Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Afghan's Thoughts on Marine "Kill Team"

Time Magazine has published a report on Afghan family members' reaction to the Marine squad that has been accused of targeting and killing Afghan men at random, and then trying to cover it up by adding appropriate stage props to the scene.  One of those killed was evidently a local village farmer who also served as the village's religious leader, or imam.  His wife witnessed his killing.

The article concludes by noting that the victim's father-in-law said that any punishment by a US court won't matter.
People in his village "hated" the Americans even before these killings, he explained, because of errant airstrikes and heavy-handed night operations into private homes. The deep anti-American sentiment, he adds, has only grown worse since their religious leader was murdered. "The Americans really love to kill innocent people," he says. "We don't have a court for [the accused soldiers], but [God] will give them the strongest punishment."

All of this reminds me of a couple of things:
  • One of my readers commented on my earlier post about the Marine general who's been put in command in Afghanistan - and who'd been quoted as telling his men that it was great fun to go shoot some people - by saying "Marines will be marines."  OK, these guys are US Army, not Marines - but they seem to have been inculcated nonetheless with the same "gung ho." 
  • Recent weeks have seen US forces in Afghanistan moving away from counterinsurgency (which entailed protecting and trying to partner with the locals) to a more "traditional" approach focused on killing the "enemy" and shooting things up.  Evidently Petraeus et al. realize that they don't have either the time or the trust in the central government that's needed for counterinsurgency to work.  (Mr. Obama seems to indeed be serious about starting some withdrawal of forces by next July.)

Which means, of course, that the dogs of war may well be off their choke-chain - and that soldiers who felt overly constrained by the previously laid-down rules of engagement may now be freer to cut loose - "get some," in current military parlance, or get some payback for buddies killed or wounded in the past months.  In a "theater" where the "bad guys" don't wear uniforms, where you know that the population at large resent your presence, or even hate you, but where you possess overwhelming fire power . . . we can expect a lot of civilians to be "lit up" - thereby stoking more anger, and more urgency in securing revenge.

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