks on US interests around the world (Afghanistan was different -- it was to not attack the US on its own soil. Afghanistan is NOT in the ME). So to us, there's no religious component at all. As for the shooting of people; we shoot at people who are or are (sometimes wrongly) presumed to be, threats or are shooting at us. Religion doesn't enter into it.

    Justice for all is a good goal; hopefully that's what most of us strive for -- no matter how difficult it is to put into practice.

    But there is more than one way to look at things...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    This is especially evident by your constant harping on the crime of rape of civilians - which has been very rare in Iraq, in stark contrast to what occurred in the Balkans.
    True. In any group of 150,000 men, there's going to be at least one or two rapists. Sad but true. It doesn't say anything about the other 149,998.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    However, his overall premise is correct- War sucks. It is brutal, ugly, and tragic.
    Again true. There probably are moral issues around making "brutal, ugly and tragic" "population centric." If someone brings them up in a calm, logical, non accusative manner, I'm sure we'll be able to have a very interesting conversation about them.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 06-10-2008 at 04:05 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    On 2003-05-17, just 2 weeks after president George W. Bush's famous "Mission Accomplished" speech, Hedges delivered a Commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying: "We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security."
    Ok that is the good Mr. Hedges and what he had to say before he wrote the article posted as the source of this thread. That is not to discount Mr. Hedges as a person but it certainly points to his point of origin. It is interesting to note that some of his work on the nature of war is lauded because of its lack of rhetoric; he makes up for the lack by slathering the rhetoric all over the page in this piece. To draw a parallel between US actions in Iraq and a Polish police battalion that shot 1800 Jews in 1942 is beyond the pale.

    War is bad and bloody and emotions run hot, deep, and immediate. I didn't see anyone but crazed killers cheer in Rwanda or the Congo. I work shoulder to shoulder with Soldiers who mourn lost companions and try their very best to minimize further loss of life, whether civilian, host nation military, or coalition forces.

    Tom

  20. #20
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default War is not the worst of things

    Again true. There probably are moral issues around making "brutal, ugly and tragic" "population centric." If someone brings them up in a calm, logical, non accusative manner, I'm sure we'll be able to have a very interesting conversation about them.
    This topic will continue to be emotional. As Rob Thorton posted the other day, we all have many new friends and brothers in Iraq that we care about.

    I'm actually in the process of trying to research how to stabilize and rebuild Iraq after the majority CF presence is removed. I believe this is much more fruitfall and pertinent than describing the brutality of war.

    After Iraq is no longer in the headlines, the real work will begin.

    Despite the prolonged fight in Vietnam, the country is now a vacation spot.

    Sometimes these things just work themselves out given a major factor- time.

    The most difficult hurdle in any warzone is the security dilemma. Greg Mortensen overcame this in Pakistan and Afghanistan to some degree. It will be interesting to see how/if the international community, NGO's, etc. weighs in after the fighting is done.

    Saving the children in Iraq and Afghanistan through education and employment will tremendously effect our national security and the world's overall stability for years to come.

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