Friday, August 25, 2006
By George J. Bryjak
Originally published August 22, 2006
SAN DIEGO // On Nov. 19, 2005, a unit of Marines arrived at the Iraqi village of Haditha to remove the bodies of civilians reportedly killed by a roadside blast. What they found were infants, women and children shot in the face and chest and the body of a wheelchair-bound elderly man riddled with bullets.
A group of Marines are under criminal investigation that could lead to murder charges in the slayings of 24 civilians in the western Iraqi village. Like Abu Ghraib, Haditha has become synonymous with war atrocities, in this case an alleged act of retribution for the roadside bombing death of a fellow Marine. If the Marines are charged, it will be for a military court to determine their guilt or innocence. But some already have sought to explain what can never be condoned.
"Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," Rep. John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former Marine Corps officer, contended based on his discussions with military officials.
While stress may have been a factor in that particular incident, the changing nature of war and the American military's response to those changes provide a history and context for the challenges confronting U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere today.
In the midst of World War II, U.S. Army Col. S.L.A. Marshall was given the task of determining whether battlefield soldiers were performing their primary duty: killing enemy combatants. He conducted individual and group interviews with more than 400 military companies fighting in Europe and the Pacific. To his surprise - and the horror of Pentagon officials - on average, only *15 percent of soldiers fired their weapons during the course of a battle, even when their lives were threatened.
As a consequence of revised boot camp training, Colonel Marshall later discovered that *50 percent of Korean War soldiers attempted to kill the enemy. That number increased to more than *90 percent by the Vietnam War. ***Convincing young recruits they must kill without hesitation has become an integral component of basic training.
***Killing is made easier when the enemy is *dehumanized, a psychological tactic virtually all armies use. ***no longer merits humane treatment and can be** killed without remorse. Capt. Jason Kostal, a former commander at Fort Benning's sniper school, stated: "We don't talk about 'Engage this person,' 'Engage that guy.' It's always **'Engage that target' ... You're not thinking, I wonder if that guy has three kids."
***Dehumanization is easier when the enemy is of a ***different racial, ethnic, religious or cultural group. In Iraq, as was the case in Vietnam, **our opponent differs on all of these counts.
Combat is stressful. However, in conventional conflicts such as World War II, the tension, anxiety, and mental fatigue of war are lessened somewhat between battles and by movement to relatively safe "behind-the-lines" zones. In Vietnam- and Iraq-type hostilities there are fewer safe zones. Enemy soldiers and combatants are elusive and often pose as civilians.
Military sociologist Charles Moskos notes that when insurgents are supported by the local populace, innocent civilians are likely to be viewed as the bad guys. "In these situations of extreme stress," he notes, "one can lose one's moral balance."
This is especially so when the next attack is unpredictable. And the prevalence of roadside bombs in the Iraq theater has enhanced the fight's unpredicatability.
The Marines charged in the Haditha killings have maintained that their actions fell within the rules of engagement. At one point, when the Marines believed they were under attack, they tossed grenades into a house and then entered firing, as they had been trained to do. That procedure makes sense in clearing bunkers on a traditional battlefield. But it's a highly questionable tactic if you're clearing houses in a village. Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army chief of staff, noted that although the United States fights "big wars" better than anyone, "we have no skills in counterinsurgency."
This **lack of counterinsurgency prowess, coupled with a **kind of on-the-job training needed to fight in Iraq, puts** additional pressure on troops, increasing the likelihood of Haditha-type incidents.
For some, what occurred in Haditha was a tragic yet unavoidable consequence of the "fog of war." To a certain extent, this may be true. But individual responsibility for these deaths cannot be dismissed.
No matter how difficult the military objective, how chaotic the field of battle, the wholesale killing of civilians can never be justified or excused. To absolve military personnel of any responsibility for their behavior is to** take the first step toward condoning war crimes.
George J. Bryjak, a former Marine, is a research associate in the department of sociology at the University of San Diego. His e-mail is email@example.com.
I complimented him from the bottom of my heart for the contributions he has made to our country's national security while he was serving active duty in the US Navy.
He made it clear my request to speak would not happen. He then proceeded to suggest he has no memory of the email he wrote me on 8/20/2006 2:59:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time stating that our current Commander in Chief made stupid mistakes in Iraq.
Larry then proceeded to illustrate stupid mistakes made in passed wars. After he mentioned 3 or 4 examples I interjected that there is a difference between those wars and this one.
In the past it took weeks, months, sometimes years for mistakes to be discovered and reported. Today is the information age where mistakes are reported within hours of their occurrence. I reminded him this war was still going on. I also reminded him of the glaring mistakes he had acknowledged President Bush had made in Iraq, and our respective use of the Internet to support our respective views and that is where our conversation ended.
I waited outside the Arena with a Johnstown police officer who had stayed behind after the bootmurtha hysterics caused 3 squad cars and a sergeant to arrive with sirens blaring. I was debating Steeler football with him when a motorcycle officer stopped by, who had been inside. When I asked how many were inside he said, "not many at all" When I asked "500?", he responded, "na ... well maybe 500, at most."
At the end of the event when Larry Bailey came out for a photo op next to the bootmurtha.com sign on the sidewalk outside the War Memorial Arena. I handed Larry the speech I had waited to deliver. He put it in his outside left coat pocket.
This is my speech Larry Bailey has in his coat pocket ... the words he was not man enough to let me say:
"Please join me in Prayer.
Heavily father we pray today for you to continue to protect the men and women of the armed forces of the United States and other countries who are in harms way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries throughout the world. We thank them and their families for their sacrifices.
We pray for the souls of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars. We pray for strength and courage for the POWs and MIAs and those held hostage.
We pray for protection and safety of relief workers helping those in need.
We pray for the protection of children and innocent civilians. Lord we especially pray for our nation and our leaders."
Below you will find the press release that went out on October 29th of this year.
LARRY BAILEY (BOOTMURTHA.COM) OCTOBER 1ST RALLY IN JOHNSTOWN, PA.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Cliff Hancuff
September 29, 2006 (202) 247-1418
"American troops could be home now, except for critical mistakes made by our current Commander in Chief," charges Cliff Hancuff, Director of The World of Journalism Is Flat, Too.
"Media and right-wing bloggers are ignoring this fact. For weeks I have been challenging political activists and journalists to act with a minimum of ethical standards," continued Hancuff.
"I became involved when the Sun-Sentinel in Florida reported that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) said the U.S. poses the top threat to world peace. I watched in dismay as the media and bloggers worldwide reported on this misquote."
"My involvement continued when I discovered Diana Irey, John Murtha's political opponent, had attacked Murtha using a fictional quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln."
"Larry Bailey of bootmurtha.com is continuing his three year blind support of our current Commander in Chief's incompetence in war. President Bush declared war in Iraq without the 4th Infantry, our most lethal, modern, and deployable heavy division in the world," added Hancuff.
This mistake lead to the atrocity of Al Qaqaa. Iraqi insurgents stole hundreds of tons of high explosives to be used as weaponry.
"These are the explosives being used by Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda to perpetuate the war in Iraq."
"I am distressed that the same issues ignored by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 are being ignored again in 2006," said Hancuff adding, "Americans, American soldiers, and their families deserve better."
"Without these critical mistakes made by our current Commander in Chief, our American troops would be home with their loved ones, with honor, right now."
On October 1, 2006 Hancuff be at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena located in Johnstown Pennsylvania for Larry Bailey's Swiftboating of John Murtha rally. It is there Hancuff will continue his wait for Mr. Bailey to recall the values of honor and integrity taught him by our US Navy.
There is a youtube.com video online at:
YouTube - Rovian Architecture Unplugged
The World of Journalism Is Flat, Too
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