Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cultural Contrast (2)


About a year ago, Mr. Al Gore (The former vice president of the US) said on a TV show something which he phrased as a joke. He said "I used to travel on 'Air Force Two' when I was the vice president, but now I have to take my shoes off to get on a plane". It is a wonderful demonstration of obedience to the regulations. Now, consider the behavior of the Iraqi assembly member which described by Lisa, NY in a comment" …what I read was that the assembly member (one of Sadr's former men) moved his car quickly out of the line at the checkpoint and into a different lane because he didn't want to wait." One may notice the cultural difference in perceiving the concept of law & order between two men of two cultures.

Jordon Golson said in another comment:

"American police are taught to treat every person they encounter as a potential threat, and prepare accordingly."

Another commenter said:

"In this kind of atmosphere, the reality that they're (referring to the American troops) here to protect and serve Iraqi people becomes instead a theory, and the first reality becomes to stay alive." Another said" Well, everyone in Iraq is under suspicion to the soldiers. Everyone in Iraq or anyone in Iraq could kill or cripple them. Iraq is a WAR ZONE and they are NOT policemen. They are trained to kill and complete the mission they are given."

So it turned into an aggressive bilateral relation. Its main elements are fear, suspicion, mistrust, keeping Iraqis away from Americans & vice versa, etc. And this is the main idea which was adopted by Saddam's regime to keep Iraqis isolated from the world. It depends on showing any person as a possible threat starting from one's family members. It is horrible to live in a hostile environment with a continuous condition of alert. Such situation, for more than quarter century, led the Iraqis to be fed up with Saddam's regime and to let it down.

There are incidents which happen by chance, once or twice during one's life like this one by another commenter

"…it was police men and not soldiers. I was with a friend and suddenly a bunch of police cars surrounded my car. They had their guns pointed at us and made us lie on the ground, some of the officers kicked us and cursed us. Other officers tore through my car searching it. I was angered at my treatment but then I later found out that a grocery store had been robbed and the criminals killed a man just so they could get $40 from the cash register. They had a car that was like mine."

Here in Iraq, especially Baghdad, such annoyance is daily or in the better weekly.

This one says

"I do not think the main motivation behind these sorts of actions is malice,
cruelty or even fear. Unfortunately, it is just the best way at this time to get
the job done."

If we agree with this description then we need to modify 'the best way at this time to get the job done' of both sides, the Iraqis & the Americans.

To be continued…

7 Comments:

Anonymous Craig said...

There's a lot I want to say about your posts on the cultural differences, but I don't really know how to say it... I'll try anyway.

I'm not really so sure it's a cultural thing at all. I was an infantryman in the USMC for 6 years on actice duty, 3 years reserve, and I was twice a UN peacekeeper. Deployed overseas on WESPAC (Western Pacific) floats 2 times. More on cultural differences later, because there is something to that...

But first the case for it not being a cultural thing. US Marines are trained NOT to show their emotions... fear, happiness, anger... doesn't matter, if you can look at a Marine on duty and see anything but an expressionless face, he's not being a good Marine. It's ALWAYS been that way in the USMC and I suppose it has been in the Army as well, at least amongst infantrymen.

Marines are also trained not to interact with civilians in any way except as it's required in the performance of their duties. There are several crimes that can be charged, including fraternization, when Marines on duty do not maintain this disciplined distance between themselves and civilians.

I get the impression that the US Military is actually trying to change this, at least for troops in Iraq... and they have definately changed it in regards to the press. WHen I was in the service, if I'd spoken to a reporter without being ordered to first, I'd have been brought up on charges.

Now for the case that it's a cultural thing. I think there's some truth to that, on both sides. You mentioned similarities in the way troops act now and the way they did under Saddam. Americans can't relate to that, because in America, federal troops are NEVER supposed to be used as Policemen. The only time in my recollection that it's happened is when US Marines from Camp Pendleton (1st Marine Division) were used to quell the Los Angeles riots in 1990? - and that was illegal. Illegal but maybe necessary.

Since they are never used as policemen, they recieve NO TRAINING in law enforcement, civil service, or any related field. Maybe that should be changed. I know from my Peacekeeping deployments that just saying "US Troops are not policemen" doesn't cut it. If they are used as policemen, they should know what their responsibilties in such a role are.

"The mission of the Marine Corps rifle sques is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver; or, if in the defense, to repel the enemies assault by fire and close combat"

Doesn't sound much like raiding houses and manning checkpoints, does it?

But yet another problem is the fact that many of the troops that are being given security duty are reservists. Some of them are "ready reserve" which means they have served at least one active duty enlistment, but many of them are just weekend warriors. They train one weekend a month with a two week active duty deployment per year. In this case, not only do they lack the training for law enforcement or other civil service duties, they also lack the discipline.

I believe it's the lack of discipline that causing troops to lash out at innocent Iraqi's out of anger/frustration/fear/whatever. They do it because they want to, and they can, and they don't have the discipline to exercise self-restraint. This makes me really angry. Troops should not assume somebody is a shithead just because they might be. Never. They are supposed to be imposing order, not adding to the anarchy, which is what such behavior results in. The military really needs to start taking these things seriously. I would have thought after Abu Ghraib they would realize that, but from what you say, they have not.

Bah. I've gotten off track, I was supposed to be talking about cultural issues and I've instead just been talking about the behavior of the troops. OK, trying again now. There *are* cultural differences. There are ALWAYS cultural differences for american troops, wherever they deploy, because they NEVER deploy in the United States. They should know how to handle cultural differences. They should treat people with dignity and respect, whether they recieve the same treatment or not. It's hard for them. I know that. It's hard when you see fear, panic, hostility, furtiveness, anger, etc to maintain your composure and do your job in a professional manner. It's very hard. But we expect our troops to be able to do hard things. US troops are probably the best trained and most disciplined in the world. It's not too much to ask that they live up to the standards that have been set for them.

It's OK for them to not be good policemen. It's NOT OK for them to act like a bunch of undisciplined thugs. I saw thugs in military uniforms just about everywhere I went in Asia, and I always thought "This is why these guys can't fight, they are not warriors, they are just gangsters" and I still think that.

US troops are warriors. I know for a fact that the US Marine Corps embraces the warrior code wholeheartedly, and stresses personal honor and integrity as the only way to judge correct or incorrect behavior, in war and in every other aspect of their life. Our troops are warriors. Warriors beat thugs. Every time. If we lose the warrior ethic in our military, then we lose the war on terror.

I feel like I'm just babbling here because I didn't really plan on saying any of this. SO I'll just stop now. I don't really have a solution. But somebody needs to find one, because just saying "that's the way it is, move on" isn't working for me.

9:20 PM  
Blogger DaKruser said...

My friend,
Interesting observation. If we are indeed trying to separate the Americans from the Iraqis and somehow form a divide of mistrust, then the terrorists are winning. Maybe not in the "battles", but in the war.
The most important thing is to keep the Iraqi people and the American Soldiers working as closely as possible to achieve the common goal. That being a safe, rebuilding Democracy.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous russ said...

This issue is indeed unfortunate but I think to much is being made out it. One can argue that the problem is cultural,or a lack of training on the american soldiers part, or even perhaps the lack of traffic laws and effective traffiv control or any other excuse.

The bottom line is statistically there are more positive interactions between iraqi's and american soldiers than negative ones. To bad we do not hear more of the positive interactions.

Yes, there are american soldiers who are young,immature and under a lot of pressure who make very injudicious decisions in the field. But I have been there and have seen plenty of Iraqi citizens who push the limits of safe and wise actions in regards to checkpoints and behavior towards American soldiers. Is that to say that all Iraqi's are immature and injudicious in their behavior?

It is a tough situation for all in Iraq. What is important is that Iraqi's and American's work together so the American's will leave and the Iraqi's will regain their country.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Bryan Kerwick said...

The simple solution is for troops to be gone. Iraqi troops aw well as Us and coalition troops. This would be a job for Iraqi Police but there are too many shitheads running free blowing things up killing primarily Iraqi civilians.

To solve the problem and get the Americans out of Iraq quicker, rat those bastards out so the troops, Iraqi preferably, can hunt them down, kill them and restore enough order for the police to handle the situation.

This has long been a war on the Iraqi civilians and not the US military. That fight was over long ago. Let's just call it what it is. Terrorists that are terrorizing IRAQI CIVILIANS. Point them out and let the military eradicate them. Don't even bother capturing them any more. That way you don't have to fight them more than once.

Amazing as it may sound, 12 of the recently released prisoners from GITMO have been caught again terrorizing the Iraqi people. I see no reason to give them a third chance and neither should you.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous pat said...

Just by being terrorists and not wearing a uniform, the terrorists are separating the Iraqis from the US and other troops, since the troops can't tell who is who.

A cutural difference is that I think Iraqis (and Arab cultures generally) react more strongly to being aggressively approached and see it as humiliation. I don't think Westerners react as strongly to that kind of thing, or maybe not in the same way. I'd react to it as an irritation, but humiliation would never occur to me.

9:31 AM  
Blogger gbaikie said...

"Just by being terrorists and not wearing a uniform, the terrorists are separating the Iraqis from the US and other troops, since the troops can't tell who is who."

I wonder is there anything Iraqi could wear that the terrorist can't.
The terrorist are muslims but they are extremists. One thing is they generally hate Jews. But something symbolic regarding Jew could be problematic.
You could make a new symbol. Something that represents a 21st Century Iraq. We looking for something which is garlic to these vampires, called terrorists. Something they would rather endure great pain or death rather then wear or be associated with. And if Iraqi could become more prosperous has result of promoting this icon of a fad, so much the better.

3:24 AM  
Blogger gbaikie said...

I thought of something. Perhaps a symbol which represent the new Iraq miltary.

3:27 AM  

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