Winning Hearts and Minds
I have been reading the news the last few days and I came across a couple of things that were interesting, but not in a good way. In any conflict, it is so easy for us to explain away the ills we commit on our side as being necessary or a mistake. I find it rare that we evaluate ourselves with as critical an eye as we do our perceived enemy. In
Afghan officials, quoted by wires services, said a Sunday night airstrike in the town of
Nijrab, north of , killed a family of nine, including several young children. Kabul
A coalition spokesman told CNN the airstrike, carried out by
U.S.forces, targeted insurgents who fired rockets on a military base in Nijrab, located in Kapisa province. U.S.
No, my problem with this is not that civilians died, but that it was completely avoidable. Although I am not a fan of the concept of “collateral damage”, this case is an example of where the military will apply that term but it should not be allowed to.
The insurgents fired rockets at a
The logic here escapes me. Why do we expect insurgents to behave in any other way but to save their lives? They are more than willing to put civilians at risk for at least two reasons: First, the military is less likely to attack them if they are surrounded by civilians, as they should be. Second, if in fact civilians do die, then those deaths will be attributed to the US Military and not the insurgents which will further engender support among the populace which the insurgents rely on for their cover. We have everything to gain by not attacking civilians and nothing to gain otherwise. A population living under a foreign military is not going to understand the differences we have created in our minds between civilians deaths and collateral damage. All they understand is that the US Military killed some people who had nothing to do with anything, and maybe the insurgents/militants/Taliban/terrorists are right.
This sure didn’t help our cause either:
The U.S. military is also investigating another incident on Sunday in which
U.S.forces fired on people after a suicide car bombing attack on its forces near the southeastern city of . Jalalabad
Eight Afghan civilians were killed and 35 were wounded in the attack, but it was not clear if the casualties were caused by the initial explosion, by Taliban gunfire or return fire from troops in the convoy.
An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman basically said the military became emotional after the suicide attack and started firing at the civilians fearing another car bomb. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about our soldiers losing it after a suicide attack, and something serious needs to be done about it. These soldiers need a combination of post traumatic stress help, and clear heavy sanctions for serious violations. 35 people were wounded, that is some serious firepower that was sent out at the civilians to have caused that kinda damage. The damage will be felt greatest to our reputation.
Interestingly the US Spokesman also said this about the attack:
Accetta said the convoy's attackers "must have a blatant disregard for human life to have attacked coalition forces in a populated area."
Spells out my point clearly. Point that finger at yourself every once in a while and we’d do a much better job at winning hearts and minds.