Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rules of Engagement

Another vivid on-scener from Newsweek's Michael Hastings in Iraq, "A Daily Dance with Death," 20 September 2005:

'...The long day is winding down. Dusk falls and the temperature drops. A half dozen Marines pull up chairs outside the house, in the fluorescent glow of "chem" lights—civilian campers call them glow sticks. These young Americans don't want to get blown up, they want to go home. And they don't want to kill civilians. They talk about the rules of engagement, stricter than when they fought in Iraq in 2004. That was "the Wild West," says Aziz. A recent shooting left a nasty impression, he recalls. A car carrying two women, two men and two kids failed to stop at the extensive barriers before the checkpoint at OP2. The driver ignored both warning signs and the multiple concrete blocks. The car came forward even after the tires were shot out. Eventually, a Marine opened fire. The two women were killed. The bullets blew the back of one woman's head off, says Franklin, adding: "It was even worse than the s—- I saw last time I was here." But the enemy knows the Marines can't fire first. Lately, the Marines say, cars probe the defenses, driving up to the post to see how far they can get before being shot at. "You're supposed to wave, throw a flash bang, say hi, make a baloney and cheese sandwich, shoot in front, shoot the tire, shoot the other tire, have some tea, shoot the engine, then shoot the windshield," says Aziz....'

The American soldiers are disciplined, but the world around them is not. Anything unpredictable is potentially fatal for them, or for the people accidentally involved. One of the most damning depictions I've seen of this situation was the American report on the killing of an Italian intelligence agent last spring:

Shadowland: Body Counts, 12 May 2005
The Pentagon secretly keeps track of many grim statistics in Iraq. The numbers are not encouraging.

Shadowland: Reality Checkpoints, 11 Mar 2005
Why did U.S. soldiers shoot at the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena? Here's the most likely scenario.

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