Monday, July 16, 2007

"I have to admit it's getting better..."

It's like they read my blog. Or The Nation. Or listen to Pacifica.

NPR, just this evening:

One of the lessons learned in the past four years is that sometimes-abusive behavior by U.S. troops — such as forced entry, wholesale detentions and pointing guns at everybody — embitters Iraqis and helps the insurgency's recruiting.
Gee, d'ya think? Wow, whadda concept! No mention here, of course, of the horror stories from real soldiers. Notice this all stays on the level of abstraction: of what soldiers have seen, what commanding officers say, but never anything personal, anything identifiable as face-to-face contact with, say, men screaming for fear of their family's safety. We're the "good guys," remember. That narrative can never be challenged.

With this latest phase of the war, the military says its soldiers will no longer act like occupiers. Commanders say they can already see local Iraqis responding to America's gentler approach with an increased willingness to cooperate, volunteering information on bombs and arms caches.
Again, the message is lost in the mendacity. First, we will "no longer act like occupiers." What the...? Huh? "No longer..."? But before you get to digest that comes the mea culpa couched, of course, in the passive voice:

"In the early stages, we would kick in doors and we would break things, and we would just say we're sorry and then pull off," says Lt. Col. John Kolasheski. "The majority of people understand we treat people with dignity and respect, but there are cases where we have to detain them. So it is a delicate balance."
Yes, the balance between terrorizing the populace by kicking in their doors and still showing them you treat them with dignity and respect is indeed quite a tightrope, if not an outright contradiction. Ask any police department. Still, even that "delicate balance" is not easily maintained, eh?

But during the Sledgehammer Brigade's summer offensive, actions by combat troops have also deepened animosity among Iraqis.

In Nahrawan, soldiers shot the wrong man when he ran from a house thought to belong to militants. A gathering crowd glowered at the troops as they bandaged the victim's bloody arm and leg.

In two separate convoy incidents, U.S. Humvees rammed civilian vehicles, the first when an Iraqi sedan drove past a traffic blockade. In the second incident, a Humvee commander instructed his driver to clear a crowded intersection. The Humvee then smashed into a minibus full of terrified passengers — causing considerable damage —while his gunner fired an M-16 in the air to frighten other drivers.

When informed of the incident at the intersection, Col. Wayne Grigsby, commander of the 3,000-man Sledgehammer brigade, said bullying is not authorized and that he would investigate.

"That kind of stuff is what will get us in trouble," Grigsby says. "Over here, we're trying to liberate and support and assist. Some of these people on the fence...we make enemies, and they feed the insurgency."
Good to know commanding officers don't put up with that kind of thing from the "bad apples." Not that we'll ever know who they are, nor will they ever be punished for what they did. Becuase, hey!, after 5 years, we've figured out violence doesn't win hearts and minds!

Now if we can investigate the death of the Iraqi mother shot for getting close enough to read the sign warning her to stay further back than she was.

I won't hold my breath.

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