Road Rage in Afghanistan

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Afghanis want to bring some of their saviors to justice; the Afghan National Assembly, reports the New York Daily News, passes a nonbinding resolution seeking prosecution under Afghan justice for soldiers who drove a truck into a line of cars, killing five, and sparking huge riots. Fat chance; American soliders fall only under their own justice, and besides the Army says the brakes failed and no one is at fault. And as far as the shooting toward the angry crowd that gathered after the incident, well,

[Col. Tom] Collins was unable to say whether shots were fired from the crowd before the machinegunner opened up, or whether other soldiers in the convoy had fired. "We just don't know yet who discharged their weapons or even at whom," he said.

NEXT: "The Doctor Wasn't Cruel Enough"

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  1. The something rotten in Denmark smells like a veritable tulip by comparison to this.

    I’ll go further: Whenever we read about jets doing some “smart” bombing, I ain’t buyin’ it.

    American jets and their bombs should have been prohibited from Iraq and Afghanistan long ago.

    How “smart” would we consider the bombs if Afghani pilots were flitting here and there over Ohio?

  2. I believe the military on this one. There was a traffic accident. Some people died, and that’s a sad thing. But then a mob formed, as is common in 3rd world countries, calling for their blood.

    I don’t expect our soldiers to throw their friends to the mob. They defended themselves, as they should. If you don’t want to get shot by soldiers, don’t bloody well start attacking them.

    I am sorry that the people of Afghanistan suffer as they do, and I have sympathy for them as an occupied country.

    But let’s not forget why we are there. We didn’t invade Afghanistan on some hairbrained mission of mercy. We invaded them because they attacked us, killing more civilians in one day than any other foreign power has ever managed.

    They are conquered. Their leaders and their supporters deserved what they got, and I wish we could give them more. The civilians are unlucky, but there’s nothing to be done about that.

    No occupation is ever pretty. Soldiers are rough, and innocents get hurt. But I don’t think we have a choice. If we pull out, our enemies will move into the vacuum, re-subjugate their people, and begin to plot more attacks on us.

    And who knows? If they keep trying, one day even savages like the Taliban might figure out a way to pull down civilization.

  3. I believe the military on this one. There was a traffic accident. Some people died, and that’s a sad thing. But then a mob formed, as is common in 3rd world countries, calling for their blood.

    I don’t expect our soldiers to throw their friends to the mob. They defended themselves, as they should. If you don’t want to get shot by soldiers, don’t bloody well start attacking them.

    I am sorry that the people of Afghanistan suffer as they do, and I have sympathy for them as an occupied country.

    But let’s not forget why we are there. We didn’t invade Afghanistan on some hairbrained mission of mercy. We invaded them because they attacked us, killing more civilians in one day than any other foreign power has ever managed.

    They are conquered. Their leaders and their supporters deserved what they got, and I wish we could give them more. The civilians are unlucky, but there’s nothing to be done about that.

    No occupation is ever pretty. Soldiers are rough, and innocents get hurt. But I don’t think we have a choice. If we pull out, our enemies will move into the vacuum, re-subjugate their people, and begin to plot more attacks on us.

    And who knows? If they keep trying, one day even savages like the Taliban might figure out a way to pull down civilization.

  4. At what point does reckless driving become something done intentionally and not an accident? Of course there was an accident, perpetuated by morons driving recklessly. On American soil they would be held liable or at LEAST face an investigation or higher insurance.

    “No occupation is ever pretty. Soldiers are rough, and innocents get hurt. But I don’t think we have a choice.”

    Under this very line of thought, I propose these soldiers be thrown to the judicial wolves. We must make a sacrifice, be rough with these boys and show ourselves good to the people to quell them, they’re going to get hurt and the only other choice we have will cost us more in the long run.

  5. By the way Paul, do you realize this has probably been going on for a while? Stories have been surfacing about soldiers rear-ending cars in Iraq, tearing off their bumper then driving away laughing before the civilians could get any information. Sure, we could put the blame on the angry mobs for this turning worse than it did, but if any effort for this being rectified was going thru, these situations wouldn’t happen period.

  6. If soldiers commit crimes, then the military should discipline them. I can’t imagine giving them over to the civilian authorities for some good old fashioned Afghan “justice”.

    I’ve heard stories about reckless driving, and that’s not a good thing. The soldiers say they drive quickly to avoid getting attacked while they sit in traffic. I’m not there, and I can’t say what is right for sure.

    But when accidents occur, and they are bound to happen, they need to be dealt with in our way, not theirs. Compensation for the families, medical bills, and apologies. And if warranted, military discipline for the troops.

    If the troops fired on the mob that was threatening them, that’s too bad. You have to have rocks in your head to threaten and attack armed soldiers. If you were one of the soldiers, and people are trying to knock you down and cut your throat, you would shoot, too.

  7. Paul, I am so with you on this one. What 76 doesn’t realize is that Afghanis and Iraqis whose property has been damaged or commandeered can file a claim with the nearest civil affairs post and be reimbursed with little hassle.

    When I was over there we were driving all over Baghdad. We had to go down narrow allys in our wide HMMWVs everyday. Occasionally we would hit the mirrors of parked cars, especially on large trucks or people who parked far from the curb. Think we stopped in an alley with buildings on both side to leave a note? Yeah-fucking-right.

    Second, if you haven’t driven over there, you have no idea how bad traffic and how reckless the the drivers are there. One time, we had to do a U-turn on the highway in order to get to a mission site. My platoon sergeant got out of his vehicle and stopped traffic so we could turn the convoy around. After he stopped the first couple of vehicles, he moved out of the roadway and onto the shoulder while the rest of the convoy made the turn. Meanwhile, traffic backed up, maybe 200 yds. A local Iraqi driver decided that he didn’t want to wait in traffic. He blindly barreled up the dirt shoulder, directly towards my platoon sergeant and our position. I was the SAW gunner in the second-to-last HMMWV to make the turn. I didn’t know if the driver intended to run my platoon Sergeant down or if he was driving a car bomb and intended to attack the convoy. I had my weapon aimed at his head, the safety off and the slack out of the trigger. I was a fraction of a second away from firing when the driver slammed on the brakes and raised his hands in a non-threatening manner. If I had been a little more rattled or shot at a couple more times, I may have opened up a split second too early and had the exact same type of riot situation on my hands.

  8. wasn’t there a case like this in South Korea in the 90s? (sans the gunplay, iirc).

  9. I wonder whether the military is sheilded from civil liability on this.

    Some big cash settlements might repair some of the pr damage, but I don’t think the military has the vision or the guts for that strategy.

  10. “The civilians are unlucky, but there’s nothing to be done about that.”

    “We,” meaning “you and your co-workers,” could get out of their country…

  11. “We invaded them because they attacked us, killing more civilians in one day than any other foreign power has ever managed.

    They are conquered.”

    Let’s keep the reactions of eager war supporters to these events, and those in Iraq, in mind the next time they dare lecture the decent majority of Americans about how much more civilized and humane they are, and how much more compassion they have for the people of the “liberated” countries.

  12. “They are conquered.”

    Funny, I thought “they” were liberated.

    Nothing ticks off this American more than seeing people refer to our troops as “conqerors” instead of “liberators.”

  13. Liberate smiberate. They took *us* on and got their asses kicked for it. Nothing ticks off this American more than touchy-feely “helping to spread democracy” Liberal pinhead grey area nonsense stopping our military from properly *winning* (now there’s a definite no-no word for “there’s no winners or loosers in life, just people” Joe-types) a war.

  14. The people living in Kabul took us on?

    Really?

    Remind me again, when was that?

    Tell the truth, notJoe, they all look alike, don’t they?

  15. One of my friend had once visited Afghan and Baghdad and he had the same experience there.

  16. Truth is that none of us know what really happened and our opinions tend to mirror our take on the war, with those who want to turn the middle east into a sea of glass siding with the military and the doves seeing more evidence of how corrupt and evil the American military really is.

  17. Paul, I am so with you on this one. What 76 doesn’t realize is that Afghanis and Iraqis whose property has been damaged or commandeered can file a claim with the nearest civil affairs post and be reimbursed with little hassle.

    This may be the funniest thing I have ever read here at HnR.

  18. Dave W., why on Earth would that strike you as funny? That kind of reimbursement sounds like an easy way to attempt to win some hearts and minds, and, if there’s one thing our government excels at, it’s handing out our tax dollars.

  19. OK, Bob, I can almost believe that the US gov’t is just handing out money to any Afghan who alleges that he was wronged. Not because I think the gov’t is that benevolent, but because the gov’t may very well be that incompetent.

    But notice how I said I “almost” believe it. The only trait of bureaucracy that’s even more reliable than their incompetence is the volume of paperwork. That’s why I find it difficult to believe that the process is really, truly simple.

  20. There are a couple of realities to consider.

    1. “Conquering” a country is one thing. But when conquering is over and occupation begins, then keeping the peace is primary.

    2. Keeping the peace requires a certain amount of justice and fairness imparted to the occupied by the occupiers…or the peace simply will not hold.

    3. When people react to an occupying force that does NOT act with justice and fairness, aren’t the people supposed to do that? In what ever way may be effective? Didn’t America do that to our British overlords a while back?

    4. When the occupying force and the occupied people each have radically different notions of fairness and justice, where do you begin to sort things out?

    SUMMATION: Our conquering and occupation of Afganistan was important and (IMHO) necessary. But adopting attitudes like “It’s their problem,” are hardly effective. That attitude provides no solution while perpetuating the problem. We invaded the country with the intention of “Liberating” the people from the Taliban. From the start, the rhetoric has been that the Taliban was our enemy and people were our friends. We’re not going to reduce terrorism by forgetting that.

  21. What madpad said.

    The creeping dehumanization of the locals that can be seen in some people’s comments (“They are conquored.” “They attacked us.”) is not only untrue and grossly immoral, but is the biggest threat to the success of this incredibly important operation.

    All of the ink that’s been spilled about the danger of Afghanistan as a failed state, all of the proclaimations of solidarity with the oppressed people of (fill in name of country to be invaded here), just get tossed by the wayside the moment someone points out an instance of American troops behaving badly. Just goes to show you the real values motivating so many of the administration’s defenders.

  22. Dave W., why on Earth would that strike you as funny?

    The same reason it would be funny if he told me that the mayor of Kabul had a special balloon that he used to fly back and forth to the moon so that he could bring his aging mother special moonrocks that, when smeared with breastmilk from a whitegirl, allow the bunion on her foot to predict prices on the Tokyo exchange.

    In other words, the ridiculous implausibility renders it humorous.

  23. What madpad and joe said.

    I have no idea what happened in this incident. It could very well be that the troops acted appropriately. But it is interesting to hear the arguments that hawkish posters make.

    I’d rather wait for all the facts to come in, rather than start talking about how “those people have it coming.”

  24. OK thoreau, this is the government we’re talking about, so the “no hassle” part is a bit humorous. However, this seems like exactly the type of problem the Army would try to address by throwing money at it. It’s not like they can’t always get some more.
    Let’s split the difference and say they’re trying to be benevolent in an incompetent fashion. I would say that describes the majority of the activities of the U.S. govt. since the New Deal.

  25. Young Afghani: Hello, is this where one who has been suffered damage or commandeering from the US soldiers can file a claim with the nearest civil affairs post and be reimbursed with little hassle?

    Clerk: Why, yes, you have come to the right place.

    YA: OK. My mother and father were killed in a traffic accident. Apparently the brakes failed on a US military vehicle and it slammed into my parents instantly killing them both. I would like $200,000. That is $100,000 for each of them. I think that would be fair.

    Clerk: Okay, will you take $100s — with a claim this big, I am supposed to pay out in $100s.

    YA: Yes, hundred dollar bills will be fine.

    *clerk counts out bills on the counter*

    *ya takes bills and places them in his satchel*

    Clerk: Aren’t you forgetting something maybe?

    YA: What?

    Clerk: Weren’t your parents in their car?

    YA: Yes, I hadn’t thought of that. Their car was totalled!

    Clerk: What would you say that was worth $2,000?

    YA: Actually, it was a new car. They just bought it right after Ramadan for $10,000.

    Clerk (cheerfully): $10,000 it is then — I can give you that in $20s.

    YA: Better make it 100s. I only brought one satchel.

    *alarm clock rings — Guy wakes up*

    Guy (to himself): that was some dream. I think I will go post about it on the HnR blog like it was real and see if I can fool Thoreau.

  26. Got it, Army civil affairs administrators and their multi-billion dollar budgets = Santa Claus = the Easter Bunny. I don’t even want to get into your breast milk / foot perversion.

  27. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m arguing on a libertarian blog with people who assert that our government would never dole out tax money in a wasteful, nay, even frivolous fashion.
    I’m not a big supporter of our recent escapades in the Middle East, but some of you people have a disdain for the military that has blinded you to reality.

  28. If claiming that the military wouldn’t waste huge amounts of money is disdain, I shudder to think what claiming it would is.

  29. Help me out here. Is there no Rush Limbaugh on Saturdays to keep these knobjockeys busy?

    “the were conquered”
    “file a claim with the nearest civil affairs post and be reimbursed with little hassle”
    “the Taliban might figure out a way to pull down civilization”

    I guess these are the noises one hears in Dittopia. Please remove asshats gentlemen.

  30. By the way, here is how it really works for those interested:

    http://tinyurl.com/h8on6

  31. Apparently the official rules are available to the Iraqis (in English) as part of the “JAGMAN.” They just need to purchase the Jagman for $52 (US) thru their home computer’s internet connection (hope its hi speed cause its a big file). Once they have the pdf of te legal rules, they just get those translated into a language they can understand and they are all set to pursue that tort claim (assuming the courthouse is open — the military says terrorists make it difficult to maintain normal hours — and who would be heartless enuf to 2d guess that!).

  32. Thank you Dave. That was interesting, and it does confirm that saying anything involving the government is “no hassle” is a joke. However, it also confirms that these disbursements do in fact happen, although whether they make people feel more positively inclined toward the U.S. after dealing with our bureaucracy is certainly open for debate.
    By disdain I’m refering to the ass-munches that seem to feel that our troops are too busy bayoneting infants and driving armoured Humvees at top speed into crowded squares for fun to have any time to waste tax money. See the difference?

  33. Very impressive Dave W. You’ve raised the bar. Kindly disregard my insolent tone in the previous post.

  34. Paul:

    If we pull out, our enemies will move into the vacuum, re-subjugate their people, and begin to plot more attacks on us.

    I think that Paul might be one of those enemies. This is speculation totally without foundation…. Unless Paul is one of them…

  35. “By disdain I’m refering to the ass-munches that seem to feel that our troops are too busy bayoneting infants and driving armoured Humvees at top speed into crowded squares for fun to have any time to waste tax money. See the difference?”

    Bob Z. Here are a few other types of disdain:

    There’s the disdain I feel for the jarheads that live near me because they are retarded enough to think that Bush et. al give a flying fuck about them (but then that borderlines on pity really).

    There’s the disdain I feel for the fact that so few soldiers take any interest in the culture of the nations they’ve “conquered.” What’s worse, it seems almost a point of pride to celebrate this lack of curiosity among so many troops I’ve talked to.

    There’s the disdain I have for soldiers who haven’t a clue about the history of the democratic tradition that they are supposedly exporting overseas.

    There’s the disdain I have for an institution that has consistently lied and covered up its crimes, so much so that if I were a betting man, I’d sooner believe just about any news outlet over military reporting.

    Killing civilians, bayoneting babies, that doesn’t even really figure into it at all. That shit is bound to happen in tense situations.

    Disdain is earned. And the U.S. military, unfortunately, in coming to so closely resemble its commander in chief, is on the fast track to earning it in spades.

  36. Reading over Dave W’s post, it appears compensation is available in Iraq by showing up at certain places in unspecified days, or probably with less hassle by contacting an attorney.

    I noticed it said that funds marked for compensation are also available for tip payments leading to the discovery of weapon caches, and that these payments have been rising in recent monthes. I’m going to go on a limb and say that these payoffs were mixed with the compensation budget to hide non-payment or inflate the perception of payment given out and to justify its own continued existance by exuding its potential value as a heart-and-mind winner while continuing to not actually spend that much and remain valuable to the services.

  37. Besides the problem of the complexity of the legal rules, highlighted in my previous posts, there is the problem of whether the military is really and truly staffing these things. They may be woefully understaffed and justice practically inaccessible for that reason. The military-staffed tribunals may have trouble being sufficiently impartial with the Islamic claimants that come before their secular court. It was people of the Islamic religion who brought down the Twin Towers, you know, and caused all those horribly grisly deaths that they videotaped and which we must never forget.

    But, I don’t think we have even mentioned the most serious problem a prospective claimant would have: problems of proof. You go out one morning and find that your car has been thrashed, how do you prove who did it? If the miltary shoots all your goats for no good reason, do you really think witnesses (if any) are going to go to the tribunal and help you get economic compensation from the same military that just shot a bunch of goats for no good reason?

    I mean, I haven’t been to Kabul, so I don’t know what life is like there — my hypotheticals are just guesses at what a tort claim might be like. But any claim you try to imagine, from the most forgivable auto accident to the alleged attrocities of Haditha is not going to be susceptible to easy proof. More than anything else, difficulty of proof is what blocks most claims. If the military readily admitted liability and took blame for its torts, then this proof problem would not be insurmountable.

    I don’t think the military does rush forward to admit responsibility tho, even when they are responsible. Maybe I am wrong about all of this. I haven’t been to Afghanistan ever. But, like I said, maybe the mayor is waving at us from the moon, longjumping 3X as far as he can on Earth and picking up rocks from the bottom of the Sea of Tranquility. Why not?

  38. Just out of curiosity, how many of you have ever actually served in an Armed Service? By the way, I am not implying that you are all a bunch of ignorant pin-heads who nothing of what you criticize?

    I will start this survey off with my own data. I served in the US Army from June 1971 to June 1974.

  39. How many of you have ever successfully pursued a tort claim against the US military in a jurisdiction occupied by the US military or represented someone who has?

    Have you done this, Wayne? Does having your boots on the ground in-country give you any idea how the tort system works in-country? Even if a civilian won a tort suit, can you see why he might limit discussion about the suit when the soldiers come over for a good old fashioned in-country chat?

  40. Not yet, but I’m looking to sign up in the fall for some chopper-flying action.

    By the way wayne, how can that not be anything other than an ad-hominem? I’m surprised you haven’t evoked a tear-jerking “they’re dying for YOU!”

    I’m even more surprised you’ve glossed over the official pdf file posting and ignored the guesses made from that particular resource. Why don’t you provide your own take on what’s happening/happened?

    Or for that matter, why don’t you just do what thor’s doing-wait for more official information or tell us to wait before going all “YOU WERE NOT THERE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE!”?

  41. I’m not assuming the worst of the US Military. I don’t know what happened, so I can’t judge.

    But I’m not assuming the worst of Afghan civilians either.

  42. Gotcha thor, but I’m just saying it’s more prudent to tell us to wait and even more so to give an alternate take rather than go through the “you were not there” dance.

  43. Just because I think our efforts over there are ineffective and that the U.S. military may be in over its head does not mean that I think they are over there “bayoneting infants and driving armoured Humvees at top speed into crowded squares for fun.”

    I was a big believer in the action in Afganistan. But I believe that the Bush administration has bungled things badly. This is just another example of the poor planning, insufficient resources and unbeleivably bad public relations that it has thrown at the situation there (along with billions of tax dollars.)

    What caused the incident is no longer relevant. What is relevant is that the poor handling of it has made it harder to get what we want…assuming that what we want is a stable country NOT intent on cultivating more people wanting to kill us.

    Rattling sabres and talking tough has not improved the situation. According to Radio Free Afghanistan…

    1. The Taliban has regained its foothold in parts of Afganistan and is even stronger than it was before we “conquered” them.

    2. The population feels more resentful than liberated.

    I don’t ptretend to know what the right answers are. But pissing off the people there is probably not one of them.

  44. This is the kind of high quality argumentation that keeps me coming back to this site as a lurker and occasional poster. Dave W., I’ve seen you accused of being a troll in the past, but your responses on this thread certainly seem to belie that.
    Pinko, the fact is our armed forces are extremely competent at what armed forces are designed to do: kill the enemy, destroy their infrastructure, and enforce your will upon them. I would expect such a group of violent men to display the arrogant attitudes you cite. I think Kipling had a few things to say about that. The moral and political problems lie in what you do with such a force in the modern world.
    The people who cried quagmire 2 weeks into the Afghan campaign, and warned that the Iraqi Republican Guards would battle us to a standstill were clearly idiots; those who warned about the entaglement and indefinite occupation that would follow these invasions much less so. In the end, I take issue with those who ascribe our failures in the Middle East to some evil intent on the part of our military, rather than poor strategic planning and incompetence at a task they were never really designed to perform.

  45. Just out of curiosity, how many of you have ever actually served in an Armed Service? By the way, I am not implying that you are all a bunch of ignorant pin-heads who nothing of what you criticize?

    This is a specious argument. Most of the criticisms here are aimed at actions the administration or the military leadership have taken regarding this.

    Some of the other criticisma suggested a lack of regard by the soldiers for the Afganis they are charged to protect.

    No one has criticised any soldier for their service or the military in general for its existence. Most of us here are very supportive of the U.S. Military. After all, they are standing up for our right to criticise them if we feel they’ve done something wrong.

  46. Easy boys, no insult intended. I guess that reading some of the posts here just made me think, “Jeez, how freaking dumb can some of these guys be?”

    Somebody near the top said something like, “I am surprised how little the US troops know of the culture and history and blah, blah, blah…”. I would be willing to bet that the author of that little sermon has never put his tender little feet in a pair of combat boots.

    After their normal work day, US troops don’t slip into their A&F t-shirts and head down to the local watering hole in Kabul to cavort with the locals. Those caught out alone by the locals seem to wind up on grainy video tapes on CNN for a few months before they are beheaded. Losing your head does little to enhance your appreciation of the local culture.

    On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the officers in charge to understand local culture and history because those things matter in the conflict. I am confident that the US commanders have a bit of an understanding of those issues.

    The only one who seemed to have a handle on the situation was Paul. It seems that many of you would only be satisfied if the mob had killed the US troops involved and drug their bodies down the streets of Kabul.

    One of the amusing things about H&R is the “debating society” atmosphere here. Filled with talks of “tropes”, and “strawmen” and “ad hominem”, and so on.

  47. Madpad,

    See my previous post. I’m right with you. My bayoneting infants comment was over the top, but (best Cartman voice): “Hippies really piss me off”.

  48. Has anybody here ever served in the military?

  49. Bob,

    No worries…we’re cool. Hippies can get on ones nerves…but so can neocons.

  50. By the way, I am not interested in the tort discussion, I am commenting on the actions of the soldiers involved in the incident and not on the money grubbing that occurs afterward.

  51. Has anybody here ever served in the military?

    Why is that relevant to..well, anything? But to answer, while I have not, I’m reasonably sure many others have.

    Is it your intention to either assert that I have no right to criticise or to label me as ignorant.

    I grew up as an Army brat, I live in a Navy town and you’ve been out of the service for 30 years. I’m quite sure that I have as much knowledge of the workings of today’s military as you do.

  52. wayne, what are you on about? Nobody here is advocating the death of servicemen or mob-rule in general, we’re just saying that our efforts to spread democracy or defeat terrorism are being foiled by bureaucracy and pinheads and the ninnies helping them skirting actual, or at least clear justice.

    If you’re talking about my comment that “We should throw them to the judicial wolves”, you should notice the use of the word “judicial”. I wasn’t advocating for the mob to dispense justice, but I was saying they should be convicted and serve time for manslaughter and reckless driving, since that is probably what would happen on US soil for a 5 fatality wreck.

    “Accidents happen”, while true doesn’t and should not give the troops free reign to be morons.

  53. My brakes failed once. I nearly ran over a bicyclist. He swerved. I swerved. All was well. No shots were fired. I wasn’t occupying a third-world fundamentalist backwater at the time, but I’m just sayin’…

  54. Wayne,

    I just reread my post and thought I might have come across a little more snarky that I intended (it was intended to be cutting but not insulting).

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone here thinks our soldiers should have to endure anything out of sorts or that they are bad.

    Truth be known, I know little about the incident beyond the bad P.R. it’s ingendered. 76 just summed things up nicely so I’ll let his words stand.

  55. In a war zone soldiers are subject to military justice (UCMJ), and not to the local courts. This is as it should be, in my opinion.

    I don’t know if the troops involved in those traffic accidents were “being morons”, certainly they could have been. After all, these were 18 and 19 year old boys armed with machine guns and life and death responsibilities on their shoulders, so the possibility of bad judgment is there. It remains to be seen. I refuse to spontaneously assert that the troops were evil though.

    Personally, if it were up to me the US would have never set foot in Iraq. I never believed the WMD stories, at least not to the extent that it warranted direct military involvement by us in Iraq. Sure Saddam was a tyrant and an asshole, but that was their problem and not ours, and as far as spreading democracy goes, I think that is best left to enlightenment arrived at independently by those democratized. But now that we have conquered the country and occupied it, what are we to do, just walk away? We are quite literally, fucked.

    Aghanistan is a different matter entirely, and I think most people agree that we were right to piss on the Taliban’s turbans. Occupying the country after kicking the Taliban’s asses is a whole different task though.

    Humane treatment of Afghans, and Iraqis is an absolute requirement for us. Whether we win the contest for their “hearts and minds” remains to be seen. I am not optimistic.

  56. Wayne, I really don’t think anyone here is attacking the soldiers. Even Pinko seemed to understand that if you command a bunch of men with guns to enforce order in a bad place, bad things are likely to happen, however that does not necessarily make the enforcers nor the commanders themselves bad men. I am almost certain I personally would have fired on this mob if they were advancing howling for my blood. I’ve never served in the military, but I have travelled in the 3rd world and seen the responses to a few traffic accidents.

  57. I feel no insult from anybody here, and I meant no insult by asking whether any of you have actually served in the military. Actually serving in the military would give many of you a different perspective on a whole lot of the things you comment on though.

    Somebody above talked about driving down narrow Baghdad alleys in a Humvee and accidentally knocking off mirrors on cars parked in those alleys. He pointed out that they did not stop and leave notes taking responsibility. I don’t blame him, I would have done the same. He was not being a “moron”, he was behaving correctly.

  58. Actually serving in the military would give many of you a different perspective on a whole lot of the things you comment on though.

    What happens in Kabul stays in Kabul? Is that the perspective to which you refer here?

  59. I’ve never served in the military, but I have travelled in the 3rd world and seen the responses to a few traffic accidents.

    I know someone who, in the early 1980s, was traveling in Turkey. The cab she was riding in one day was driven over a 5 year old boy by the careless taxi driver. The boy died.

    Under the logic of the Turkish legal system, the taxi would not have been there if she had not hired it. She was promptly jailed and charged with manslaughter. After a few months she realized anything involving the Turkish legal system would not bode well for her.

    She managed to contact some folks and bribed her way out of prison and over to Greece where she hopped a plane back to the states and has not been abroad since.

    This is not unlike much of what I’ve heard about most of the Middle East.

    How can you establish democracy and justice in a part of the world where those concepts – if they are understood at all – are understood in a fashion for different from ours.

    Even if we had the will, it would be tough. And I just don’t see where we have the will. The current adminstration seems to feel that issuing “My Way Or The Highway” declarations is a more effective approach. As a result, like Wayne, I’m not optimistic either.

  60. “What happens in Kabul stays in Kabul? Is that the perspective to which you refer here?”

    No, not if you are implying that I (or the US military) advocate breaking the law, or shabby treatment of the locals. What I mean is that having Monday morning quarterbacks disecting every move you make and applying their 20/20 hindsight to your actions and then criticizing you is annoying.

    If you were confronted by an enraged mob would you not fire on them to protect yourself? I think those soldiers are to be commended for being cool-headed enough to fire in the air above the heads of the mob.

  61. I don’t blame him either but this consistant refusal to take real televised action to remedy mistakes, among other “insults” real or imagined, can be and apparantly are piling up to create bitter denizens that aren’t so keen on letting us leave without bullets in the ass.

  62. “What happens in Kabul stays in Kabul? Is that the perspective to which you refer here?”

    No, not if you are implying that I (or the US military) advocate breaking the law, or shabby treatment of the locals. What I mean is that having Monday morning quarterbacks disecting every move you make and applying their 20/20 hindsight to your actions and then criticizing you is annoying.

    I am saying this attitude is prevalent and it undercuts the credibility of soldiers who do speak about their experiences in country even if such soldiers can be found. This attitude I describe assumes that I cannot handle the truth. Someone who believes that in her or his heart will not tend to tell me the truth. Accordingly, I am not as eager to hear from the veteran crew as u.

  63. Dave W., I just want to say that I’ve been too harsh on you lately. What you’re saying in this thread makes a lot of sense.

    What do you think about the Turkish legal system holding the cab passenger responsible for the driver’s actions? 😉

  64. thoreau…is that a dig?

  65. What do you think about the Turkish legal system holding the cab passenger responsible for the driver’s actions? 😉

    I don’t know about that, but there is a bit of legal unfairness going on in the law cited in the pdf doc I linked above. Basically the law (passed in 1982) says that the standards of the occupied country are used to determine how tort claims will be handled. I think this bit of law, that is taking the tort standards from the occupied country is unfair for a couple of reasons:

    1. In a poor country most people are judgment proof. Therefore they don’t tend to develop active tort standards for liability. You can’t get blood from a stone. The tort system begins to look like no tort system at all because it is seldom used (I know T., you favorite dream!). But I don’t think it is fair for the US military to take advantage of an anemic tort system to escape liability. The current legal standard mandates this bad approach. I say the military should compensate a Kabul family creamed in a car accident as generously as they would a white, Christian serviceman’s family in an accident in Fort Bragg, 29 Palms or San Antonio.

    2. When we occupy the foreign country because it is corrupt (as is the case with both Afghanistan and Iraq), why would we look to tort standards crafted in that corrupt environment. You know the standards are going to end up unfairly favoring the rich and powerful. They will probably be status based standards, where it matters more who u r than what u did. When you know these bad standards are likely to be the norm in an occupied country, then why should the US military adopt these standards rather than the standards of, let’s say, the District of Columbia where the CinC lives.

  66. “I am saying this attitude is prevalent and it undercuts the credibility of soldiers who do speak about their experiences in country even if such soldiers can be found. This attitude I describe assumes that I cannot handle the truth. Someone who believes that in her or his heart will not tend to tell me the truth. Accordingly, I am not as eager to hear from the veteran crew as u.”

    The conduct of US troops is legally governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I am not a lawyer, but I have heard lawyers talk about the UCMJ and they (at least the ones I heard speak) seemed to think that military justice was harsh but fair. I don’t think the military is beyond reproach, but I do believe that the military is honorable and generally conduct themselves with the traditional American values of fair play and justice.

    You are certainly free to ignore the input of veterans or to discount their statements as lies, it is a free country, but frankly it seems dumb to me.

  67. You are certainly free to ignore the input of veterans or to discount their statements as lies, it is a free country, but frankly it seems dumb to me.

    Well, I don’t categorically ignore their input. Instead I have devised a simple and quik test to decide whether their opinion is useful or otherwise.

    Specifically, I ask them whether what happens in Baghdad (or Kabul or Seoul or Frankfurt, or the Mekong Delta or wherever) stays in Baghdad.

    If the veteran tells me that it does, then their opinion is useless (although my respect for their service remains immense).

    If they say: “no, Dave W., I have never been a believer in that. We need to let the citizenry know what is truly going on in every aspect of the war so they elect the best leaders.” Then, there, that is the veteran I would like to hear from. Have him shoot me an email if you find him.

  68. thoreau…is that a dig?

    Not at all, or at least not in a mean sense. I like Dave’s contributions in this thread. Then I tossed in the question about the taxi case as a playful allusion to our discussions of torts. While I disagree with Dave over the extent to which people should be liable for certain things, I am pretty sure that even he wouldn’t want that taxi passenger to be held liable for bad driving (barring a situation where she explicitly goads him to drive way too fast, etc.).

    It was meant to be playful, not mean.

  69. In Turkey only the passenger will ever have the funds to pay judgments.

    Since fear of liability will not be a marginal deterence to bad driving for the drivers, the idea is that the (relatively) rich passenger will enforce careful driving while she is in the cab.

    The system makes sense in a jurisdiction where their best libertarian impulses have not lead them to require the kind of auto insurance required by states in the US.

    Their legal system fights with the strength of a giraffe./in-joke

  70. and of course the idea that the driver has no insurance makes no sense as a premise when the US military starts having their brakes fail after they come to town.

  71. Dave,

    You do concede that a battle field in Iraq, or anywhere else, is not the same environment as Cincinnati on a Sunny Saturday in June, don’t you? A lot of what happens in Baghdad should stay in Baghdad because without the context the event is transformed. A traffic accident in Des Moines is not the same as an accident in Kabul. A taxi rid in Turkey is apparantly not the same as a taxi ride in Manhattan.

  72. A lot of what happens in Baghdad should stay in Baghdad

    diiiiissssmiisssss!

  73. “It seems that many of you would only be satisfied if the mob had killed the US troops involved and drug their bodies down the streets of Kabul.”

    Oh thank God. For a moment there, I though I was going to have to take wayne seriously.

  74. “When we occupy the foreign country because it is corrupt (as is the case with both Afghanistan and Iraq), why would we look to tort standards crafted in that corrupt environment. You know the standards are going to end up unfairly favoring the rich and powerful. They will probably be status based standards, where it matters more who u r than what u did. When you know these bad standards are likely to be the norm in an occupied country, then why should the US military adopt these standards rather than the standards of, let’s say, the District of Columbia where the CinC lives.”

    We did not occupy Afghanistan because it is corrupt, we did what we did because the US was attacked by Al Quaeda and AQ was headquartered in Afghanistan. I am not sure why we attacked Iraq.

    You are saying that the US military should ignore the laws of other countries because their laws are inferior to our laws. Sounds racist to me [;-()>. {Since real intent is difficult in chat rooms let me say that my “racist” remark is meant as a humorous dig.} I would guess that a counrty, and its citizens, would not take kindly to the US military substituting US laws for their own.

    Actually Dave, it sounds like your greedy lawyer gland is pulsing out little jets of hormones and that is causing a blinding desire to find the deepest pockets in every situation.

  75. Oh thank God. For a moment there, I though I was going to have to take wayne seriously.

    PWNED!!!!

  76. “PWNED!!!!”

    translation?

  77. “PWNED!!!!”

    translation?

    dismiss.

  78. PWNED…

    A literal translation please.

  79. I take it you boys disagree with me.

  80. That’s OK, an Iranian in an SUV could have done as well.

    We did riot after that incident, didn’t we?

  81. You are saying that the US military should ignore the laws of other countries because their laws are inferior to our laws. Sounds racist to me [;-()>. {Since real intent is difficult in chat rooms let me say that my “racist” remark is meant as a humorous dig.} I would guess that a counrty, and its citizens, would not take kindly to the US military substituting US laws for their own.

    I don’t let the Haditha defendants hear you say this. I think they really don’t want Iraqi criminal law to govern the standards at their trials. I believe they prefer the special standards that the US military has written just for its soldiers. Now that’s not racist, is it?

  82. “I take it you boys disagree with me.”

    Honestly, wayne, I don’t have a lot of respect for people who accuse their fellow Americans of wanting to see American troops slaughtered.

    Waste of time.

  83. “I don’t let the Haditha defendants hear you say this. I think they really don’t want Iraqi criminal law to govern the standards at their trials. I believe they prefer the special standards that the US military has written just for its soldiers. Now that’s not racist, is it?”

    The UCMJ governs in that case, assuming charges are brought. I think there is an option to turn over US soldiers to face local law for some crimes, and that might be applied in this case.

    You are phrasing that “… special standards …” remark as if to imply that the US military has set up a bogus legal system for itself, i.e. “wink, wink let’s put on a show to make everybody think the US is a country governed by laws, but it really is not”. Am I misreading you on this?

  84. “Honestly, wayne, I don’t have a lot of respect for people who accuse their fellow Americans of wanting to see American troops slaughtered.”

    But you object to those troops firing their weapons in this instance?

  85. Dave,

    I really was joking with the racist remark, and I thought I made that plain.

    The Haditha defendants, if there are any, could face the death penalty under the UCMJ if they are found guilty of premeditated murder. I don’t see how Iraqi law could be much harsher. I suppose though that if I were facing such a charge I would prefer UCMJ just because it is more familiar.

  86. You are phrasing that “… special standards …” remark as if to imply that the US military has set up a bogus legal system for itself, i.e. “wink, wink let’s put on a show to make everybody think the US is a country governed by laws, but it really is not”. Am I misreading you on this?

    Yes. I am saying something less than that. I am merely saying that US military law is generally fairer to defendants than the criminal law of the places US soldiers occupy.

    I don’t mind our soldiers getting the benefit of its fairer criminal law. However, I am saying that if the soldiers get the benefit of the (classical) liberal strictures of US criminal law than they ought to be held to US tort structures in respect of their civil conduct (eg, driving on public roads) toward the people they, from time to time, commit torts against.

  87. I don’t see how Iraqi law could be much harsher.

    maybe Iraqi criminal court doesn’t let defendants testify
    maybe it doesn’t let them have lawyers
    maybe if it lets them have lawyers it doesn’t give the lawyers a chance to object
    maybe it doesn’t give the accused the right to face her accuser
    maybe it limits the defendant’s ability to call witnesses
    maybe there is no protection against cruel and unusual punishment
    etc etc

  88. I don’t see how Iraqi law could be much harsher.

    Oh, and the number one ultimate way it could be harsher: the probability of receiving a deathsentence might be much higher if Iraqi law, rather than USMJ law, were applied.

  89. “However, I am saying that if the soldiers get the benefit of the (classical) liberal strictures of US criminal law than they ought to be held to US tort structures in respect of their civil conduct (eg, driving on public roads) toward the people they, from time to time, commit torts against.”

    I see two different scenarios:

    first scenario:
    US soldiers acting as individuals commit some crime in a country, e.g. they are off duty and go to a local bar and get in a fight and break a bunch of stuff.

    In a scenario like this, it seems reasonable to me that local law should apply. In practical reality, the US military might (and should in my opinion) intervene and essentially try to settle the matter by paying damages, etc. After the matter is settled with the locals then the military would deal with these soldiers under its own rules in the UCMJ. This IS exactly how the military deals with these situations. If there is a crime committed then US soldiers might be sentenced to prison in the local country. This happens today. There are US soldiers in South Korean prisons right now for crimes commited in SK.

    second scenario:
    US soldiers, while acting in their official capacity, commit a crime, e.g. the Haditha thing, if it turns out to have been a crime.

    In this case, these soldiers ought to be subject to the UCMJ. As you apparantly know, the UCMJ is not a cake-walk, it is not much different than US federal law. For premeditated murder, a soldier can be executed.

  90. The two “harsher” scenarios you outlined are good reason for the UCMJ to apply. US soldiers should get a fair trial and fair treatment for their official actions.

    US soldiers, acting their official capacity, ought to be governed by US law. Can you imagine the effect it would have on the operational effectiveness of US troops to be told that their official actions are governed by local laws?

  91. For premeditated murder, a soldier can be executed.

    Pedant point: or for non-premeditated murder. see, Art. 118, sects. (2-4).

    UCMJ is tough but fair, just like tort law in the Distrct of Columbia where George W. Bush, Commander In Chief, resides.

  92. “For premeditated murder, a soldier can be executed.

    Pedant point: or for non-premeditated murder. see, Art. 118, sects. (2-4).

    UCMJ is tough but fair, just like tort law in the Distrct of Columbia where George W. Bush, Commander In Chief, resides.”

    I’m not sure what GWB has to do with this, or DC tort law.

    In my opinion, if the soldiers in Kabul were acting officially, and since they were traveling in a US military convoy I don’t see how this is disputable, then they ought to be subject to the UCMJ. Restitution to Afghan civilians who were harmed ought to be handled by the US governement using the appropriate mechanism.

  93. Restitution to Afghan civilians who were harmed ought to be handled by the US governement using the appropriate mechanism.

    Is and ought the western world sayeth Green.

  94. ‘Tis and nought the Eastern world payeth spleen.

  95. “But you object to those troops firing their weapons in this instance?”

    I haven’t ventured an opinion on the matter.

    But then, I usually like to wait until the facts come out. Rather than manning some barricades in a political foodfight based on what I “just know” occured on the other side of the planet.

  96. Whilst I war agathering evidence to compare wayne to yon postman, I came across this:

    http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197604/the.appointed.rounds.htm

  97. Joe,

    My apologies for misunderstanding that you have no opinion on the matter of US troops in Afghanistan firing over the heads (at least that is the report that I heard) of the crowd after the traffic accident.

  98. I would hate to see what these same Afghanis would do during rush-hour on I-394 here in Minneapolis.

    This is idiotic. An Army vehicle has an accident and the Afghanis riot. What does this really say about the Afghanis involved in this riot? Are they criminals? Are they really disaffected, 3rd world Muslims reacting to a perceived injustice? Nah…

    What is the injustice here? Failed brakes? IS that really an injustice. C’mon, I call bullshit.

    If I was in the same situation, I would have reacted NO DIFFERENTLY. Fire over their heads and hope the crowd disperses so I can make it another day.

    What is the solution here? There is none. Afghanistan is a mess of tribal groups all vying for control. Take a lesson from the Russians, get the F out.

    If they’ll riot over a traffic accident, what do you think they will do during an election?

    Seriously.

    Live free, fight or fall!

  99. Can’t they just take their conquest and occupaton calmly like any decent people would? Certainly we would. Wouldn’t we?

    What’s the emoticon for satirically?

  100. A couple of points from my experiences:

    I have seen locals get paid damages by the US Embassy in Kirkuk. It was neither complicated nor troublesome. The local came to the embassy and talked to the RSO. The RSO attempted to find out who the Americans were who damaged the locals car. They paid him a sum with a further sum to follow after details were clearer.

    It seemed to me that they gave the money too easily. And also that there needed to be a better way to know if the Americans who damaged the car had acted appropriately.

    While in Afghanistan there was a rumor that some very poor parents tried to have their kids run in front coalition vehicles so that when the kid was hit they could get the money, which was to them a huge amount

    I know of a few ambushes where they used kids in the roads to slow down the convoy, to initiate the ambush.

  101. Here is my kind of angry note:

    All y’all who see incidents and say “we need to get the fuck out, this is too hard”
    or
    “we need to get out these people are savages that cannot understand freedom and democracy”

    Well however wrong those statements are on so many other levels. If our leadership were to take heed of them. Or if one of y’all were elected, they would win. With their non technoloy and our most powerfull military on any planet. They would still win, because they are willing and we are not.

    They would try and we might stop most of their attacks. And our defence might be Godlike. But whoever only plays defence will eventually lose.

  102. “They would still win, because they are willing and we are not.”

    kwais,
    Thanks for your strong argument for the US getting the fuck out.
    Seriously, I have empathy for your position. Same thing happened to me during the Vietnam war.

  103. If they say: “no, Dave W., I have never been a believer in that. We need to let the citizenry know what is truly going on in every aspect of the war so they elect the best leaders.” Then, there, that is the veteran I would like to hear from. Have him shoot me an email if you find him.

    Well, I’m that veteran (US Army, 1998-2002). I served, I got my honorable discharge, and I never looked back. I’m glad I’m out, and my nostalgia level is at zero.

    “The UCMJ is harsh but fair.” That’s utter crap. The UCMJ is harsh for those who have in any way questioned the commander in question, or who have otherwise “rocked the boat.” There is no fair.

    It’s effectively a peerage system, with King replaced by General and Baron replaced with Major, etc. The poor peons below better not piss off the lord, or damn sure they’re going to run afoul of *some* rule (there are a couple of “catchall” regs that translate to “if the commander doesn’t like you, you’re guilty”). And then the hammer comes down.

    On the other hand, if you’re the commander’s favorite, you can shoot local women in the face and sell their children to slavers and you’ll still get handed a battalion coin and a three-day pass.

    Oh, the stories I could tell.

    No, the public needs to know *exactly* what goes on in the military, so that we can stop considering them some sort of solution to problems. If anything, throwing the military at a problem only makes the problem bigger, more expensive, and more dangerous for the average citizen (US or foreign).

  104. No, the public needs to know *exactly* what goes on in the military, so that we can stop considering them some sort of solution to problems. If anything, throwing the military at a problem only makes the problem bigger, more expensive, and more dangerous for the average citizen (US or foreign).

    Are you saying that heavily armed young men on the government payroll aren’t the solution to all of the world’s problems?

  105. kwais,
    I noticed you have taken a break here. Doubtless it is because you are busy fricasseeing some Afghan bambinos.

    I’m just giving you a taste of what my generation had to put up with.

    Okay, your turn, Jake Boom: on kwais.

  106. I tend to agree with Kwais about the situation in Iraq, and Kuwait. Iraq is similar to Vietnam in one aspect: In Vietnam, the US military was supreme, but the problem was that the South Vietnamese were almost entirely disinterested in pursuing that war as their own. The US was pushing on a rope over there; it was futile and wasteful of American lives. South Vietnam fell to the north literally within hours of the US withdrawal.

    Iraq strikes me as similar to the Vietnam situation in that the Iraqi people are not interested in being “democratized” or “liberated”. Mostly the Iraqis seem to be standing to the side to see who “wins”. This is a prescription for a quagmire. I am not so sure about Afghanistan. The A’s might have been so fed up with the Taliban that they might actually have an interest in the outcome; time will tell.

  107. Wayne,

    I think you’ve articulated thing better than just about anyone I’ve read or heard.

    To answer kwais, I don’t think these people are savages, I don’t think they are evil and I don’t think we should leave “because it’s too hard.”

    But I do think that a majority of people there hear the words “freedom” and “democracy” and don’t have a clue as to what we’re talking about. I do think that as much as America may not have the will, there are a lot of folks we are ostensibly trying to help who lack the will too so you can’t put that all on us.

    I also think there is a lot of bad management and cross purposes going on. I think private contractors have muddied the water and made things worse over there…not better. I think our leadership completely misunderstood what they were getting into and – while they may now indeed understand – are in way over their heads.

  108. Ruthless,

    Yeah, not really taken a break, but that I am on the net little. It is hard to get involved in a reason discussion when the discussion is over before you can comment, and when not you can make a comment and then have to go to the archives to see what responses you got.

    I am on radio watch now and yesterday.

    Wayne;
    The Iraqis are indeed interested in their liberation. Their police and military are eager as all hell to go on raids and stuff. They love that. They are not to eager to do some of the stuff that is not so fun that you need to do though. They have a general problem in the discipline level.

    The other problem is that the part of liberation that one Iraqi is really interested in is not the same part that another Iraqi is interested in, and is both are interested in a part of liberation that the US is not interested in.

    Madpad;
    Easy to critisize the leadership when you don’t know what you are talking about and you are talking to people who also don’t know.

  109. kwais, “But whoever only plays defence will eventually lose.”

    We’re playing defense now. We’re defending the Afghan government against tribal, jihadist, and Taliban insurgents. And we’re defending the Iraqi government against roughly the same threats.

    Our troops should not be used to play defense; they should be used to dictate the situation, to control the momentum.

    Given that the CIA and military have both said that the presence of US forces in Iraq is the most powerful force feeding the insurgency; and given the obvious hostility to our presence among Afghans the reaction to the accident demonstrates, it’s time – long past time, actually – that we used the withdrawal of our forces as a tool to further our policies. We’re obviously not going to be able to succeed by shooting every terrorist, insurgent, and troublmaker in those two countries. What we can do is strengthen the hand of the friendly governments and undercut the legitimacy of the resistance. These are both political goals, and withdrawal is the way to achieve them.

  110. Madpad;
    Easy to critisize the leadership when you don’t know what you are talking about and you are talking to people who also don’t know.

    what happens in Iraq stays in Iraq. Clueless civilians can STFU./useless_opinions

  111. kwais & Dave W.,

    It’s also easy to accuse people of not knowing what they’re talking about when they happen to not agree with you.

    I might be many things but I am not stupid, ignorant or clueless. As for opinions, “useless” is a bit relative. Unless there’s some star chamber somewhere using our posts to determine policy, I’d say ALL of our opinions are pretty darn useless.

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