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View Diary: Please stop calling them "Military" (125 comments)

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  •  Just because you didnt read about it (22+ / 0-)

    didnt mean it didnt happen.  

    I know General Taguba personally and I know that his report on Abu Ghraib was both accurate and complete.  I also knew the Commander of that unit and I can tell you she knew some but not everything because she was scared to leave the Palace.  And she was punished.  Now should the punishment gone higher for the lax attitude to mistreatment?  I would say yes.

    You will get no argument about torture from me.  Forget that it is morally wrong, its not effective.  They will say what ever is needed to get the bad man to stop.  But despite the administration and John Woo saying it was ok, the Army specifically forbid soldiers from participating in "enhanced" interrogations and was very specific that anyone participating in or authorizing them would be punished.  And they were punished.

    Coverup of civilian deaths?  EVERY civilian death was investigated if possible.  By "if possible" I mean ones we could specifically identify as in any way questionable.  When you are firing artillery into a city, bad things happen.  Civilians are killed in warfare.  Always have, always will be.  Its regrettable but a fact of war.

    Dehumanization is also a fact of war.  Believe it or not it is darn hard to get people to kill their fellow humans.  It has a horrible effect on you when you do.  We use dehumanization to get the mission done and to maintain our own humanity.  I am not killing a father, husband, son, brother, cousin or uncle.  I am killing a Jap, Slope, Zipperhead, Kraut, Nazi, VC, Communist, Ruskie, Camel Jockey, Raghead, etc.  It is necessary to conduct war.  Now if you want to say its better to not conduct war, I am with you 100%.

    I recently took a course in Just War theory, one of many I have taken.  At the start of the class we were asked to do a quick survey on political leanings.  We were a pretty center group with just a small center right lean.  Not surprising since the course was an elective so it was a self selected population.  Then we were asked if we thought the Iraq War was a just war.  20 of 22 said no.  The two who did said it was just because of Saddam being horrible to his people.  22 of 22 said the war was misrepresented to the people and that added to its injustice.  If you want to discuss Just War theory I am glad to.  If you want to discuss accountability for starting an unjust war, Im all for that too.  But please, dont project the failings of the duly elected competent and constitutional authority on the military.  We do not choose our wars, you do.  You the people.  

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 09:53:03 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  On just Monday, four days ago, (5+ / 0-)

      Amnesty International released a long detailed report, on the failure of international forces in Afghanistan to investigate civilian deaths.

      Coverup of civilian deaths?  EVERY civilian death was investigated if possible.
      US forces have comprised the large majority of international forces in Afghanistan, and have been implicated in the large majority of incidents involving civilian casualties. Therefore, this report focuses, in particular, on the performance of the US government in investigating possible war crimes and in prosecuting those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Its overall finding is that the record is poor.

      Left in the Dark: Failures of Accountability for Civilian Casualties Caused by International Military Operations in Afghanistan, Amnesty International

      •  Afghanistan is a mess (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, buddabelly, Just Bob, PeterHug

        I will admit, I was thinking of Iraq when I wrote it.  Iraq was a much easier problem.  For the majority of the time we were there the fighting was done by Americans under a defacto American government.  As such we bore sole responsibility for the vast majority of deaths.

        Afghanistan is the exact opposite.  US, Coalition and Afghan forces operate in nearly every area of the country.  In the case of Afghan forces there are at least 4 distinct fighting forces - Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan Local Police (ALP) and the National Defense Service (NDS).  Add to this a minimum of 3 border forces, local unsanctioned but friendly to the government militia and a population generally armed to the tooth (just one - I kid...almost) you have a recipe for disaster.  On the other side are a minimum of three distinct fighting forces - Taliban, Haqqani network and the population of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that span both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Add to that local warlords unfriendly to the Government and locals unfriendly to anyone not from their personal tribe/group.  Of all those, only the US and Coalition can be counted on to operate in uniform as an organized force and in accordance with the Law of Land Warfare.

        Fighting an unconventional force is always difficult.  Afghanistan is made more difficult because of both sides making a habit of fighting in civilian clothing instead of uniforms.  How do you know if someone is Taliban or villager?  What if they are both?  Do you wait for them to put down the wood and pick up a gun?  How do you know if the goat header with an AK is fighting you or wolves?  Now into that mix make the "enemy" answer the same question.  Is that a villager or an ANP?  Is that a local militia opposed to me or is that a meeting of the village elders?

        The first case in the AI report, while tragic is understandable.  The area where it happened is a transit spot for movement of weapons from Pakistan to the Kabul area.  From 10,000 feet a bundle of sticks looks like RPGs.  The question you have to ask is whether you believe someone intentionally dropped a bomb on girls collecting fire wood or if it was a tragic mistake that is very common in a theater of war.  

        As for the lack of interviews issue - it is a problem.  First, we are often not allowed to conduct interviews.  The Afghan govern can and does veto these things.  The motivations are varied but in some cases Afghan sources provided faulty intelligence that lead to killings.  IN some cases it seemed like the government WANTED to create animosity between coalition forces and the local population.  At other times no interviews could take place because the area was not secure.  And I am sure other times we just did a bad job investigating.  But we do investigate and we do hold people responsible - something even AI admits.

        As for Night Raids - big issue and one central to the hold up of the SOFA.  I will say this - Night Raids were the preferred method to eliminate political rivals.  Find a way to tie them to group __ and you could count on the SF guys to eliminate them.  BOTH SIDES did this.  Both the Taliban and HQN have leaked information that resulted in their rivals being killed/captured and Kharzi is knee deep in this.  I believe Night Raids should be ended because they are completely corrupted.

        Finally even AI notes that the Taliban, HQN and associated fighters are responsibility for the vast majority of civilian deaths.  And while the US military has probably screwed up or failed to investigate somethings, the Taliban and HQN take pride in killing civilians.  

        We do the best we can.  Do we need to get better?  Of course.  But war is not pretty.  War sucks.  It is supposed to suck.  It is supposed to suck so much you choose something else.  As long as there has been war there have been civilians killed in war.  It will never change.  

        It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

        by ksuwildkat on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:30:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here is a November 2013 letter (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ksuwildkat, YucatanMan, FrY10cK

          from UN Special Rapporteurs, to the U.S., on failure to effectively investigate the 2012/2013 torture and killings in Wardak province, which is the sixth case study in the Amnesty International report.

          In this connection, we would like to bring to your Government’s attention information we have received concerning the incidents that allegedly occurred in the district of Nerkh in the province of Wardak, Afghanistan in late 2012 and early 2013, in which at least nineteen persons were killed as a consequence of alleged abuses committed by the United States Army, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces group, known as Operation Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3124, in the district.

          [their emphasis]

          It is alleged that the US military opened a criminal investigation in July 2013 and that numerous key witnesses to the alleged crimes have not yet been questioned by US investigators. The Afghan intelligence service has reportedly ceased its investigation after having been refused access to members of the US military and their translators by the US.
          Concern is expressed at the unlawful killing of at least 19 individuals in the district of Nerkh in the province of Wardak, Afghanistan in late 2012 and early 2013, as well as at the reported lack of progress in the investigations on these cases launched by the US and Afghan authorities.
          And Amnesty International, about the failure to effectively investigate:
          The Afghan investigation into the crimes has reportedly been hobbled by the failure of the US military to grant investigators access to interview members of the Special Forces team. They reportedly requested to speak to three Special Forces operatives and four Afghan translators who worked with them, but the request was denied.102

          Under pressure from the UN and others, the US military finally opened its own criminal investigation into the killings in July.103 Yet it is far from clear whether the investigation is serious. Numerous witnesses and family members said that, as of November 2013, they had not been interviewed.104 Nor had the military interviewed journalist Matthieu Aikins, who spend five months gathering evidence about the killings for his Rolling Stone article. As of March 2014, only two of the ten eyewitnesses and former detainees whom Amnesty International spoke to had been interviewed by US military investigators.

          The allegations here, about the conduct of ODA 3124 in Wardak, are extremely grave.
          •  no argument (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FrY10cK

            no argument from me.  I wish we could share a beer and I would let you know what I think of most ODA types.  ANd dont get me going on SEALs.

            It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

            by ksuwildkat on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:17:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Example (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, dougymi, PeterHug

        Where I operated outside of Kabul there was a large "compound" - a collection of 4 or 5 buildings that constituted an Afghan farm.  The "farmer" was a hard core Taliban type.  We gave each other a wide berth.  What ever he was doing, he was not doing it in my area.  He never attacked my soldiers.  He never put out IEDs in my area.  In return we left him alone.  We made sure his sheep were unharmed.  We sent word when we were going to be in the area with a large group - a group that might not be as "live and let live" as I was.  He was always gone before my large group arrived.

        I was not being kind or liberal or enlightened.  I was practical.  I had a team of 5 military guys and 5 civilians. Most of the time we worked in groups of two.  M4 rifles and M9 pistols.  We were in no position to pick a fight.  I could have gotten backup and taken down his house, killed or arrested everyone there and destroyed his farm.  For what?  Someone else would have moved in.  Maybe that someone was his brother.  His brother would have a blood feud against me.  Eventually me or my guys would be isolated and killed.  When not if.  Eye for an eye that never ends.

        Destroying his farm was not my mission and I choose not to make it my mission.  Keeping my guys alive while doing our actual mission was my job and I did that.

        I have no idea if those who followed me did the same math.  But had they decided to remove him they would have been entirely justified.  He was a Taliban supporter/fighter.  He was doing bad things else ware in the country.  But what would the optics have been?  "US attacks farm, children killed."  It would have been true.  But it also would have been true that he was a bad man and his choices brought death to his door.  Where you fall on that is up to you but realize that both sides are right.  

        It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

        by ksuwildkat on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:46:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  How can you say the report was complete (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calvino Partigiani, YucatanMan

      when Taguba didn't include his own boss's role?

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