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War, Indeed, Is Hell

But the question remains, are we executing a proper strategy in Iraq?

Imagine this. Your Iraqi. You have an 8 year old son. He’s walking home from school one day and spies some interesting yellow chord on the side of the road. He stoops over, examines the piece. Finding it interesting, he puts it in his pocket for his collection of cool found items at home. As he takes his third step away from the location, thwack. His head splatters about and his body falls to the sniper’s rifle.

In a place where it is extremely challenging to tell who the good guys are from the enemies you so want dead, when would this scenario play out? When the US snipers lay bait.

How would you feel if you were the sniper doing your job and you come to find out, you’ve just killed one of the newly minted Iraqi police departments officer’s sons. What do you think think this father would have to say about our presence in Iraq?

A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of “bait,” such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.

The classified program was described in investigativ e documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

“Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,” Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. “Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.”


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17 Responses to “War, Indeed, Is Hell”

  1. And added to this is the case of two Special Forces guys who positively ID’d a designated terrorist in Afghanistan, killed him, and are now facing murder charges. This was after the Army’s Criminal Investigatio n Command ruled the killing was justifiable.   Major Gen. Frank Kearney (now a Lt. Gen.) went ahead with getting the two charged with murder anyway. I don’t understand what motivated Kearney to do this, but something stinks.

    I don’t think the strategy is the problem. I think we need some different rules of engagement. With these rules, the only strategy is losing, which is why the vast majority of congressiona l Democrats and many Republicans, and even the administrati on, hypocritical ly say nothing about them and how this is putting our troops in further danger than necessary.

  2. Nice story about the 8 year old son of a newly minted Iraqi policeman. Where’d it come from? Taking a creative writing course at the local community college? You really think our snipers are shooting eight year olds in the head? I don’t.

    Try again.

  3. SteveIL,
    In what way are the current rules a problem? What would you change to make them better? All you ever say is that they’re wrong. Well, what’s your alternative?

    Fair point, but would it change the argument substantiall y if it was the man’s adult cousin who got shot in those circumstance s?

  4. Paul,

    I’m not sure. Do you think an adult is quite as likely as an 8 year old to be innocently picking up bomb-making material because it’s a pretty red? Now I admit that it might just be possible that an adult might be picking up such an item to turn it in to the authorities so that it would not be picked up by someone else with nefarious intent but, in a war zone, where IED’s are being planted and going off all the time, is an adult going to be picking up bomb-making material like thread that might, you know, cause the bomb to go off? If someone, an adult, genuinely concerned with doing the right thing, rather go to the Iraqi police and show them the bomb-making material and let them determine whether picking it up is likely to cause one to lose one’s life?

    I don’t know the answer. I admit that, as a tactic, it’s pretty dicey. I’m not there so I can’t judge. I mean, the previous paragraph certainly describes what I would do. I would not be picking up anything along side the side of the road that looked like it might belong to something that could kill American soldiers inside of an armored humvee. I’d be like the Pharisee in the story of the good Samaritan: I’d walk by on the other side…give it wide berth. I can’t imagine someone who lives with IED’s in their streets as a daily thing would be innocently picking up bomb-making stuff. It just sort of sounds like the sort of behavior that would have gotten the guy killed a long time ago and not by US snipers but by a road-side bomb. Just me talking.

    Craig R. Harmon

  5. Craig,
    Certainly true. But what about the possibility of selling scrap material? Some Iraqis are selling their possessions to buy food. I can imagine them selling something that could be valuable the same way, and IED components would be valuable, I’d imagine.

  6. Paul Watson said:

    All you ever say is that they’re wrong. Well, what’s your alternative?

    Gee, for starters I would question why a general officer in command of combat troops seems to believe two of his special forces soldiers need to be brought up on murder charges after two investigatio ns ruled that they acted properly. The job of a soldier is to go out and kill the enemy, which is exactly what these two soldiers did. They didn’t shoot up a village, nobody else got hurt, and the terrorist was positively ID’d before killed. So what possible rules of engagement did this general think were violated? When combat ends up being dumbed down to some idiotic notion of a terrorist’s “due process” rights on a battlefield in a combat zone, I would say that is the first rule of engagement to get put into the dumpster.

  7. Paul,

    Yes, but where would the picker-upper be most likely to be selling IED-making material? If money is his interest, would his bomb-making material be more valuable as scrap or as bomb-making material to a bomb-maker. Certainly the read string would be pretty worthless EXCEPT as bomb-making material to bomb-makers… in which case, what we likely have is bomb-making material that will be turned over to a bomb-maker who will make a bomb destined to kill Americans. In which case, the picker-upper is very likely more interested in money than in the fact that his scrap will probably be killing American soldiers, making him a legitimate target again. People selling bomb-making material to bomb-makers are the enemy as much as are the bomb-makers, those who set the bomb and those who detonate the bomb. They are part of the military-ind ustrial complex, Iraqi style.

  8. All,

    I was taking a stab at a little creativity, but it’s the plausibility of the case that makes it so palpable. Craig’s term “dicey,” pretty much sums up the strategy. Would you want to be the sniper who kills an innocent civilian because you put out some attractive “bait?”

    The trouble is when a sniper lays bait, and then, in a split second - a blink, a breath, acts as judge, jury, and then executioner.   Sure I trust our guys when they are sniping real, concrete targets. As a matter of fact, I love them, ever grateful that they are on out side. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be placed in that kind of situation.

    When you have jihadists recruiting pre-teen boys, certainly a 7 year old kid might actually be at the employ of the terrorists, no? That’s the very trouble with the situation in Iraq. Is that kid picking up string a terrorist or the son of a newly minted police officer? If he’s dead, you don’t and probably won’t ever know.

    Because we went into an intractable and increasingly confusing and complex “war” that we didn’t really need, we earned the responsibili ty to examine the gruesome realities.

    Who’s the enemy and how do you know is really still a valid question.

  9. Who the enemy is is clearly a valid question in a war like this one. Clearly it is complex as stated however whether or not it is necessary is not as clear. The people with the most informed opinion as to necessity will be the administrati on and they have deemed it so. The majority of voters elected Bush to office, twice, to make these types of determinatio ns and they (the administrati on) are clear as to the importance of a secure Iraq and the course of action they have chosen to make it so. It will not shock me if you disagree with the president on this matter however yours is a considerably less informed opinion and that must be taken into account.

  10. Man,

    You are defending the administrati on when their “intelligenc e” about WMD got us into this? I for one am not falling for that bait and switch any more. Why you still do is beyond me.

    thanks for ducking the point of the post, however, It’s a nice diversionary tactic, but I’m not buying it.

  11. No offense, Windspike, but you are being a bit too “creative”. You are assuming that these American snipers are nothing but robotic automatons who would automaticall y pull the trigger when said item is picked up by anybody. You say the following:

    Sure I trust our guys when they are sniping real, concrete targets. As a matter of fact, I love them, ever grateful that they are on out side. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be placed in that kind of situation.

    I’m sure they don’t want to be part of that situation, but they are. And I kind of wonder how much you actually do trust them.

    Second, your analogy fits in with some of the stuff in the linked article, but other parts of that piece discuss the accusation that snipers are using these classified pieces to put on dead Iraqis they killed to cover that killing, not that the items were used for “baiting” purposes when those Iraqis were killed. That’s not showing that “baiting” is the problem, but that these soldiers are accused of using items for “baiting” in an illegal manner. That’s a HUGE difference.

    Now, allow me to be creative. In Iraq, we have a situation where our soldiers are trying kill terrorsts who do not have an “I am a terrorist” insignia on them. Now for the creative part. Suppose some terrorists invade the U.S. to cause all kinds of terrorist mayhem, and do so by blending in with the civilian population; they don’t wear the “I am a terrorist insignia” on them so they can be easiliy killed. We don’t know who the enemy is, although we are at war with Islamist terrorists. Is it your contention that we leave the U.S. in order to avoid harming innocent people, even though that is what the terrorists are doing?

  12. Windspike,

    Well, as you say, it is the plausibility of the imagined illustration  , or rather its implausibili ty, which either makes or breaks its effectivenes s. My point was that I was preparing myself to read that that was what had happened when I read the article. Imagine my surprise when nothing of the sort was reported?

    Obviously, I would not like to be a sniper who kills an innocent. Who would? On the other hand, in war, innocents die. In a war where, if your new defense has any merit, terrorists use small children to do things for them — as during the vietnam war it was reported that toddlers were employed, carrying live grenades into the midst of unwary American soldiers, and blowing up — I do not blame our forces for killing said children. I blame those who enlist said children. Our soldiers were placed in the situation of having to blow away toddlers in order to defend themselves from being killed. Some Americans blamed them. I blamed the Cong. I think I blamed the right party.

  13. Steve,

    How do you know that your scenario isn’t already true? If you remember, the Betlway snipers were executing their own brand of terrorism but were blending in quite well…terrori sm is in the eye of the beholder and only you are able to control your reaction to random acts of violence.

    There is a big difference between shooting a toddler carrying a grenade and shooting a kid picking up an interesting piece of string.

  14. Yes, Windspike, and when you catch wind of our troops shooting a kid picking up an interesting piece of string, get back to us. Until then it is a highly (in my opinion) unlikely scenario that hasn’t happened yet and therefore has no bearing on the advisability of what they are doing. It may get an A+ in a creative writing class at night school at the local community college but as argumentatio n against the practice, it merits a somewhat lower grade.

  15. How do you know that your scenario isn’t already true? If you remember, the Betlway snipers were executing their own brand of terrorism but were blending in quite well…

    I don’t know if it already has or not. As far as the DC snipers, remember that the Constitution explicitly covers whether they could have been charged with treason, which wasn’t the case. This is valid for U.S. citizens. But as far as terrorists who come here from overseas and make war on us, and it is determined by the government that they are here for that purpose, and whether they be here legally or illegally, catching them and turning them over to the military (allowed under the 2006 MCA law and the Ex Parte Quirin ruling) for judgement is entirely valid. Unless one wants to charge legal aliens with treason.

    terrori sm is in the eye of the beholder and only you are able to control your reaction to random acts of violence.

    Under the various definitions of terrorism, it is not in the eyes of the beholder. In fact, the U.S. Code has the legal definition of terrorism; see 18 U.S.C. § 2331.

  16. SteveIL,
    And that says nothing that the rules are wrong. It says that the soldier in question doesn’t understand the rules to me.
    So again. What is the problem with the rules themselves?

  17. Paul,

    In the piece I linked to is the following:

    The case revolves around differing interpretati ons of the kind of force that the Special Forces team that hunted and killed the man, Nawab Buntangyar, were allowed to use once they found him, apparently unarmed.

    To the Special Forces soldiers and their 12-man detachment, the shooting, near the village of Ster Kalay, was a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement. They said those rules allowed the killing of Buntangyar, whom the American Special Operations Command here has called an “enemy combatant.”

    Buntangyar had organized suicide and roadside bomb attacks, Staffel’s lawyer said.


    Mark Waple, a civilian lawyer representing Staffel, said that the charges against his client and Anderson carry a whiff of “military politics.” In an interview, Waple said that Kearney proceeded with murder charges against the two soldiers even after an investigatio n by the Army’s Criminal Investigatio n Command concluded in April that the shooting had been “justifiable homicide.”

    On the other side we have:

    But to the two-star general in charge of the Special Operations forces in Afghanistan at the time, Frank Kearney, who has since become a three-star general, the episode appeared to be an unauthorized  , illegal killing.

    What is the problem with the rules, you ask? It seems to me that they seem to be very confusing as the CIC and Lt. General Kearney have a differing of opinion. And as a result, two soldiers are up on charges of murder, after killing a designated enemy combatant. If there is confusion with the rules, then that is the problem. And a big, and potentially lethal, one for U.S. soldiers.

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