Well, the war crimes trial of the Iraq war, the Iraq “My Lai” investigation if you will, is finally done, and one noncom has been convicted of “dereliction of duty” and will serve three months. The rest of his platoon walks after killing a couple of dozen Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in Haditha in northern Iraq. Excuse me, I meant to say, after they created a couple dozen items of “collateral damage.”
Having never been in combat, I am not going to comment on the specific actions of men in combat, but the noncom in question did say one thing that rather jarred me. In an interview he said that, “As platoon leader my first responsibility is to see that none of my men is injured or killed.” That struck me as a truly remarkable statement.
This is the “finest fighting force in the world” is it? A fighting force whose “first responsibility” is the safety of the troops, rather than the mission? I have known quite a few Marines, I respect them deeply, and most of the ones I’ve known would respond to that with something like, “It that’s the case, son, then you’d best park your platoon on the sofa back home and let some real men do the fighting.”
I served in the Navy, which the arms-carrying branches usually considered as a rather cushy and sort of candy ass service. (They usually changed their minds when we cleared Hampton Roads and dived the boat, but…) Even us sailors knew, though, that the ship and its mission was why we were there. If our personal safety was our “first priority,” we would not have been on the freaking ship in the first place.
If this guy is typical of our modern military, then we have a major problem. Certainly “force protection” is a valid concern, I have no problem with that, but when personal safety is the “first priority” of the leadership of our fighting forces then we might as well not send them into combat. They are not going to win many battles against any kind of determined foe.