August 13, 2003

War Manners


The change in tactics mentioned at the end of this article is not encouraging:

The top commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, said last Thursday that U.S. troops would start to change their ground tactics in order to avoid alienating the local population.

The new strategy would rely mainly on better intelligence and the theory of "cordon and knock" -- when troops seal off a building, knock on a door and ask permission to be let in, rather than just charging in.

Sanchez and his senior officers have cautioned the "cordon and knock" technique would be used only when appropriate, stressing the rules of engagement for opening fire have not changed.

The U.S. military "received a stern warning" from Iraq's new Governing Council about recent raids and civilian casualties. The council's first president, Ibrahim Jafari, a member of the Shiite Muslim fundamentalist Dawa party, said, "The blood of our compatriots has huge value in our eyes, especially when soldiers kill innocent people."

This article mentions the change in tactics in the context of a "culture clash".

To quell the insurgency, American troops raid homes in broad sweeps, arresting anyone caught in their net.

The detained Iraqis -- mostly bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time -- complain U.S. troops are heavy-handed, apparently unaware they are sowing deep seeds of resentment by humiliating proud tribesmen.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez [...] said last week he ordered a change of tactics, directing commanders to go after specific targets rather than staging wide sweeps.

But Iraqis say what is most distressing is their physical treatment during and after arrest.

U.S. troops put their boots on the back of men's heads as they lay face down, forcing their foreheads to the ground. There is no greater humiliation, they say, because Islam forbids putting the forehead on the ground except in prayer.

Notice the absurd double standard. The soldiers are expected to be sensitive to Islamic religious concerns, but Muslims are not expected to be sensitive to soldiers' concerns about being killed.

While there's no indication we've changed our arrest procedure, it does appear that we are willing to increase the risk to our troops to avoid offending Iraqis. But if "wide sweeps" and "charging in" tactics are safer for our troops and more effective at finding insurgents, then that is what should be done. Hopefully the first priority is to protect Americans.

Meanwhile, FoxNews reports on how some Muslims are treating Americans in Iraq:

Members of three Islamic groups stepped forward on Saturday to claim responsibility for a number of recent guerrilla attacks that have left several U.S. soldiers dead and scores of others injured in Baghdad.

UPDATE August 15: FoxNews reports: Shiites Give GIs 24 Hours to Leave Baghdad Neighborhood.

A Shiite Muslim group demanded [August 14] that U.S. troops withdraw from a Baghdad neighborhood within 24 hours, a day after American forces fired on thousands of protesters in the Shiite enclave and killed at least one person.

A statement distributed in Sadr City said American forces "deeply regret" what happened and described it as a mistake. Later, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said troops try to keep Iraqi culture in mind but must remain aggressive.

Apparently an Islamic banner was blown down from a communications tower by an American helicopter, triggering the Muslim protests.

Sanchez [...] insisted the rotor wash blew down the banner, and said coalition troops try to keep Iraqis' "culture and sensitivities" in mind.

"Our intent is not to alienate the Shiite people," he told reporters.

Think the Shiites are worried about alienating American GIs?

Posted by Forkum at August 13, 2003 07:41 AM