Monday, March 07, 2005

And who can blame the GIs for being quick to shoot?

Jim Henley posts about the problem of trigger-happy GIs at checkpoints in Iraq. American soldiers do not answer to anyone but American commanders, and our military consistently emphasizes force protection over other aspects of our mission there. As a result, accidental shootings at checkpoints are not uncommon -- except, perhaps, when they involve Italians.

Here is the Highest Law in Iraq today: Thou shalt not frighten an American soldier. Not “kill,” not “attack.” Put in fear of his (or her) life. This is a capital crime subject to immediate arraignment, instantaneous investigation and summary execution of sentence. If your most important goal is to safeguard the lives of American troops, this law makes perfect sense. It was not propounded by Iraqis, though, who were not even consulted about it and have, still, no veto power over it. It was not adopted with the consent of the governed. How did that come about? We decided. No country where such a law obtains is “free” in the sense that the US is free, or, well, Italy is free. No Iraqi jury, nor even Iraqi bureaucrat will pass judgment on the actions of the soldiers at that checkpoint. Americans will.

It is dangerous for a people to arrogate that much power to themselves, even, or especially, when they see themselves as Doing Good. When we still had conservatives in this country, they knew that.

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