Monday, March 07, 2005

Iraq's Descent Into Quagmire

Shooting of Italian journalist just part of the day-to-day business of occupying Iraq:

The journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, 56, ran into fierce American gunfire that left her with a shrapnel wound to her shoulder and killed the Italian intelligence agent sitting beside her in the rear seat. She had been released only 35 minutes earlier by Iraqi kidnappers who had held her hostage for a month, and the car carrying them to the airport was driving in pitch dark.

But the conditions for the journey, up a road that is considered the most dangerous in Iraq, were broadly the same as those facing all civilian drivers approaching American checkpoints or convoys. American soldiers operate under rules of engagement that give them authority to open fire whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks. Next to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis, judging by their frequent outbursts on the subject.

Daily reports compiled by Western security companies chronicle many incidents in which Iraqis with no apparent connection to the insurgency are killed or wounded by American troops who have opened fire on suspicion that the Iraqis were engaged in a terrorist attack.

For all of the good works we may be trying to do in Iraq, the constant threat to our troops of IED's, mortars, suicide car bombers and snipers have put them in a position of shooting first and asking questions later. The only reason we are hearing about this particular case is that it was a non-Iraqi (in fact, citizens of a coalition ally) that was killed.

Michael Kerr authored a book about Vietnam, which contains the following passage:

A lot of people knew the country could never be won, only destroyed, and they locked into that with breathtaking concentration, no quarter, laying down the seeds of the disease, roundeye fever, until it reached plaque proportions, taking one from every family, a family from every hamlet, and hamlet from every province, until a million had died from it and millions more were left uncentered and lost in their flight from it.

Just like Fallujah. Just like the hundreds of places in Iraq where our troops are, expecting to be attacked from any quarter, ready to shoot at any move deemed suspicious. And where every incident like the one above that claims the life of an innocent Iraqi merely helps to fuel hatred of America and recruit new followers of anti-America terrorism.


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