Friday, June 02, 2006

Then and Now

In April 2004, Donald Rumsfeld was asked about reports of US troops killing Iraqi civilians during the Fallujah assault.
Q If I could follow up, Monday General Abizaid chastised Al- Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah for their coverage of Fallujah and saying that hundreds of civilians were being killed. Is there an estimate on how many civilians have been killed in that fighting? And can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.

Q Do you have a civilian casualty count?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Of course not, we're not in the city. But you know what our forces do; they don't go around killing hundreds of civilians. That's just outrageous nonsense! It's disgraceful what that station is doing.
As I've noted before, Rumsfeld didn't actually answer the question as to how many women and children might have been killed by US troops during the attack. He did imply that they don't kill "hundreds" but went no further.

The problem with Rumsfeld's attitude is probably clear but I'm going to state it anyway. By refusing to take reports like these seriously and by condemning those who produced them, Rumsfeld is partly responsible for creating the conditions which Iraq's Prime Minister now describes in Iraq:
Mr Maliki told reporters violence against civilians was "common among many of the multinational forces".

He said many troops had "no respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch".
Now, we're told that of course abuses happen during war and that is indeed indisputable. But Rumsfeld disputed it in 2004 and by doing so made further abuses more likely. He didn't initiate "ethics training" back then despite the fact that it was clearly needed.

In fact, it was clear before the invasion that ethics training should have been given to any service personel being sent to Iraq. Hindsight? Well, no. Of course abuses happen during war. A democratic civilised society, understanding this as we all undoubtedly do, ought to do everything in its power to limit the incidence of such abuses.

Rumsfeld, even in April 2004, was more concerned with issuing blanket denials and shooting the messenger. This had the effect of giving carte blanche to US troops to commit further atrocities.

Now, the US government say they take all allegations of abuses by US soldiers seriously and will thoroughly investigate them. This sort of behaviour, they say, is unacceptable and must not be allowed. How many Iraqis have died because Rumsfeld didn't adopt this attitude in 2004? We'll never know.

Update
Blogger's being uncooperative today. Bah.

Anyway, it turns out that these ethics training sessions are "expected to run two to four hours" for each soldier. An essentially worthless stunt, designed exclusively for the media, which will have basically no effect on the behaviour of troops then. Pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

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5 comments:

Davide Simonetti said...

Anyone who would shoot a 2 year old in the head needs more than "ethics training". Abuses in war are inevitable certainly, and the sickos need to be weeded out. But it is the war itself that is so deeply unethical that it leads to ever more horrific atrocities.

Ethics training should have been given to Bush, Bliar, Rumsfeld and the others many years ago. It should be a requirement before going into politics.

CuriousHamster said...

I agree. Wrote this post in a slight rush nd didn't quite get everything in I'd intended.

And it turns out that the ethics training will last "two to four hours". That's the US government's commitment to ethical behaviour in a nutshell.

Blair said...

In a moment of profound dyslexia I read his name as Ronald Dumsfeld.

Blair said...

I guess I thought it was fuuny enough to comment on because the image "Dumb-sfeld" is what stuck...

CuriousHamster said...

I like it. Might have to borrow it for the next time I write a post on Mr Dumsfeld (if you don't mind).