War crimes and murder? Old news, even when made new again. The recent revelation (what’s it been? Two days?) that the U.S. military systematically shoots Iraqis for sport has already faded from the national consciousness.
US soldiers are luring Iraqis to their deaths by scattering military equipment on the ground as "bait", and then shooting those who pick them up... The highly controversial tactic, which has hitherto been kept secret, is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of a number of Iraqis who were subsequently classified as enemy combatants and used in statistics to show the "success" of the "surge" in US forces.
Yet again, we wring our hands and whisper the horror, but on we move confident that tomorrow, or next week at the latest, will reveal a new atrocity. Murder. torture. war crimes, chemical weapons, kidnappings, secret prisons, secret trials, and so on. Nothing is shocking anymore. We might as well steel ourselves to the inevitable reports of cannibal battalions eating the entrails of Iraqi children. National security, you know. If we don’t eat their children’s entrails over there, they’ll be eating ours over here.
This morning, however, I will indulge in a thought exercise and, like most people, try to examine things solely from the American point of view. I mean, fuck a bunch of Iraqis. They are evil, dirty things consumed by hatred and envy at all things good and holy (i.e. us) and shooting them for sport is probably the cost of a bullet more than they deserve. Okay?
But what about our troops? What about these fine young Americans who shoot these “people” for sport? How will it affect their psyche? Will murdering unarmed civilians be a character building experience that will contribute to the commonweal? Will our citizen soldiers return radiating moral strength gained from that experience? Will they wear their medals proudly?
Or will they be weaker types, you know, those who might become psychologically damaged by participating in mass murder, torture and oppression. I know it’s hard to believe, which is probably why nobody ever talks about it, but historically, there are those who don’t find serving their country by murdering unarmed civilians morally uplifting. Some become consumed with guilt, have nightmares, or commit suicide. Others try to numb the pain with drugs, alcohol or other self-destructive behavior. Some will become deranged and live on the street. A small percentage will become sadistic, or hardened in the sadism that was already there. They might beat their wives and children. A few will no doubt take up arms against their fellow citizens. Go postal on our asses. We have every reason to expect some negative fallout.
It’s unfortunate, I know, but murder is often not good psychologically for the murderer. Experience tells us that many of these fine young men will be seriously fucked up. Doesn't anyone care about our troops?
And I dare say it’s not good for the society either. When we put a gun in a young man's hand, or a bomb at his fingertips, and tell him to murder civilians, or a cattle prod in a young woman's hands and tell her to shove it up some brown guy's ass, it doesn't just harm them (and who cares about the Iraqis), it harms all Americans.
There are so many ways Bush’s stupid wars are damaging to our national security. It’s unfortunate that we rarely consider that one. But we will, we will.
Update: Krugman fleshes out the story a bit, focusing on our mercenaries.
What we do know is that more than 20 civilians were killed, including the couple and child in the car. And the Iraqi version of events is entirely consistent with many other documented incidents involving security contractors.
For example, Mr. Singer reminds us that in 2005 “armed contractors from the Zapata firm were detained by U.S. forces, who claimed they saw the private soldiers indiscriminately firing not only at Iraqi civilians, but also U.S. Marines.” The contractors were not charged. In 2006, employees of Aegis, another security firm, posted a “trophy video” on the Internet that showed them shooting civilians, and employees of Triple Canopy, yet another contractor, were fired after alleging that a supervisor engaged in “joy-ride shooting” of Iraqi civilians.
Perhaps those individuals are all ready too morally fucked up to save, but the point remains about the damage they do to our society and national security.