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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Paralysis 
Remember that infantry LT in Afghanistan who got prosecuted for burning a couple of Taliban bodies for hygiene purposes?

Remember that tank officer who was prosecuted for administering a merciful coup de grace to a horrifically wounded insurgent?

Remember that Marine officer who was prosecuted for firing too many shots into someone who was dead set on killing him and his comrades?


Well, when you set a legal and ethical climate like that, where warriors have to be looking over their shoulders at every turn, and covering their asses against military lawyers and the commanders who let military lawyers dictate command decisions, then this is the result.

Note the reaction: They're more worried about the leaked photo than about a f*cked-up command climate.

There's the enemy. Kill him.

What's so f*cking complicated?

Splash, out

Jason

Comments:
No arguments, no excuses, this is the same sort of foul up that happened at Tora Bora but the present administration has had ample time to fix things. They haven't. Something is seriously wrong with the system that is producing our rules of engagement.

The only cure is to provide serious career setbacks to the guys who didn't fix this. At what level was the problem. Whose head needs to be on a spike in order to fix it. The civilians need to know. An election is coming.
 
Caught a segment about this one FNC this afternoon. These ROE are for Afghanistan only, not Iraq - because of some agreement between a high-level US official and President Karzi, because of how cemetries/funerals are viewed cultural in that country. I don't like it, but that's the explanation so far. Same ROE apparently DOES NOT apply in Iraq (noting that US forces have engaged, or even started engagements, in/from cemetries and on funerals).
 
At the outset let me say that I am not an expert and this is merely my opinion. With that said my initial reaction was one of frustration with the fact that our rules of engagement do not have sufficient fluidity to allow for variences according to the situation. A perusal of the comments suggest that most experienced this same feeling.

However, upon reflection several issues spring to mind. First, of course, is the validity and nature of the intelligence. Were all of the people who were attending the funeral Taliban fighters? Were there a significant amount of women an children at the funeral? Were the identities of "Taliban Terror Leaders" known and if so were they High Value Targets which justified the amount of known or unknown collateral damage? Was more or better intelligence gained by following the destination of the targets from the funeral? Could this strike, if there were a large number of noncombatants at the scene, have been justified from a public relations standpoint?

Not knowing the answers to these questions forces me to pause before I jump to conclusions. If UBL, Mullah Omar or the likes were present then the justification to shoot drastically increases than if there were lower level leutinants and foot soldiers present. I know that I experienced disgust with the Taliban's recent bombing at the funeral of one of the Afghanistan Provisional Governors and the bombing in Iraq at an assassinated religious leaders funeral (the names escape me at this time). I remember thinking, "Can't they just leave them alone long enough to let them bury their dead?" I also know that some acts by the terrorist actually do cause a backlash, mild as it may be, against them. For instance it appears that the beheadings in Iraq have stopped because of the backlash by the Muslim community. Essentially, it was bad PR for Al Queda so they stopped it. We ahev likewise stopped certain actiosn because of the public backlash. I am not saying that it is right, but it is a fact. It is possible that the value of the known targets at the funeral did not justify the bad PR from such an action. Remember, this was a funeral. I know that our actions cannot be tied to the prevailing winds of the muslim public opinion but it also cannot be ignored.

However, I think that more than any other reason that the missiles were not released because of military professionalism. Military history is replete with instances in which entire armies ceased hostilities to allow the dead to be collected and buried. The earliest accounts of warfare deem respect for the others dead to be honorable. Even Achilles overcame his rage and allowed Priam to recover the body of is son, Hektor. While I am the first to yell against the coddling of the terrorist and I do not think that they deserve the protections of the Geneva Conventions, I also think that our own soldiers have to live up to their codes of honor and duty. It is the sense of honor and duty that is instilled in our soldiers that distinguishes them from their enemies. It is possible that bombing a funeral is this instance was due to a sense of military honor and duty. Maybe honor and duty ruled the day and not political correctness.
 
Do women and children stand in precise formation at Afghan funerals?

Just askin'.

As for your other point, your suggestions are well-taken. However, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the motivation in declining to fire on this particular group was out of professional courtesy.

I've never known a soldier who believes that Al Qaeda and the Taliban warrant anything other than the consideration one gives a rabid dog in a pit.

These are not professional soldiers in the romanticized sense to which we westerners, so long raised on Tennyson poems, love to cling.

There is no code of chivalry or honor that we would recognize among these people. These people took a passenger jet and aimed it at an office building.

And did it again.

And did it again.

And did it again.

And did it again.

Even Rudyard Kipling knew the real nature of this enemy:

When you're lying, cold and wounded
on the frozen Afghan plain
And the women have come out
to cut up your remains
You'll roll to your rifle
and blow away your brains

And go to your God like a soldier.

The truces on western battlefields in WWI and WWII for the purposes of burying their dead are a poor analogy - in those cases, the ceasefire was mutual. Both sides gained from the chance to take care of their own.

Where is the reciprocity here?

Did Al Qaeda offer the U.S. a chance to bury our dead in one tower before knocking down the other one?

No.

Al Qaeda - and their supporters in the Taliban - are not an enemy to be respected with and negotiated with.

They are an enemy to be annihilated, like an infestation of rats.
 
Amen, Jason!
 
As John "Frenchie" Kerry would say - Touche! Your points are well taken and agreed with. My supposition concerning honor and duty was not a suggestion that the Taliban or Al Queda deserve any quarter nor was it based upon romanticized view of combat. I agree that we certainly do not have Lee surrendering his sword at Appomatix or the Japanese on the USS Missouri. I also do not think that the failure to act was professional courtesy, because, as you stated, that would assume the existence some sort of reciprocity and I have no doubt that it does not.

Rather my suggestion was a reflection upon the ideas and values of the American citizen/soldier. Honor, to me, is premised upon the fact that it is easy to do the right thing when it is what you want to do, but it is harder to do the right thing when the only reason to do it is because it is the right thing. This attitude is often perceived to be a weakness of this country, but it is one attribute that has guided us throughout our history. It is why the strong help the weak.

However, you are probably right and such an attitude is only available when one is fighting someone with similar values. Like two fighters who shake hands after the fight. This is not a state of affairs that we enjoy in this war. Such civility does not exist in this enemy and therefore the fight has to be taken to them wherever they are found. The issue then becomes one of whether rules of engagement based upon such ideas serve a purpose in this war. If to win the war we have to take the gloves off then the only one who wins with such limited rules is the enemy and the one who suffers is the soldier who removes the gloves. There is a balancing act that has to be achieved and I just have a problem second guessing those who are in the field trying to perform it. I try to believe that the soldiers who made the call made the best decision that they could based upon the information that they had. In this war the luxury of such mistakes may not be available. I certainly wouldn't leave a rat eating out of my garbage can unaccosted because tomorrow he may be in my kitchen.
 
I don't think the decision was entirely irrational.

If you agree that the war with AQ occurs as much in the hearts & minds of the west, and the east (something Clausewitze would agree to, as war is an expression of collective will in his book) then a commander must be concerned about maintaining a will to win.

Second, no matter how small the foulup, or how ludicrous the claim, the fauxtographers and gullible anti-western pawn reporters will use it to stir up the enemy's potential allies in the muslim world, to empower the left in the west, and to discourage the western people about continuing the fight against AQ.

Therefore, even fairly trivial possible screwups have to be avoided if possible.

Finally, outside of that argument, this is an entirely fouled up situation. This is where our corrupt, incompetent western MSM has brought us. Not only can they not be relied upon to telll the truth, the one thing we can rely on them for, is to tell the enemies lies. So you blast a "funeral" in an Afghan cemetary, and even if the "funeral" was "mourning" the death of Talibs with some SAMs and small arms fire, it will get reported as a massacre of mourning widows. Yeah, this is fouled up, but it's not a lawyerly decision about cemetaries, it's a political judgment based on how it will be reported in the media that causes such decisions to be made. It's not particularly gutless, it's not very brave either (hint: if you have a UAV overhead, you can document what's going on...) but it's not beyond the pale as some people seem to think. Given that we're up against a hostile fifth column in the media as well as the Islamacists, these are valid considerations. It's a damn shame, but being disgusted about it doesn't make it untrue.
 
I dunno, from the blurry-ness of the picture, for all I can tell they could just be sitting in rows. . . .which women and children DO do at funerals.

You have to admit, there's nothing besides the media's explanation of the photo that definitively shows these are Taliban fighters.
 
I wonder if the Taliban fire "salutes" at their funerals...at least they could have claimed that the drone was taking fire, like the infamous "(alleged) wedding party" incident.
 
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