As an military officer with extensive experience in Iraq, I would be reluctant to describe Lt. Barnett’s piece as a “must read“. He displays a rather immature view of the law of land warfare and human rights that seems to be at the root of the problem.
No one doubts that the daily stress of combat operations takes a severe psychological toll. However, a professional army’s officer (commissioned and non-commissioned) corps is paid to enforce these standards and prevent these actions. This is what makes the American military different from a group of terrorists or a mercenary band of the 30 Years War. Failure to uphold these standards is a breach of professional ethics and a violation of morality and law. We can feel “badly” that a good person is in such a position, but our failure to strongly prosecute volunteers over the last 3 years has put us in a poor position.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how frustrated a soldier or Marine may be with the local community, a scared farmer has NO responsibility to report terrorist activity to American military personnel. In fact, ideally such a person wouldn’t be on the battlefield at all (of course this is not practical).
Passive approval of insurgent activity, by the law of land warfare, is NEVER aggression! To suggest otherwise is a baldfaced falsity, and an insult to American ethics. To be quite honest, reading the officers rather half-hearted condemnation of a massacre made me more than a little sad.