Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Cultural Contrast (3)

First of all, I'd like to thank Craig for his comment on my previous post. He introduced a balanced perspective. He said

"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."

Craig concluded his comment with
"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."
I agree with his conclusion.

Many comments say "don't generalize". One should discriminate between personal behavior & the military policy. I believe it is not easy, just like an American soldier who can't discriminate between an ordinary peaceful Iraqi & a terrorist. For an ordinary Iraqi, American soldiers' behavior is unpredictable.

The majority of Iraqis (I'm one of them) don't know how & where to make complaints against improper soldiers' behavior. It is not easy for the Iraqis to get over the physical outcomes of unpleasant incidents with the American soldiers, since they live on the edge of poverty & there is no effective insurance system.

"American police are taught to treat every person they encounter as a potential threat"
is acomment made on a previous post. I think it is not right to consider any person as an accused just because he/she is in the wrong place at the wrong time. What about the shock caused to that person & other results, like causing high blood pressure to my brother in law as I had mentioned in "Feelings are universal (2)".

Last week Dr. Muhsin Abdul-Hameed, head of the Iraqi Islamic party, was detained by the American troops. He is a well known public figure even by the Americans, at least at some level of the chain of command. He was a member of the governing council created by the American authority at the early time of occupation, and he was one of the few persons who headed that council. Anyway, according to law, no one is untouchable. The procedure of detaining the man gives very clear evidence of the unnecessary violence used by the American troops. The man, and his house guards, showed no resistance. Still, the American soldiers destroyed doors & furniture, put a sack on his head and lay him brutally on ground. I wonder if it is the same way to be used in the US to detain a public figure like Michael Jackson for example. Dr. Abdul-Hameed released after few hours of detention. This is what happened to an Iraqi public person who proved to be innocent. So, the question that raises "If such a person is treated in such way, what about an ordinary Iraqi and how the American soldiers would treat him".

To be continued…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to ask yourself 2 questions: would I be on the internet asking questions and challenging people if saddam were still in power, 2.) what would happen if American troops pulled out completely right now, what would my life be like?
My advice is to take more responsibility because the sooner that happens, the sooner American troops go home. Quit expecting perfection when you yourselves have just begun to create your own new nation.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

US ground forces have been superbly trained and equipped for years to destroy a conventional enemy.

After the Vietnam War, US Army leadership seems to have made a conscious decision on how to deal with future counter-insurgency conflicts: The US will not fight any. My impression (as a life-long civilian) is that the Army ceased to plan or train for counter-insurgency (or "anti-guerrilla") warfare. I think that small groups of specialists kept the skills and doctrine alive, but they did not have much of an audience. I have read that the Marine Corps has done more with its similar doctrine of "small wars."

Early in the Bush administration, the Defense Department closed the Army's only school for training peace-keepers. Peace-keeping is not identical to couner-insurgency, but there is overlap and I guess it was the closest thing available. I noticed that, in the 6 month preparation for the war by troops stationed in the Gulf area, news accounts said nothing about teaching Arabic or Kurdish.

Newsweek has reported that each division in the invasion force was left to adopt its own approach. The magazine was a great fan of Gen. Petreus and the 101st Airborne approach in Mosul, which seemed to be characterized by (relative) cultural sophisitication plus spreading plenty of cash around. Newsweek criticized the commander of the 3rd Infantry (or was it 4th Mechanized?) division for taking an approach of kicking in doors and sweeping up batches of young men for detention and ineffectual investigation.

That was not an auspicious start.

On the other hand, I think it is useful to take a historical view. Standards of military behavior towards civilians began to advance IN PRACTICE first in Europe in the aftermath of the horrors of the Thirty Years War in Germany and neighboring countries. After 1648, a fairly rigid distinction was drawn between peaceful civilian and uniformed, regular soldiers. The civilians were to be safe in their persons and property. War was a matter between armies. The armies paid for their supplies. Prisoners were exchanged. There were major lapses, from time to time, of course. (Cf. the devastation of the Palatinate.)

What happened to civilians who took up arms against invading soldiers? If captured, they were executed. No chance of good treatment as prisoners of war. Even today, I believe, it is a war crime punishable by death to fight without wearing a uniform.

Why? Well, obviously regular soldiers in uniform tend to think of it as "not fighting fair." There is a deeper reason, however. That is the protection of non-combatant civilians. There is the belief, based on much experience and history, that guerrilla operations will inevitably lead regular armies to take drastic and often deadly action against the masses of non-combatants among whom the guerrillas operate. Some current laws of war and institutional opinions now forbid such actions, but I am skeptical of their relevance to reality. In short, I believe that the insurgents bear some responsibility for the suffering of Iraqi non-combatants at the hands of US regular forces. How the whole responsibility should be shared out, I don't know.

Michael in Framingham.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous russ said...

On the contrary the US Army has prepared and trained for counter-insurgency war at all levels of the Army. In fact the Army stopped all cold war scenarios after the fall of Russia and has been working on Operations other than war (ootw) for years especially after Desert Storm.

The fact is that occupation is hard on the idigenous personel and the combatants. I still argue that there are many good things the occupation forces are doing in Iraq that is not getting attention. These incidents are unfortunate and need to be addressed but any cure takes a heavy dose of medicine which sometimes taste bad.

This is hard on all.


4:26 AM  
Anonymous pat said...

In response to this comment:

"American police are taught to treat every person they encounter as a potential threat"

You said:

"I think it is not right to consider any person as an accused just because he/she is in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Police considering everyone as a potential threat is not the same as considering them as accused.

As long as a 'significant' terrorist threat remains and American troops do not know if someone is a physical threat to them, I do not see how it is possible relations with them to change.

This is one of the dastardly things
about terrorism, it separates people, and the terrorists know it.

It is the physical threat they are under that is causing the problems. From what I understand, in areas of Iraq where the physical threat is much less, there is also much less of the kind of thing you report, and relations with Iraqis are better.

"The majority of Iraqis (I'm one of them) don't know how & where to make complaints against improper soldiers' behavior."

Is there a neighborhood group in your area that has developed of any kind? You could ask to have a meeting with the Americans so these kind of things can be explained.

The sooner Iraiqs can take over their own security the better, and ther US knows this. It's our number one priority.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Bryan Kerwick said...

SSDD. The ONLY solution is for the Iraqi people to solve their own issues.

Firstly, Iraq needs to get a constitution done.

Secondly, Iraq needs to get enough security forces trained to defend said constitution.

Thirdly, America needs to make sure Iraq is stable and then go home. We don't like being there a lot more than you don't like us being there. Countries just don't reconstruct and stabilize overnight. Having said that, I am astonished at the speed in which the Iraqi people have been moving towards this goal. It is by far the fastest recovery ever undertaken ever, let alone a country of this size.

Quit bitching and start helping.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Brian H said...

It is possible to do ordinary policing where there is not a violent guerilla war going on. It is not possible where there is one. There is one where you are.

Get it yet?

Here's what an ordinary policeman does:
-he walks around a neighbourhood and watches for illegal behavior.
-he checks traffic for illegal driving, and watches for known criminals.
-he takes part in investigation of crimes which have been committed.
-he arrests known and probable criminals.

Etc., etc. None of this is possible when there are heavily armed guerrilla fighters hiding among the population, ready to use automatic weapons and bombs to attack police and soldiers or whoever might be co-operating with them. It is suicide to attempt it.

As soon as it is impossible for the guerillas to hide among the population, they have to leave. Anything you can do about making that happen? Seems like a good idea, to me.

4:18 AM  
Blogger DaKruser said...

Ibn alRafidain,
Our Army is never legally used here in the States as Policemen. We have an entirely Civilian Police Force. They Military, on the other hand, is trained to blow up and break stuff. Unfortunately, now, the same people who are trained to go into a building EXPECTING people to shoot at them, and to return fire, are asked to treat people as equals and not as combatants. The two mind=sets are nearly mutually exclusive. On one hand the Soldier is asked to kick in a door, throw in a handgrenade, then enter, close with the enemy and kill him in any manner possible. On the other hand, the same Soldier is asked to knock on a door, exchange pleasantries, move furniture gently, and smile the entire time; meanwhile, he must be on guard against the random individual who would be more than willing to die in an effort to kill him.
Sir, I would say to you that this is not a contrast in culture. Indeed, even in the last few days an individual entered the area of the Wolf Brigade and attempted to assassinate their Commander. Obviously, it is not easy for ANYone to tell who is the good- or bad-guys.
I know many American Soldiers who regret treating innocent Iraqis as criminals, but, in thier own words--"Better to insult them a little than go home in a body-bag."
This is not an excuse for mistreatment, just a viewpoint of the American Soldier.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Bryan Kerwick said...

I have a few questions I would like to ask that are not relative to the topic.

Would you please send an E-mail to: so I may have a discussion with you without doing so on your blog.

I feel it would be disrespectful and not very courteous to do so and disrupt the topic you so graciously posted.



4:20 AM  
Blogger gbaikie said...

If police are arresting what they suspect is armed and extremely dangerous person. They aren't going to politely knock on the door. Instead they going to crash through the door, and shoot anything that appears dangerous in the split second they need to make these decisions.
The Coalition miltary forces have no interest in arresting petty theft and harmless people. There are going after terrorists- people who frequently become human bombs in order to kill American or Iraqis. So if they going after this guy they suspect he has some connection to terrorists- he could be guarded by terrorists.
So destroying the door and the place isn't at all surprising- these things can be repaired or replaced- dead people can't be replaced.
Now I could sitting here and suddenly have police crashing into my place. They would have no reason to do this, but they would simply be making a mistake. It would unfortuate situation and hopefully I don't get a heart attack from the excitement.

Now, suppose there was a bunch terrorists around where I lived. I would get a gun and I would use it to protect myself. Now in this situation have the cops bust through my door and we could have a very ugly scene. The more cops through my door and more guns pointed at me, probably reduces the chance of me dying- because if I get my gun and start to shoot, I am dead. But if I am overwhelmed with no chance winning the fight, I probably won't go for my gun. And if cops are busting down my front door and busting down my back door, I probably won't run either.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok ... At least we know
why the incident with Sadr's representative ocurred.

It was NOT just a random bit of humiliation by the Americans.
but do to a quick move by someone
in a car in an area where car bombs occur.

Now ... its important that
an investigation into why the
other Iraqi politicians house was
searched and he was arrested come out also.

My advice to an Iraqi citizen who
feels they were mistreated by an American soldier is to
keep a record of the incident
location/time and other witnesses.

When the level of violence is reduced a great deal if you still
feel anger and humiliation because
of an incident I am sure a new
way to state your grievence
to a representative of the US
embassy will be available to you.

But right now the situation is way
too tense for all parties.

Remember we now have suicide bombers on foot/bicycle etc
with ambush teams following

An Iraqi citizen does NOT have to
"take" abuse ... but please into
account the
culture clash language barrier
and the very difficult circumstances of terrorism.

And as I mentioned when great progress is made in security... Our embassy
will be fully staffed, the soldiers
will be gone from your cities and
there should be information for
Iraqi's to file grievences with
state department representatives
and not the military.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the sister of a Marine, all I can tell you is for ME, I would rather have you tell me about an affront to your dignity then have the Marines at the front door of my house telling me my brother is not coming home.
Safety first and foremost.
Doors can be paid for, apologies issued but people cannot be replaced.

2:53 PM  

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