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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Take a Deep Breath and Get All the Facts

By now, most of you have heard about the supposed desecration of the bodies of some Taliban killed in Afghanistan by some American soldiers. The whole world is up in arms at this "atrocity". According to Jason Coleman, things might not be as they appear.
Now it's important that after you read the articles and you watch the clip to realize that the troops that allegedly burned the bodies (to my knowledge, the actual event video hasn't been released as of this writing) did so because of legitimate hygiene concerns. The Taliban soldiers had been dead for over 24 hours and were begining to become a concern. So in keeping with good battlefield hygiene practices, they disposed the bodies in the most effective and safest means possible, burning. It's quite obvious that soldiers dug in around a position, with enemy forces in the vicinity, cannot be expected to go out and bury the bodies; and the Taliban certainly wasn't going to come out and collect them (this is a war, remember). So we can't really fault them for burning the bodies.

Now the reporter on the scene, Stephen Dupont, who was embedded with the American troops, himself admits that it was later, when a PsyOps unit arrived on the scene, that more was made of the burning than actually took place, IN ORDER TO "smoke out" and "provoke" a fight with other Taliban fighters on the scene. Taken as it is, a separate tactical event, this is not that big a deal. The goal of armies is to find and engage the enemy, to root them out and destroy them. PsyOps has long been considered a legitimate and effective means of waging war. All parties to conflicts use it and it generates the desired effects.
Makes sense, right? And all of the facts will come out in the investigations. The problem is that, even if the soldiers are cleared of any wrong doing, it's too late. Our image is tarnished yet again, by a media who fervently believes that the US can do no right and our enemies can do no wrong.

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