“Mass Casualties” and “Human Shields”

Dahr Jamail has just posted a review of “Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception and Dishonor in Iraq,” by Michael Anthony, with extensive quotes from the book.

“Look around,” the drill sergeant said. “In a few years, or even a few months, several of you will be dead. Some of you will be severely wounded or so badly mutilated that your own mother can’t stand the sight of you. And for the real unlucky ones, you will come home so emotionally disfigured that you wish you had died over there.”

“I think about why I’m fighting this war and my eyes tear up. I think of all the people we’ve killed. I think of all the people’s families – mothers, fathers, siblings – and how they’ll never see them again … I think about the war and I feel nothing. I think about life and death, mine and everyone else’s, and I feel nothing. I think about myself and I don’t care if I live or die. On these nights, mortars go off and I won’t get out of bed. I’ll lie in bed as the bombs go off. I tell myself it doesn’t matter if I live or die, nothing matters – I like it when I feel nothing.”

“I had a friend who didn’t want to go to Iraq so he purposely failed five drug tests in a row (smoking pot and doing coke) he still got sent to Iraq. There was one guy in my unit who didn’t want to go to Iraq, he told our commanders he was suicidal, they said he still had to go. The soldier then went and got a swastika tattooed on his shoulder, he told the commanders that he was racist and hated everyone except white people; commanders said he still had to go to Iraq. The next day he takes a bottle of pills and tries to kill himself – and I’m sure if he were physically capable of it, he still would have had to go to Iraq. There was a guy in my unit who was on anti-depressant medication; our commanders said they couldn’t deploy him on that medication that he should stop taking it. The next day he tries to stab someone and is put in jail, he still went to Iraq with us. There are more and more of the same stories … There’s literally nothing you can do to not go to Iraq and I think that’s why suicidal and homicidal patients aren’t getting the care they need because before it’s time to go overseas, you’re going no matter what, and after you get back, the government doesn’t care.”

Meanwhile Fox News is screaming about “human shields” supposedly deployed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In an effort to create hostility between coalition troops and local Afghans, insurgents are also reportedly using civilians as human shields – deliberately trying to force coalition troops to fire upon non-combatants.

This very emotive phrase, “human shields,” was even solemly echoed by some dim-witted fourth-tier bloggers on usually progressive sites like firedoglake, where the in-house “expert” about Afghanistan Jim White wrote…

New reports are now suggesting that the largest civilian casualty event so far in the offensive may not have been due to improper targeting, but instead resulted from the use of civilians as human shields by Taliban fighters.

And the miserable Mr. White also quotes this steaming pile of horseshit…

The ISAF later suggested that the coalition’s initial apology (for killing 10 or 12 civilians including 6 children) had been in error. Coalition investigators now think that the rocket hit its target and two insurgents died in the strike in addition to the 12 civilians, ISAF officials said. They’re trying to determine whether those Taliban were holding the civilians prisoner.

White only adds that “it should not require pointing out that the use of civilian hostages as human shields is a war crime.”

So let’s retract that apology, because along with 6 children and 4 other civilians, maybe we also killed 2 Taliban!

And even supposing that the Taliban really were holding thoise civilians hostage, why is it supposedly okay, inevitable, no apology required, to kill ten civilians just to take out 2 Taliban? Ordinary policemen encounter hostage situations all the time, and it’s never okay, inevitable, no apology required if cops killed 10 civilians to take out 2 bank-robbers.

So what’s the tremendous, all-changing difference that somehow excuses civilian casualties in combat, no apology required?

In this particular instance, instead of making do with idiotic hand-waving about the “heat of battle” from some no-combat shit-head apologist for all things Obama, we actually have a specific explanation from an honest-to-God soldier in the combat zone, General Mohiudin Ghori.

Ghori, the senior commander for Afghan troops in the area, accused the Taliban of placing civilian hostages in the line of fire. “Especially in the south of Marjah, the enemy is fighting from compounds where soldiers can very clearly see women or children on the roof or in a second-floor or third-floor window,” he was quoted by Associated Press as saying. “They are trying to get us to fire on them and kill the civilians.”

His forces were having to choose between not returning fire and advancing much more slowly in order to distinguish militants from civilians, Ghori said, echoing comments by British commanders in the area about Taliban tactics.

Choose between not returning fire and advancing much more slowly in order to distinguish militants from civilians!

Choose between not returning fire and advancing much more slowly in order to distinguish militants from civilians!

The fiendish Taliban might force our forces to slow down and “distinguish militants from civilians!”



  1. …if you read the comments from his essay, JW says that the US is playing a disengenuos role. I’m not here to defend him, just to say he is worth reading.


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