U.S. Army: When boys do men’s work

US Army: When boys do men’s work
11 April 2003

Kate Jackson
Crikey’s Army Observer

MediaShark has a look at the way in which the US military have conducted themselves in Iraq. Their attitude and behaviour prompts the question, “Would you want to be liberated by the US army?

This part of what Lt-Col Tim Collins of the Royal Irish Guards said, when he addressed 16 Air Assault Brigade in Kuwait, before hostilities started:

“It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them…”

“If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.”

Judging from their behaviour over the last three weeks, the American troops would not have had the attention span, let alone the vocabulary to understand these words.

A correspondent from The Times of London couldn’t have made the contrast more sharply than in this piece on April 2nd. The rhetoric of US soldiers is often provocative. When an American colonel was asked by The Times what the role of the Fifth Corps would be, he replied:

“We are going in there, we are going to root out the bad guys and kill them.” His men, grouped around him, grunted, whooped and punched the air as if they were watching a football match. And how about Corporal Ryan Dupre as a nominee for “Soldier Of The Year”… with these comforting bon mots:

“The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy… I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No, I won’t get hold of one. I’ll just kill him.”

…just the sort of man you want liberating your country, isn’t he ?

I recommend the blog of former Marine Sergeant, James Landrith to see what he thinks of Corporal Dupre’s sentiments.

And cultural sensitivity ? No-one holds a candle to America’s finest ! How many times have had they had to be stopped from draping the Stars And Stripes over everything they capture? Did anyone in US Central Command also think that teaching a few words of Arabic might be helpful?

Again from The Times:

“His M16 assault rifle was pointed at the windscreen of the saloon car, which was clearly being driven by a young woman who had young children in the backseat.

This did not stop the young soldier from screaming at the occupants to “step out of the vehicle and move to the side of the road”.

How much of that muffled command the frightened woman understood was unclear, but as she hesitated and tried to comfort the youngest of her children, who was trying to clamber over the seat towards her, the infantrymen yelled even louder.

It was difficult to tell who was the more nervous. Rifles remained trained on the mother and children, who were made to stand 60ft away from their car while it was searched. There was no attempt to explain to the woman why this was necessary, but American patrols appear to treat everyone now as if they are suicide bombers.

Now I must agree, that having taxis and pregnant women trying to blow you up is EXTREMELY disconcerting. But it’s not like the US Armed forces have not encountered this sort of thing before, or could learn from others who have.

The trouble is it now appears as if the American rules of engagement have been written by Rafferty, and the biggest and fastest gun rules. A US Marine empties his ammo clip into a ten year old boy for checking out an RPG on a fallen Iraqi. No questions, no warnings – let God sort it out.

But the Army Times says, “that’s alright soldier, these things happen in war.”

rrstar.gannettonline.com: Soldiers face tough choices when the enemy is a child.

They have the most advanced personal weaponry in the world, and are running round Baghdad, scared sh*tless. Even the Red Cross is not safe.

www.iraqwar.ru: While Networks Show Jubilant Iraqis, Americans Shoot At Anyone Who Moves.

Shoot first, ask questions later. The American mantra rules. The ABC’s Geoff Thompson witnessed this display, which he recounted to Linda Mottram on AM Thursday 10 April:

“On the way here, they were getting very nervous about civilian vehicles approaching them too quickly. One sped up quite quickly towards them. They fired a warning shot, the vehicle kept moving forward. They then opened fire, a lot of fire on that vehicle and I’ve just learnt, certainly killing the person in that vehicle.

Another vehicle came from another direction, other vehicles were shot up across the street. Fire was directed at buildings across the street. The marines believe that they were being fired upon and in total three civilians have been killed and I understand one marine was injured in the foot…

And it’s thought now, talking to the commander here, that the fire that seemed to be returning was actually tracer fire from marine weapons in the opposite direction. So a circumstance of civilian, basically marines firing on civilians and firing on other marines.

I’ve interviewed all of the Marines who were involved in the incident tonight. They’re all saying that they saw green and white tracer fire and why they say that is green and white tracer fire is what comes from AK-47s which is what they say is used here, so that’s likely to be enemy fire.

I never saw green and white tracer fire. Michael Cox, our ABC cameraman here, never saw green and white tracer fire.

Now just talking to the CO, of the place where these guys come from, he watched it from a distance. He said the only traces he saw were the same colour as the ones coming the other way.”

And as we’ve noticed of course, not even allies have been safe. Earlier this month, a US A-10 destroyed two British armoured vehicles, killing a crewman.

The Times’ Patrick Barkham documented the experiences of a survivor, and it has the words “court martial” written all over it:

“One of the survivors criticised the American pilot for showing “no regard for human life” and accused him of being “a cowboy” who had “gone out on a jolly”. Nursing shrapnel wounds and burns, the three injured soldiers… spoke of their bewilderment and anger that the American pilot apparently failed to recognise markings on their tanks declaring them coalition machines.

Despite flying very low over their heads as they patrolled through the marshes near the meeting of the Euphrates and Shatt al-Arab rivers, the soldiers said the US pilot did not recognise that their tanks were a British make.

The pilot also failed to spot special coalition identification aids and even a large Union Jack on another machine in the five-vehicle convoy.

Lance Corporal Gerrard said from his hospital bed. “We can identify a friendly vehicle from 1,500 metres. “You’ve got an A-10 with advanced technology and he can’t use a thermal sight to identify whether a tank is a friend or foe. It’s ridiculous.”

Now a cynic could argue that this is a result of a society that is one of the world’s worst consumers of international news and knowledge.

But in the light of that soldier’s account, it’s poor and unprofessional conduct especially given the RAAF Hornet pilots aborting raids for not being able to unambiguously identify their targets.

It’s little wonder the U-S did not sign up to the International Criminal Court. It would have been tied up for years sorting out the litany of atrocities. I have no doubt the Iraqis will deservedly answer for theirs… but who will hold the most powerful military in the world to account… and how?

Copyright 2003 Crikey

Originally published here: http://www.crikey.com.au/whistleblower/2003/04/11/20030411usarmy.html

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