Monday, March 21, 2011

These are Consequences

What is remarkable about this story is how rare such events are. Either the cover up operations are outstanding in every aspect, or there is really just a deficit of such barbaric actions in our combat theaters. Or, perhaps, the difference is that we do not often have pictures such as these to accompany news stories such as this:

The Guardian:
"The lengthy Spiegel article that accompanies the photographs contains new details about the sadistic behaviour of the men.
In one incident in May last year, the article says, during a patrol, the team apprehended a mullah who was standing by the road and took him into a ditch where they made him kneel down.
The group's leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, then allegedly threw a grenade at the man while an order was given for him to be shot.
Afterwards, Gibbs is described cutting off one of the man's little fingers and removing a tooth.
The patrol team later claimed to their superiors that the mullah had tried to threaten them with a grenade and that they had no choice but to shoot."

Anyone who has taken the time to read, or watch the excellent HBO series named Generation Kill will not be surprised by this. American forces are held to high expectations, but any time there is going to be an extended period of combat operations with direct interactions with a foreign people, problems are going to develop. 

It is not acceptable, but it should be expected that a malignant remnant of evil awaits to rear its head in the pursuit of a power rush. It is a credit to the US Army that this is already under trial, and not blithely ignored. As Solomon scribed, 'One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench, so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.'

There is a lesson to be learned here, the winning of the hearts and minds of a nation cannot be done at the point of a gun. The past 80 years of US foreign policy should have hammered this lesson home, but we as a nation seem relentlessly opposed to understanding. Next time our objectives involve military force, unintended and likely consequences such as this need to be accounted for. 
What remains true is that the purpose of Armies is to kill people and break things. In the US, we are good at it. Very good. It is not the objective of the Military that these events happen, and such actions are sure to be universally deplored by service personal (rightly so).  But to expect public relations expertise and constant humanitarian actions from the front line is an unrealistic and untenable pillar of our foreign policy, and needs to cease. 

When we stop using our 'defense' spending for invasions, this variety of nightmare will evaporate. Actions have consequences, and these (alleged) barbarians are in process. Whatever their intent, the choices of our leadership to put us in a state of perceptual yet undeclared war bring with it these consequences. 

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