June 02, 2006

US Massacres: A Top-Down Credibility Problem

U.S. Says Troops Fired at Crowd In Afghan Capital:
U.S. military officials acknowledged Wednesday that American troops had fired at an angry mob that surrounded the scene of a traffic accident in the Afghan capital Monday morning. Officials previously had said the troops fired only into the air.
You know, I used to have a friend who saw service with the UN-led Australian contingent in Beirut. He was with a small group of soldiers who came under fire in a crowded marketplace. They had no idea where the shots were coming from, or who was shooting at them. Panicked, they sprayed fire everywhere as they ran for cover. He was still having nightmares five years later, and his life was a mess.

He wasn't sure that he had killed someone, mind you. He just didn't know (at least, that's what he told me). So what should he have done?

Well, he should NOT have shot at innocent people. Indeed, he should have been trained not to shoot at innocent people. But he wasn't. And there is the problem.

In war, the military is trained to adopt an "us and them" approach, where "they" are de-humanized and therefore expendable. In situations where the local population largely sympathize with "them", the locals quickly become part of "them" and are also, therefore, expendable. This is wrong. But when the highest levels of government place the emphasis on war, rather than peace, this is what happens.

It didn't have to be this way (see my post on the anti-terror initiatives in the Phillipines, for example). But Bush and his neocon advisors made a conscious decision that he would become a War President, whatever the cost, even before 9/11. All else has followed from this foolish logic.


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