Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

When the war began, and for some time after, the mission was to establish control of the country and neutralize the Ba'ath loyalists and insurgents.  As US and coalition military bases grew to support this mission, they increasingly became targets for the enemy, and defenses were constructed appropriately.  Fire upon the installations was retalliated against many fold, and the culprits were captured and held as enemy combatants, or tried by military tribunals and sentenced accordingly.  Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay hit the headlines and things changed.  The capture, confinement and care, and rendition, if applicable, of these types of criminals is now done in concert with defense forces of the host nation - both here and in Afghanistan.  This means more paperwork, more legality, less efficiency, in the hopes that civil liberties - whatever of those are deserved by a terrorist - remain intact. 

Uncommon are the top eschelon, coordinated military attacks against our installations.  The import and movement of the weapons systems necessary to carry out these attacks has become extremely difficult, and the value of personnel capable of manning these complex systems have made attacks of this type very high risk.  Instead, as alluded to earlier, single agents, armed with RPGs or small portable mortars sneak up to the fences, fire when in range, and slink back through the fields and disappear within the adjacent hamlets and cities.  Our surveillance must be able to see these people on heat maps or in real time video.  But in this era of extrication from Babylon, in which we must promote goodwill and avoid collateral injury and death at great cost, and when we must respect the autonomy of the host civil defences, the apprehension of these terrorists is never simple.

Politically speaking, coordination with Iraqi military and police is necessary to make our departure as seemless as possible, though this adds such inefficiency and bureaucracy.  [Nevermind the estimates you read in Newsweek that 10% of the Iraqi military is working for al Qaeda in Iraq].  If, and this is a big "IF", the scoundrel is captured, there is the question of rendition.  If American soldiers are injuried, or intended to be so by these attacks, logically, these terrorists should be turned over to Americans.  It is not so simple here in this amorphous grey area (the mounting responsibility handed to the host nation as we leave this shithole behind).  If the perpetrator is caught, his fate is determined by politics, not law. And if he is injured, he is treated for his wounds, here, without prejudice for his safety and for safekeeping.

I claim no firsthand knowledge of this scenario, but can imagine that actions as a physician here have brought life back to men, at one time or another, who may have wantonly launched those aimless RPG in hopes they would land atop the heads of some unprepared American soldier.  We care for this person, free of bias;  we also fix his chronic problems - a inguinal hernia, perhaps his cataracts - and we send him back to Baghdad where he may or may not stand trial among his peers for the launched RPG which deviously,and with cowardice, crashed upon 3 - and they always come in 3's - of my Sisters and Brothers.  One who would be gone, one who would be maimed, and the other psychologically wrecked as a witness.

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