'Dead-Checking' in Iraq
By Lee Russ
Sunday, July 15, 2007 at 06:34 PM
Testimony in the murder trial of Marine Cpl. Trent D. Thomas at Camp Pendleton provides a very grim and vicious view of how U.S. Marines are conducting their anti-insurgency activities in Iraq. If true, you can pretty much bet that we won't ever be "winning the hearts and minds" of the Iraqis whose hearts and heads we are cavalierly beating and shooting.The testimony this past Friday was from Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, who, according to a report in the LA Times, testified that:
- Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after being ordered by officers to "crank up the violence level."
- Thereafter, the Marines became much rougher with Iraqis during daily patrols, bluntly stated as "We beat people, sir"when the witness was asked by a juror to explain.
- He believed that officers knew of the beatings.
- Marines, in effect, consider all Iraqi men as part of the insurgency--"Because of the way they live, the clans, they're all in it together."
- A procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead.
It sounds very much like Iraq has indeed become Vietnam in terms of both our strategy to win hearts and minds and our actions that will make that literally impossible. In Vietnam, I witnessed a stark pecking order under which each level perpetrated its own level of violence and inflicted indignities on the next lower level: many white officers and the overall power structure frequently discriminated rampantly against black US soldiers, black soldiers often discriminated against native Vietnamese, and native Vietnamese discriminated against Montegnards. I never got to know the Montegnards well enough to know who bore the brunt of their anger.
And by "discriminate" I mean such life-altering activities as the US military assigning black soldiers to the most dangerous posts and jobs, black soldiers committing random violence against Vietnamese (casually reaching a rifle butt out of a moving US troop truck to push over a Vietnamese who was riding by on a Honda motorcycle, for example), and Vietnamese ostracizing and belittling the Montegnards.
We need to get a lot more realistic in every aspect of this Iraq "adventure."
The loss of humanity alleged by the Marine in court was certainly disturbing, but please...PLEASE don't make such broad-sweeping generalizations that you project these allegations onto all "the troops". There are many more thousands of service members over there who ARE treating the Iraqis - their military and police in particular - with such great respect and kinship that tribal sheikhs are practically adopting their American friends. Don't let the alleged, tragic, misguided actions of a few overshadow the common, heroic, ethical actions of the majority.
Lee suggests, "We need to get a lot more realistic in every aspect of this Iraq 'adventure.'"
I noticed, when I was in Vietnam, that the military was not allowed to do the job of winning the war. It was hamstrung by confining it to defensive positions which rarely, if ever, were allowed to actually pacify the areas they were supposedly "pacifying."
Indeed, it was this strict and confining effort by civilians, however important as politicians they may have been, which resulted in the levels of frustration experienced by everyone in Vietnam -- all those who were attempting to defend against fascist aggression from socialist hoards spreading tyranny.
The "Hearts and Minds" of the Vietnamese population was realistically divided, but the vast majority of those in the South were in favor of the US, Australian, Korean, overall UN/SEATO effort to protect against communist aggression. Their supposed cooperation with the VC/NVA was forced and maintained through terrorism, for the most part.
The same general situation exists in Iraq, with the population mainly in favor of US, Coalition efforts to "pacify" the country so that they can manage their own affairs, and with civilian bureaucrats and politicians attempting to dictate military operations. Indeed, an entire constituency of our political machine is attempting to actively allow our enemy to succeed in Iraq, and accomplish that effort by defaming our military and vilifying them with a broadbrush when individuals in uniform commit crimes.
It isn't realistic to even imagine that untrained, physically univolved bureaucrats have any ability to determine life-and-death tactics which our fellow American citizen soldiers are confined to doing, while they say, "Oh, we support our troops," and then turn around and dehumanize all of them in order to fail in Iraq by holding them all responsible for the acts of a few.
It is realistically disloyal to promote defeat for partisan political purposes; to profit in votes from losing a war that isn't being allowed to be fought, realistically.
don't make such broad-sweeping generalizations that you project these allegations onto all "the troops".
I didn't intend to do that, and in rereading the post, I don't think I did. The point is that there will be a portion of the troops who do act that way, and the command structure needs to do everything humanly possible to prevent/minimize it. In the testimony at Camp Pendleton, however, there's at least an accusation that the troops were encouraged to act that way.
That's extremely self-defeating if the goal is to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population.
To the vistor who said "It is realistically disloyal to promote defeat for partisan political purposes; to profit in votes from losing a war that isn't being allowed to be fought, realistically," I don't consider that worthy of a response. Bring me proof that that anyone, let alone me, is "promoting defeatism," and is doing it for political profit. You'll have an easier time finding proof that the war was instigated for political purposes.