The Corner

Troops Behaving Badly – Cont.

A reader writes:

Much is being made of this but perhaps you need to step back an think a minute. The location in question are groves of trees that border a road that comes off a bridge…. in plain English, a ideal ambush site. You have no place to hide coming off the bridge and the bad guys can hide in the trees and them melt away. There had in fact been several ambushes at the site, because the road network almost mandated the use of the road. The farmers in question were given the chance to give the ambushers up and didn’t. The local commander has a responsibility to protect his troops. Since the farmers refused to cooperate, they paid the price. Sucks to be them I suppose, but better a thousand fruit trees than one GI life, IMHO. The only reason this get any traction at all is because there are trees involved, shows how turned around we have become when a few trees are more important the lives of our soldiers.

This is useful additional info, and I agree that protection of our troops is extremely important. But, of course, the primary aim of our troop presence is not protecting our troops, but achieving the strategic objective of creating a peaceful and stable Iraq. Moreover, while the local commander has the responsibility to protect his troops, but this does not excuse any and all such actions. It would not, for instance, justify the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians thought to be harboring Baathist guerillas (and if rogue soldiers ever committed such a horrific act, I trust they would be dealt with accordingly). Both the ends and the means must be legitimate. My concern — and this concern may be based on incomplete information — is that this is a case in which the ends did not justify the means (collective punishment which, as I understand it, can violate the Geneva Convention) and may be counterproductive.

Other reader thoughts, or hard information, are most welcome.

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.


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