In “New Taliban and Al Qaida Strategy,” I scoped out what I believe to be a revised “going-forward” plan for the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It primarily involves the terror tactics used heretofore, such as beheadings, torture and other acts of brutality. But there are two elements present in this approach that seem to have been previously absent.
The U.S. forces, and especially the Marines, were keenly aware of the fact that factions of malcontents, thugs, criminals and other shady elements of society would band together into heterogeneous groups and cause general harm to the effort of the coalition forces. This was described in the Marine Corps “Small Wars Manual,” 1940 Edition. The two new elements we are seeing now include (a) the use of non-combatants as shields, and (b) an aggressive propaganda war to allege U.S. troop atrocities.
I have discussed in earlier posts, Haditha, Hamdania, and then Guardsmen being charged with civilian deaths near Haditha. The Marine Times carried an AP story about the proliferation of charges against U.S. troops, and so the issue is being recognized by the MSM (although I see the article as being somewhat wobbly, coming to no real conclusions and providing no substantive framework for this phenomenon — an interesting failure given the title of the piece, Experts: Put atrocity accusations into context). At least one of these three instances involved the use of civilians as human shields, and two others involve the killing of civilians in the heat of battle (the circumstances will be brought to light at trial).
In any battle in the Sunni triangle, my bet is that we will be able to find “witnesses” who would be quite willing to testify to U.S. troop “atrocities.” The effects of each of these (and similar future) instances will be fourfold:
- To diminish the U.S. public resolve.
- To make the U.S. troops hesitate when in potential danger, thus making Iraq a much mroe dangerous place for them.
- To proliferate instances of accusations against U.S. troops as the insurgents and unsympathetic public better learn how to engage in this slander.
- And thus to dishearten the U.S. troops.
The U.S. troops will be impaled squarely on the horns of a dilemma: do I defend myself if I feel threatened, thus ensuring charges if I kill a civilian who later is found out to be unarmed or used as a shield, or do I hesitate, thus ensuring my harm?
Do you think I am stretching things a bit? In “Spinning Haditha,” W. Thomas Smith, a Marine, makes the following insightful statement:
I went on to explain that Haditha had everything to do with the war in Iraq being a counterinsurgency. And every student of military science understands the ugly nature of insurgencies; where insurgents are un-uniformed, unconventional fighters who move freely throughout the community during the day, and become bushwhackers at night. They routinely use women and children as human shields, and often coerce the latter into the service of operating guerrillas.
This is particularly effective against U.S. forces, because the enemy knows that no matter how much stress they may be under, American soldiers will go to great lengths to avoid killing women and children; and even hesitate (at great risk to themselves) when they see women and children shooting at them.
There are the horns of the dilemma. Each and every time a Soldier or Marine fires and a civilian is killed, he can just about count on some other civilian being a “witness” to the incident where the account has him guilty of murder execution-style. Whether this is true or not, the seed is planted in the minds of the Soldier and Marine and eventually becomes a cancer.
American Forces Press Service reports that:
Alleged incidents of misconduct, such as those surrounding the Nov. 19 deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, do not reflect the honorable service of the overwhelming majority of coalition forces in Iraq, a U.S. general in Iraq said today.
“Almost without exception, the dedicated men and women who serve as part of Multinational Corps Iraq perform their duties in an exemplary manner every day,” Army Brig. Gen. Donald Campbell, chief of staff of Multinational Corps Iraq, said via satellite in a Pentagon news briefing.”
In my opinion, this is profoundly unhelpful. As far as the General knows, the U.S. forces perform their duties completely and without exception. At the very minimum, he should have waited until the trial was finished before anything was said about what some small percentage of our troops do. The General doesn’t know for sure. He is speculating on Haditha.
And this is the heart of the matter. Will the U.S. brass react to this new strategy by participating in the proliferation of charges against our troops, or will our troops get the benefit of the doubt? Will our troops fear defending themselves, or will they react as they are taught to?
The Marines are taught that their purpose is to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.” Will they be free to do this?