Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Perils of War

There's been a lot said about the fatal shooting of an unarmed Iraqi insurgent in a mosque in Fallujah by a US Marine. Most has had to do with the horror felt when viewing an otherwise civilised man, a representative of a purportedly democratic and freedom loving people, shoot another man in cold blood. The problem as I see it has to do not with the rights and wrongs of this individual act, perpretrated by an individual in incredibile circumstances, but rather the psychological aspects that brought him to this point.

On the one hand, the U.S. soldiers are brought into a situation where they are in constant threat of violent death at the hands of an un-uniformed adversary i.e. guerilla warfare, in an urban, close-combat environment. To enter that environment, or for that matter any environment where you are expected to kill or be killed, requires a particular mindset that I just can't imagine. To top it all off, reports have come in that this particular group of soldiers had a colleague killed in an ambush by an apparantly dead insurgent who was booby-trapped only 24 hours before. On the other hand, they are under constant scrutiny by the media and therefore the population of just about every nation in the world, to be the "clean-cut, good guys" of this combat, therefore submitting to the full extent of the rules of combat, where the insurgents, with all their booby-trapping, kidnappings and horrific mutilations and murders, are seen as some sort of "freedom fighters." I think it says more about the actions of this U.S. government and the way the world views America more than anything.

I am not apologising for the actions of this soldier. Far from it. To shoot and kill another human being, any human being, is an alien thought process to me. But then, I've never put myself into a situation, whether through national service or otherwise, where I'd need to. Instead I believe that this event only highlights the stupidity, the inanity and the outright barbarity of war. Any situation that drives people to act in this way can only be counter-productive to humanity as a species. Any situation where people are encouraged and driven to submit to their baser instincts are detrimental to our evolution.

Am I glad that there are people that are willing to serve, die or even kill to protect what we have as a society? Yes I am, although it pains me to say it. Because I know that there are people out there that, for whatever reason, wish to kill, maim and instill terror to further their own interests and yes, I do realise that these attributes have been used to describe the U.S. government's attack on Iraq. I just wait for a day when we, as a species, realise the futility of war, any war, and there's never a reason for anybody to find themselves in a situation where it makes sense to shoot a defenceless person for fear of their own life.

ABC Australia 7:30 Report program transcript - US Marine investigated following death of wounded Iraqi insurgent

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