Thursday, October 4, 2007

We Shoot They Run, If They Run, They Are Insurgents

This appears to be the new engagement strategy for the US Military in Iraq. And who said the surge isn’t working? We’re killing everyone in sight, soon there won’t be anyone left to resist the occupation. The US Military has developed a new strategy for targeting insurgents in Iraq. According to testimony in the trial of three US Army snipers for murder, it works like this. The snipers plant various objects (ie. wiring, bullets, and detonation cords) in plain view and if anyone picks up the items and tries to leave with them, they are killed.

WASHINGTON -- Army snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, and then kill whoever picked up the items, according to the defense attorney for a soldier accused of planting evidence on an Iraqi he killed. Gary Myers, an attorney for Sgt. Evan Vela, said his client had acted "pursuant to orders."

"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," Didier said in the statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. forces."[1]

This has got to be the craziest idea ever. In a war zone, you lay out these items that anyone could pickup for a number of different reasons and if anyone happens to pick them up regardless of their status they are killed. It’s simple you are obviously an insurgent or why would you pick up this stuff?

I am reminded of a line in a movie, I think it was “Platoon” when a helicopter gunner was asked how he knew the people he was shooting at was VC. He said they were running. He said if they stood there they would be shot but they weren’t VC, if they ran they were definitely VC and shot.

While I do not claim to be a military genius, it seems to me that there are a number of small caveats to this strategy. The first of which is just natural human curiosity. How many people collect crap they have no intention of using. I know of many examples of pack rats, who just collect crap for the hell of it. These people just go around picking up stuff, many times off the street. Can you imagine if you were walking down the street and you saw a shiny piece of junk and when you picked it up and turned to leave, you were executed? We would never have had Sanford and Son.

Also, there is the fact that these people are in a war zone. There has to be loads of this crap lying around all over the place. How about the guy who wants to remove something dangerous so it doesn’t kill his wife or kids? Oops, you pick it up, you are an insurgent. There can be many scenarios of why a person would pick up this stuff, besides being an insurgent. Under this strategy none of those will matter, because guess what? Everyone is an insurgent. This has always been the problem from a military standpoint of fighting in an urban setting and in a civil war, how do you distinguish the friendlies from the bad guys?

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program should be examined "quite meticulously" because it raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items.

"In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war, if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back," Fidell said.[2]

I hate to tell you Mr. Fidell but this is precisely the situation we have placed our military in, everyone is walking around with a target on their back. The problem with occupying a country is that the more insurgents you kill, the more insurgents you create. Insurgents don’t die, they multiply. They multiply because no matter how cautious you try to be, there will always be civilian casualties. If you are too cautious then you are a casualty. It becomes a never ending cycle. If you run, you are an insurgent.

Now not only is it the military snipers, but also the armed private American militias that have this shoot first mentality. You are going to have a difficult time winning hearts and minds when you are shooting everyone in sight. No matter how this ends, it will be a black-eye for America. Anyone crazy enough to believe we can salvage something good from this should be committed immediately, no questions asked.

[2] Ibid.

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