Friday, June 30, 2006

Soldiers accused of killing Iraqi family

Actually, it's a bit uglier than that. They allegedly raped a woman, then killed her and three members of her family.

The investigation is still in the early stages, so no one should jump to conclusions about guilt or innocence. But one soldier has reportedly confessed, apparently prompted to do so by the recent kidnapping and killing of two soldiers from the same regiment.

Assuming they are guilty as charged, this does not impugn the military as a whole. But it does show, yet again, why war should be a last resort. Because there's no way to keep war from getting ugly in lots of ways both large and small.

Also, how many such incidents add up to evidence of declining discipline among American troops? The perception will develop long before the actuality, of course, but it's still a concern. Even the best troops can endure the pressure and frustration of occupation duty for only so long. Most won't go the route demonstrated here -- a descent into pure criminality. But they might get less careful about discriminating between insurgents and civilians. Either would be a setback for our counterinsurgency efforts, not to mention the lasting psychological damage among our soldiers.

I'm willing to accept such things as an unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of a necessary war. But since I don't think invading Iraq was necessary in any way, this is just another piece of "collateral damage" that didn't have to be.

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