[One of our big problems in Viet Nam was how to figure out who was an enemy and who was an innocent civilian.  If you are worried about the fact that enemies don’t always wear bright colored uniforms to distinguish them, we prided ourselves during the Revolutionary war with our locals who hid behind trees to blow away the neatly lined up red coast outraged in their turn by our failure to obey the standard military protocols of that day — stand up and out like a man and let us blow you away.  Ready! Aim! Fire!  (Now reserved only for executions)

The articles below collected from the Google “News Alert for: How Many Troops in Iraq?” more or less captures why our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are such a mess.  Armies are supposed to avoid harming civilians.  But occupying armies are not up against identifiable soldiers on the other side.  Anything that moves may be a threat and so one is tempted to shoot first and ask questions later.  The young sergeant who has just been tried and convicted on a charge less than murder told his sad tale sincerely.  He and his buddies were new at the game, frightened at what might lie behind a door, so they simply smashed them in and threw in hand grenades.  Unfortunately they were killing innocent civilians hiding from their house invaders.

I don’t know where we are going to go from here.  On the one hand anonymous bombs set off as our troops drive by seem — along with suicide bombers — seem to be doing most of the damage.  Bullets fired by sharp shooters and rockets come unexpectedly from domestic housing or from the vicinity of same.  And so our troops fire — at houses, cars, groups of people behaving suspiciously, kids picking up things or playing in the wrong (suspect) locations.

Is this sort of war worth the harms being done to innocents?  I think that is the large question that we asked about Viet Nam and that we must ask ourselves again about Afghanistan and Iraq.  G-d forbid that our leaders freak out yet again and start bombing Iran!

Knowing the Enemy Difficult in Iraq


The Associated Press – Incidents of shooting of civilians at checkpoints has drawn allegations by many, in Iraq and beyond, that US troops and contractors are quick to fire and …
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“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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