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July 11, 2006
In Response to SavageryBy Greyhawk
When confronted with savagery one can demonstrate courage or flee. The second option is available for a limited time only. Eventually there will be nowhere to run.
The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 10 -- Insurgents posted an Internet video on Monday showing the mutilated bodies of two American soldiers abducted in June and found murdered days later during a search by American and Iraqi forces south of Baghdad. A message with the video says the soldiers were killed out of revenge for the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl in March, a crime in which at least six American soldiers are suspects.For what its worth, the video does not depict the murder of the soldiers, who may have been killed in the initial attack. The fact that the actual killings aren't on the video indicates this is likely - insurgents generally don't miss such an opportunity. That there are four insurgents in view in the video implies there weren't enough to carry off the third victim, whose body was found at the scene of the attack.
The Jawa Report has an edited (but graphic) version of the video, along with still images. You can read the coverage of the story there without seeing the pictures or video - they are at the bottom of the post following several warnings.
The Times says the video (and accompanying statement) "deepens the mystery surrounding the rape and killing of the Iraqi girl and the slayings of her parents and younger sister."
American officials have said that the soldiers implicated in that crime are from the same platoon of the 502nd Infantry as the two abducted soldiers, but investigators have yet to draw a direct link between the events.Note that the Times story isn't questioning whether the accused US soldiers actually committed the rape/murders, just stating that at the time of the killing of these two soldiers (who have no connection to the previous crime beyond being members of the same platoon) the belief was that insurgents committed the earlier crime. In fact, according to published reports, the rape was planned to make it appear just so. Other soldiers, interviewed in the aftermath of the killings depicted in the newly released video, implicated those who (allegedly) committed the earlier rape/murders.
However, there are indications that many of the locals didn't buy the "insurgent" story, although comments from neighbors to the effect of "the victims were Sunni - we didn't think they had been killed by insurgents" were published in news accounts only after the arrest of the US suspects. (One could also interpret the comments as an admission that if the victims were Shiite there would be no questions asked.)
Locals might have captured and killed the two Americans in retaliation for the earlier crime, but I suspect that this claim was an opportunity that presented itself only after the fact. Earlier statements made by the terrorist groups claiming to have kidnapped the Americans made no reference to the rape/murder case, which had not yet been revealed.
All the facts behind the entire story will likely never be known. But this is a fine example of why a recently translated al Qaeda manual titled The Management of Savagery should be required reading for all US troops. In this case insurgents took advantage of events in a manner exactly as described in that document.
- Brutal killings must be explained in a manner that justifies the atrocity
- Public opinion must be turned against the enemy soldiers
- Al Qaeda should be seen as the solution to the chaos/savagery - even as they foment more such atrocities (hence the title)
These efforts are to be directed at the local Muslim population in any conflict. In Iraq, with a majority non-Sunni population, they will achieve limited success. But the even more powerful response is desired from the population of the enemy state - erosion of support for the effort on the home front.
Hence whether the killers of these soldiers knew of the rape/murder at the time or not, the perpetrators of that earlier heinous crime have handed a victory to the enemy, perhaps the most significant propaganda victory of the war.
How to counter attack? Use truth. Insurgents didn't "break" the story of the rape and murders in Iraq, even though they had the perfect opportunity to do so when they first kidnapped (or simply took the corpses of) the US Soldiers. The crime was revealed - just as the actions of the criminals at Abu Ghraib were revealed - when American soldiers acted in the manner of the vast majority of American soldiers and sought justice for the victims of the criminals who had disgraced the uniform. It takes a bit of courage to do that - perhaps a different sort than that needed to face enemy fire - but both are common traits instilled in the vast majority of America's modern warriors, before and after they take the oath.
Don't give rapists, murderers, and torturers - regardless of their manner of dress - the credit for that sort of courage.
Elsewhere on this topic:
Military authorities on Monday disclosed that they had filed capital charges of premeditated rape and murder against four of the five active-duty soldiers accused in an attack on an Iraqi family in March.The final suspect, Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the military for a personality disorder before fellow soldiers identified the alleged perpetrators of the crime, pleaded not guilty last week in Louisville to federal charges of rape and murder.
Reports allege that Green fired all of the shots and was one of two soldiers who directly participated in the rape.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 11, 2006 7:17 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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