With no end yet in sight for the long dark night of the Iraq war, The Nation magazine is coming out this week with an article that goes into great and disturbing detail about the brutal treatment of Iraqi civilians by some U.S. soldiers and marines.
The article does not focus on the handful of atrocities that have gotten substantial press coverage, like the massacre in Haditha in November 2005. Instead, based on interviews conducted on the record with dozens of American combat veterans of the war, the authors address what they describe as frequent acts of violence in which U.S. forces have abused or killed Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — with impunity.
The combination of recklessness, wantonly destructive behavior born of panic and
deliberate acts of cold-blooded violence by G.I.’s are believed to have cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the article says. The soldiers interviewed said they believed that only a minority of U.S. troops engaged in objectionable behavior, but the toll of their actions has been huge.
The long occupation has a dehumanizing effect on our soldiers. They've been stuck in an alien culture, where they don't know the language or customs, can't tell friend from foe, and have no workable mission plan.
The article describes soldiers and marines frustrated and fearful in an alien environment in which the enemy hides among civilians and uses acts of terror as
the primary tactic. “The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and
the devastating effects of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis,” said the authors, Chris Hedges, a former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, and Laila al-Arian.
Returning soldiers that I've talked to (including the Marine below) have expressed how frustrated they were about the inability to identify the enemy. While they try to do their duty honorably, it's not surprising if some begin to blame all Iraqi's.
Accidents, even those caused by recklessness, are bad enough. More disturbing
are the incidents described in the article in which G.I.’s routinely abused civilians. Among the worst abuses have been the shootings of innocent civilians and the improper arrests that have occurred in the course of raids carried out by soldiers and marines looking for insurgents.
There have been thousands of such raids. An extraordinary number of them — the vast majority, according to the interviews for article — were exercises in futility, yielding nothing but grief and terror for the innocent families whose homes were invaded.
“So you have all these troops, and they’re all wound up,” said Army Sgt. John Bruhns of Philadelphia, who participated in many raids while serving in Baghdad and Abu
Ghraib. “And a lot of them think once they kick down the door there’s going to be people on the inside waiting for them with weapons to start shooting at them.”
In most cases, there is nothing more than a terrified family on the other side of the door.[Bob Herbert, NYTimes Select]
And, after over four years, Tony Snow says this:http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070709-4.html
MR. SNOW: No, he's -- again, we have just started the course. The course has just begun.