Outrage Of The Day

The US 4th Infantry in Iraq have been playing tricks on Iraqi generals:

On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: “If you want your family released, turn yourself in.” Such tactics are justified, he said, because, “It’s an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.” They would have been released in due course, he added later.

Tim Dunlop, as usual, is outraged:

This piece of nastiness should be clearly unacceptable. And it is surprising how little attention it is getting from pro-war commentators and bloggers.


How can it be moral?

Apart from anything else, what such behaviour does in the battle for hearts and minds amongst Iraqis is probably nothing short of disastrous.

It’s been a while since I snarked at Tim, so I had a go in his comments, repasted here for your reading pleasure:

Tim, with all due respect, neither of us have ever fought in a war.

>From an outsiders point of view, it seems to me nobody got hurt, the bad guy was caught, and the wife and children were released. To me that seems like a win all round. Would you prefer the marines went in guns-a-blazing to find the guy and someone catching a stray bullet?

What you are doing is applying civilian standards of conduct to a wartime situation. American, British and Australian troops should be commended on their efforts to minimise casualties in the war so far.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not a real war.

The taking of hostages suggests a threat of physical violence and/or death, of which there is no evidence here. If they took the family as POWs and left a note for Dad saying “come get them if you want them released”, that seems fair enough to me.

As for your point about “Hearts and Minds”, I don’t think that the average Iraqi, after enduring 25 years of the Hussein regime, is really going to think the Americans did anything wrong here. After all, they are used to people never coming back when they disappear. Seeing the family back on the street after a couple of days was probably a huge shock to the system. Seeing another ex-torturer behind bars probably didn’t worry them much either.

The number of philosophers in the Armed forces has dwindled in recent years, mainly replaced by soldiers. Their conscience tells them “catch the bad guy, and don’t hurt any innocent people”. Both conditions were satisfied as far as I can see.

Let me know when people start getting fed into shredders by the 101st airborne and I’ll agree that the CotW is evil.

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