- By de Andréa
In Defence of Our Soldiers
Prior to the Vietnam War, the rules of war were fairly straightforward and the modern rules of engagement of the time were totally relevant. The enemy wore an identifiable uniform and occupied a known area, (the front). If one wanted to know where the war was, someone could accommodate them by pointing in the direction of the war, and could also display a picture of what the enemy looked like.
If one would recall the history of the American Revolution, the Americans introduced the British to a completely new kind of war. Not only was it the Revolutionary War but the style of warfare was revolutionary. The Americans fought in the way they had learned from the Indigenes Indians. Even though the British were at the time the most powerful military in the world, they were defeated by a handful of farmers, partially because the British were not accustom to this new kind of warfare. To ambush, to shoot from behind trees and other barriers instead of out in the open was considered cowardly by the British, who marched properly into battle and lost row after row of perfectly good soldiers. Cowardly or not, this new type of strategic warfare was extremely effective.
In the Jungles of Vietnam, in the 1960’s, the Indochinese introduced the U.S. to a new kind of war, and a bunch of rag tag Oriental farmers beat the pants off the most powerful military in the world. They donned all kinds of different uniforms and sometimes they wore civilian clothes. They fought from tunnels and pretended to be innocent civilians; they created hand made weapons, made from bamboo that was devastating to our troops.
Many times a squad of soldiers out on patrol would happen upon a small jungle village. After a little reconnaissance, they would decide that just a few old women and children occupied the hooch’s in the village. Then suddenly a little child would run toward one of the soldiers and jump into his arms hollering G.I. G.I., after the explosion there were pieces of bodies blown all over, the child was a mobile bomb with little legs. Or, one would not even notice an old mama-san pushing a baby buggy down the road of a village and stop near some G.I.’s, leave the buggy and walk on, in a few minutes the buggy would blow up and kill and maim several American soldiers. This was a new kind of war against an enemy we could not always identify.
Because this new and strange kind of warfare was routinely used against our ground soldiers in Vietnam, some became demoralized; some began to consider everybody the enemy, unless they knew differently. The old rules of engagement did not seem to apply in these new circumstances. Eventually the discovery of a village on a routine patrol resulted in blowing the village away regardless of who the occupants might be. Women, children, old people, V.C., N.V.A, all became the enemy because they were. This eventually resulted in the infamous Massacre of the village of Mi Lia, which hit the news like gangbusters, read and heard by a people who had no understanding of the new kind of warfare to which our troops had been subjected.
It seemed easier to prosecute these soldiers, that were scared out of their G.I. socks just trying to stay alive, than it was trying to explain to an American civilian population, why a bunch of American soldiers would totally level a village containing women, children and old people.
The same sort of circumstance exists in Iraq today, we have had several cases of strange behavior from our soldiers under fire and on patrol in Iraq, such as the resent incident in the insurgent infested town of Haditha. Could most, if not all of this unusual behavior be again attributed to the pressures of trying to stay alive in the face of an enemy one cannot identify? The enemy does not wear a uniform he may be an old woman or a child or may not be seen at all.
After a firefight, against a people who a few minutes earlier you didn’t even know were the enemy, your buddy is left standing next to you, holding in his hands what is left of the 27 feet of his small intestines, asking you, what you think he should do with all this stuff. Or, after a large explosion, your friend who was riding beside you in a truck is now sitting beside the road trying to stand up, but cannot, because he has no legs. All because some innocent looking civilians tossed an I.E.D. onto the road and destroyed his life. Things like this do begin to change the way you see the world.
One would think that because of this new kind of warfare that the rules of engagement would change as well. Our military soldiers are being judged by a set of rules that applied to a time gone by, and may no longer be relevant in the face of this new type of warfare. Moreover, our soldiers are again being judged by a people who have absolutely no idea what it is like to live day after day, night after night with the fear that at any second an enemy whom you cannot identify and could be any ware, might kill you or separate you from some of your much needed body parts.
One question that keeps sticking in my craw is why we do not demand of the enemy, an investigation and justice every time they murder one of our innocent civilian workers or journalists. Aren’t our innocent civilians just as innocent? Analogous to Vietnam we are running the risk of condemning ourselves right into losing this war as well, because of our ignorance and brain washing by a negative and pompous press.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This writer believes that our Government, Military Executives, and some American citizens may be more interested in listening to the complaints of a bunch of ungrateful recipients of our benefactions. Than they are in exercising the need to be very understanding of a soldier in combat who has volunteered to fight in a war for the very people who will stand in judgment of him. It is easy to sit in ones own armchair sipping mint juleps and condemn the actions of one who lives every day in constant fear for life and limb, and at times must at any moment do things most of us cannot even imagine, just to defend his own life and the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Moreover, after our combat soldiers risk their lives by volunteering to fight for freedom in our place, (it reminds me of someone else who gave His life in our place) they defend their own lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers, and must now come home and defend themselves in the press, and in the courts just to justify doing all this for us. I guess someone must take the blame for what America does, it may as well be the poor beat up soldier who should be by now, very weary of defending himself against everything and anything that is thrown his way. May God bless the American Freedom Fighter. May God bless the American Soldier.
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