Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rules of War, and why things like Haditha happen

I haven't said anything about the Haditha incident being investigated by the military, and being judged prematurely by the press.
However, I stand with those who are waiting until the results of the investigation are in. It seems asinine to report to the American public that the marines in the incident acted "unprovoked" or are immediately declared murderers simply because Iraqi civilians were killed. Especially when all the facts are not in.
But even when the facts do come in, and the events are thrust into the light, whether the marines are declared guilty or not, we deserve to know why they have such a tough job and why not killing civilians is sometimes much more tricky, and in this case dangerous, than we here at home realize.
John Bambanek writes that there are a few Rules of War that armies have been following, or at least paying lip service to, for centuries that cause this sort of thing not to happen.
There are laws of war in place to prevent this kind of thing. They were in place hundreds of years before anyone conceived of the United Nations. At each step, the terrorists (and they are terrorists) have not only violated the laws of war, but used those laws of war against us to further attacks on our soldiers.
The first is that soldiers wear uniforms. Bambanek states that the primary purpose of this is to tell your enemy that you are a target, and thus not a civilian.
The second is that you don't attack civilian structures such as schools, churches, etc. The corollary to this is that you don't make one of these structures a military outpost or storage depot.
The third that Bambanek describes is that when you surrender the fight is over. If you use surrender as a ruse to kill more of you enemy when they come to get you (or help you get medical help) you put at risk those who legitimately want to surrender or need help.
Bambanek notes that this isn't an exhaustive list, but just three examples that insurgents/terrorists have broken over and over again.
The terrorists simply don't care about the civilian population. If the military mistakenly engages civilians or they hit civilian buildings after taking fire from them, the terrorists mark up another public relations victory because of the willingness of their allies on the American left to use these incidents for political gain. In this way, the terrorists are extremely intelligent… and incredibly evil. So those who wish to sit in judgment over the Marines at Haditha (before the investigation is even completed, mind you) manage to put on the blinders and refuse to consider how the actions of the terrorists almost guarantee these events will happen. If these Marines did snap and break the laws of war, they will be tried and punished. It is a shame, however, that no one seems to stand up for the soldiers who have to put up with an enemy who consistently breaks those laws. It's a national disgrace that some in the U.S. will stand up for the actions of those terrorists as legitimate.
Well said. I might add that, for those of you who are unaware of the geographic significance of Haditha, that it is well within the Sunni triangle where most of the attacks have been over the last 3 years. There were news articles and reports that occurred right before this incident happened about how Haditha was a terrorist outpost almost as bad as Falujah was before the marines took that city. There were lots of bad guys there.

Update: Here's a video from Powerline. A two minute film from the military showing how they have set up a system of recourse for Iraqis claiming that the US military damaged their property or, compensation for an unjury or the life of a family member. Quite the opposite picture from the beatial occupying force we see in the papers today.

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