Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Time to roll out the Wagner

According to American vets from Iraq, interviewed on BBC's Newsnight last night, US troops in the Sunni North were regularly driving around shooting anyone they saw. Apparently they carried shovels which they could leave with the corpses, if challenged, to 'prove' they had shot insurgents digging-in bombs. It's all very 'Apocalypse Now'.

A related fact from the same programme. UK and Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not handing suspects over to the Americans, for fear of their mistreatment.

The ex-SAS soldier on the programme supplied the key. "The Americans have not made the transition from war-fighting to counter-insurgency." he said.

There seem to be a few more elements to add to the mix. The honour culture of the American South, from where so many recruits are drawn, which can flip instantly from warmth to a lethal response if the subject feels 'dissed'. I guess seeing your buddies blown up would count. Also a kind of US parochialism mixed in with naive patriotism and a deep sense of American superiority over all other cultures.

And then there are the usual factors in the Sunni north:
  • social distance between the troops and the locals
  • lack of a shared culture and language
  • dissimilar appearance and dress
  • the lethal insurgents are indistinguishable from the 'civilians'.
All very predictable, and all just the same in that other war.