Friday, December 22, 2006

Violence (2) "Rules of Engagement"

Glenn Greenwald in War advocates v. flatworms Unclaimed Territory blog 12/13/06 picks up on a trend I've been noticing, as well:

What the dead-ender war advocates really seem to crave is not so much an increase in troops but an increase in our willingness to use military force - i.e., indiscriminate killing. When they urge greater "resolve" to achieve "victory," they don't really talk about strategies that increased troops could enable as much as they excitedly beat their chest and spit out extremely vague and manly phrases such as: "do we have the will to do what needs to be done"?

Here's an example from another "milblog", Blackfive.  I call this one the "rules of engagement (ROE)" rant. Rules of engagement (ROE) are the parameters in which soldiers operate in a particular situation. The un-subtle demand for more violence against Iraqis in general is sometimes couched, as it is here, in the form of complaints about the ROE. Blackfive says this is from a friend whose online alias is "Just the Average Savage". "Average Savage" writes:

Let me tell you a little something about ROE (Rules of Engagement). In Baghdad thousands of people are moving around all the time. Many houses, all of them, have guns. On a general scale, none of them are planning any wrongdoing at all. But they don’t think that Americans can accomplish anything, either, because they know we can’t search at will, can’t shoot at will, can’t detain at will.

If you wish to stop a car approaching a checkpoint, you must first post a sign a long way down the road, if it is ignored, you must verbally warn them, and use a green laser to get the drivers attention. If still ignored, you must fire a warning shot with an M4, then a M240, then, finally the kill shot. If at any time the car turns away, all you can do is TRY to pursue it, never shoot at it. Technically, similar rules exist for dismounted operations, and that puts more soldiers at risk than you can possibly imagine. I’m not sure Johnny on the street has this information, but Muhammed in the mosque sure does.

I don't know if he's described the ROE accurately; he seems to be referncing recent experience in Sadr City.

Now, Average Savage never tells us exactly what he'd like the alternative ROE to be. Maybe he just wants to be free to shoot any of them A-rabs he thinks needs killin'. Does he not want to post signs at checkpoints? Does he not want to have to signal the approaching drivers? Just shoot at any car that he has a bad vibe about?

The problem, of course, is that if your goal is to establish order in Iraq, it's generally better to minimize the number of families gunned down at checkpoints. The locals tend not to appreciate things like that. If the goal is to just kill A-rabs, though ...

Average Savage continues:

I can’t even tell you how pissed it makes me to hear a JAG officer suck in breath as he tries to think real hard how to explain the murky depths of our ROE. A system that used to be a way of allowing soldiers to avoid hurting civilians by using certain weapon systems at certain times has once again degenerated into a complex “Cover Your Ass” legal trick for higher command. Believe me, it isn’t there because Colonels and Generals WANT us to fight this way, it is there because YOU do.

That is right. If you are an American, and you are reading this, you share fault. Give CNN ratings, fall in line with those that have hounded the steps of the American Soldier criticizing his every fault while looking away from the success of his missions, and heralding at the tops of their lungs the number of dead without ever talking about the value of the lives lost. Long after specials on fallen soldiers and the human toll are just file footage, soldiers such as I will remember the deaths of the ones we cared about, and know the price of that cost. And while they talk about how out of control the violence in Baghdad has become, soldiers grind their teeth wishing they could just do the job they know. Wishing they could take all the weapons from the people in this city, clear every house, stop all traffic, and most of all, secure Sadr city.

Here the idolatry of soldiers by rightwing both secular and Christian-fundamentalist comes full circle. It starts with The Troops being praised to the high heavens for their willingness to sacrifice for the country and the military being held up as some kind of ideal, clean, orderly society.

Now, after thewar in Iraq has dragged on longer than US participation in the Second World War, after the "bad apples" of Abu Ghuraib and assorted other embarassments, after liberating and then re-liberating city after city, Average Savage attacks his fellow Americans for not being good enough for our glorious military - because we civilians and the Liberal Press are demanding that grunts in Iraq be allowed to gun down whoever they please whenever they feel like it.

At this point, I'll introject my skepticism about this kind of thing on the "milblogs". I don't object to people using pseudonyms on the Internet or in blogs. But in this case, where we have the pseudonymous Blackfive quoting the pseudonymous Average Savage, we can't be that confident of whose voice we're getting there. Is he really a soldier in Iraq? Maybe, but who knows?

It's a dreary rightwing rant. But here are the last three paragraphs:

For all the hope of America that we will be safe, no one has ever said, "I can't wait until our soldiers charge in there and kick ass!" When people say that our soldiers aren’t doing anything over here, that we need to come home, they never bring up that we don’t do anything because of all the pressure THEY THEMSELVES HAVE PUT ON US.

Well, it's always a safe blowhard-white-guy posture to talk about kicking ass (unless maybe you're actually getting in someone's face at the moment). But if there's anything other than testosterone-charged verbal posturing in this, it's that most of our soldiers' training is in conventional combat operations, not counterinsurgency. And counterinsurgency is about winning those famous "hearts and minds", not about blowing away any building where a sniper might be hiding.

That's the kind of war our great Republican leaders put the country and our soldiers into. It's a little too late to gripe now that's it's not about blitzkrieging an opposing regular army.

The movement against the war has TWO sides. One, that soldiers should come home because they can't make a difference and this is a mistake. Two, soldiers over there are unable to do the job, and when they try, they kill the wrong people, torture prisoners, and dishonor themselves.

What's this supposed to mean? That the Army and everyone else should stop worrying about who the soldiers kill, whether they're torturing people or whether they're doing something dishonorable?

You have the finest army in the world, America. Best equipped, highly trained, and already established on the ground in Iraq. If the people at home stopped merely wishing things would get better, and tell us to make them better no matter what, it would. We are ready to fight, are you?

Yes, the finest Army in the world. An Army trained primarily to fight Soviet Army Central pouring through the Fulda Gap in Germany. That's not who they're fighting in Iraq and not the kind of enemy they're fighting.

He wants to be allowed to make things better "no matter what"?

Whatever this is, it isn't a serious set of ideas about what could be done differently in Iraq. It's just a rant about how we should just be killin' A-rabs and not worry about who. It's disgusting.

Tags: ,

No comments: