Study of Troops' Mental Health, Ethics Indicts Bush's Selfless War
May 16, 2007
IRVINE, CA--A recently disclosed Pentagon study on the impact of the Iraq war on U.S. combat troops suggests that many are stressed and hold views at odds with official ethics standards. Critics view this as evidence that more must be done to ensure troops comply with those standards. But in fact the study provides evidence for a searing indictment of Washington’s immoral battlefield policies--policies that entail the sacrifice of American troops for the sake of the enemy.
The study reports, for example, that less than half of the soldiers and Marines surveyed would report a team member for unethical behavior. It also finds that “soldiers that have high levels of anger, experienced high levels of combat or screened positive for a mental health problem were nearly twice as likely to mistreat non-combatants” as those feeling less anger and screening negative for a mental health problem.
Although many military personnel may support the Iraq war, and although war is inherently distressing, Washington’s immoral policies necessitate putting our troops in an impossible situation. The reported attitudes of combat troops in Iraq can be understood as the natural reaction of individuals thrust into that situation.
U.S. troops were sent, not to defend America against whatever threat Hussein’s hostile regime posed to us, as a first step toward defeating our enemies in the region; but instead the troops were sent (as Bush explained) to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers,” putting the lives of Iraqis above their own. Bush sent our troops to lift Iraq out of poverty, open new schools, fix up hospitals, feed the hungry, unclog sewers--a Peace Corps, not an army corps, mission. Consistent with that immoral goal, Washington enforced self-sacrificial rules of engagement that prevent our brave and capable forces from using all necessary force to win, or even to protect themselves: they are ordered not to bomb key targets such as power plants, and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hide) lest we offend Muslim sensibilities.
According to the report: "More than one-third of all Soldiers and Marines continue to report being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to the Rules of Engagement (ROE). In interviews, Soldiers reported that Iraqis would throw gasoline-filled bottles (i.e., Molotov cocktails) at their vehicles, yet they were prohibited from responding with force for nearly a month until the ROE were changed. Soldiers also reported they are still not allowed to respond with force when Iraqis drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses on them when they drive by. Every group of Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported that they felt the existing ROE tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war."
When being ethical on Washington’s terms means martyring oneself and one’s comrades, it is understandable that troops are disinclined to report "unethical" behavior. When they are in effect commanded to lay down their lives for hostile Iraqis, it is understandable that troops should feel anger and anxiety. Anger is a response to perceived injustice--and it is perversely unjust for the world’s most powerful military to send its personnel into combat, prevent them from doing their job--and expect them to die for the sake of the enemy. Our troops are put in the line of fire as sacrificial offerings--and it would be natural for an individual thrust into that position to rebel with indignation at such a fate.
The study not only indicts the self-crippling rules of engagement that liberals and conservatives endorse; it brings to light the perversity of the moral code of self-sacrifice on which those rules of engagement are based.
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