Monday, July 03, 2006

Stuff Happens Whenever You Loose the Dogs of War

Atrocity in Mahmoudiya

On the face of it, this case of (alleged) premeditated rape and murder by Steven D. Green appears to be qualitatively different from other documented cases of abuse of Iraqi civilians and prisoners.

It's always been a few proverbial bad and rotten apples. Ever since we received that first Taguba report which cited lack of training and supervision, civilian leaders in the Pentagon have been deflecting responsibility from landing at their doors. There have been a few other explanations such as overzealous interpretations of (deliberately?) ambiguous torture rules & regs. Overzealousness in the pursuit intelligence demanded by superiors is another excuse.

In the case of massacres of civilians in Haditha, Ishaqi, and other places, the most plausible explanation has been temporary insanity. Our troops are being killed randomly by passive improvised explosive devices, placed by the unseen hands of unknown enemies. In any sustained circumstance such as this, one could expect that normative standards of conduct and training could break down, even if episodically. Reacting to one's closest buddies being dismembered before one's eyes could enrage any one of us - eventually - to strike out blindly in retaliation against the first human targets we could find.

But Green's crime was premeditated and invites our national rage:
According to an 11-page federal affidavit, Green and three other soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 101st's Airborne Division had talked about raping the young woman, who they spotted while working at the checkpoint and who lived nearby. The document said Green and other soldiers drank alcohol, then changed out of their uniforms to avoid detection before going to the woman's house. Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt.
We will find out more about Green as his case moves forward. Among the few things we know at this point is he was given an honorable discharge "before this incident came to light. Green was discharged due to a personality disorder." That is why he is being tried in civilian courts.

So, is Green the authentic example of the rotten apples the Pentagon has been searching for to absolve itself of torture of prisoners and retributive violence against civilians? At first glance, he definitely appears to epitomize the poster boy in the bottom dregs of the barrel.

OTOH, is it not time - past time - to inquire into the conditions in the barrel? Consider how the waging of this un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) has contributed to the 'breaking' and degrading of our once great American military:
  • Use of personnel for combat roles for which they weren't trained.
  • Excessively long tours of duty required by the initially insufficient deployment of troops to accomplish the mission.
  • Repeat deployments to Iraq without a decent interval at home,
  • The misuse of National Guard and Reserve personnel for a mission not connected to defense of the nation.
  • Constant failure to attain retention and recruiting objectives.
  • Institution of the infamous "stop-loss" regulation which prolongs active combat duty indefinitely.
  • Lowering the standards and upping the bonuses for enlistment.
Direct your attention to the last of these. Private Green, apparently, was one of these raw, green recruits sucked into the service by an unselective recruiters. Patriotism and sense of duty played less of a role in their signing on than poor education and lack of civilian sector alternatives. Rumsfeld's Pentagon - and Bush's war - has required of our military to scrape the bottom of our society for cannon fodder.

British writer Max Hastings shares a lament by an American general:
We went into Korea ... in 1950 with a very poor army, and came out of it in 1953 with a very good one. We went into Vietnam in 1964 with a fine army, and came out in 1975 with a terrible one.
Private 3rd class Steven D. Green, Ret. is the poster boy of our broken military.