Monday, November 08, 2004

Bad Apples

Good thing all that Abu Ghraib stuff was just a few bad -- uh oh, wait a minute:
As soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment approached the burning vehicle, they did not find insurgents. The victims were mainly teenagers, hired to work the late shift picking up trash for about $5 a night, witnesses said.

Medics scrambled to treat the half a dozen people strewn around the scene. A dispute broke out among a handful of soldiers standing over one severely wounded young man who was moaning in pain. An unwounded Iraqi claiming to be a relative of the victim pleaded in broken English for soldiers to help him.

But to the horror of bystanders, Alban, 29, a boyish-faced sergeant who joined the Army in 1997, retrieved an M-231 assault rifle and fired into the wounded man's body. Seconds later, another soldier, Staff Sgt. Johnny Horne Jr. , 30, of Winston-Salem, N.C., grabbed an M-16 rifle and also shot the victim.

The killing might have been forgotten except for a U.S. soldier who days later slipped an anonymous note under the door of the unit's commander, Capt. Robert Humphries, warning that "soldiers had committed serious crimes that needed to be looked at."

U.S. officials have since characterized the shooting as a "mercy killing, " citing statements by Alban and Horne that they had shot the wounded Iraqi "to put him out of his misery."
If we're going to complete the glorious conquest of Iraq, we'd better get to silencing all these busy-body Winter Soldiers out there.

I'll be the first to say it: this war cannot be won. With incidents like these and those at Abu Ghraib churning repeatedly through the Arab media, with the photographs of Arab victims of American torture being painted as murals in Arab cities, we will never, ever, convince Iraqis we are there for any purpose other than to install an oppressive power the United States government considers friendly to US interests.

There is a tipover point in these conflicts when suppressing an insurgency is no longer a matter of fighting a small, flexible guerilla force, but metastasizes into what every occupying power should fear: fighting an entire country.

As a small thought experiment, imagine your child, your brother, your father, at the other end of Lydie England's leash. Would you ever understand? Would you ever surrender to such filth?

The next four years in Iraq will be an object lesson in the limits of power that more fortunate nations will study as a cautionary tale. We have not learned from history, and so we must repeat the lesson.

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