Feel for our troops in Iraq. Among those who've been involved in serious combat, one-in-ten say they've lashed out at Iraqi civilians at a time that it was not necessary. The survey was conducted by the Pentagon and based upon personal account, so the real proportion is almost certainly higher than that.
I cannot imagine what it's like. An avid biker living in a semi-rural area, I encounter big dogs on a fairly regular basis. As the adrenal glands gush when one takes off in silence I seem to lose my inhibition. It's tough to imagine increasing that by a few orders of magnitude (at least), potentially on a daily basis. I fear the cart master would work sun-up to sun-down hauling Sunni and Shia civilians each day if I were in Iraq.
The hope (now mostly abandoned even by the most enthusiastic pro-war neocons) for a liberally democratic election of a sustainable pro-Western government in Iraq is a pipedream. Our soldiers are paddling against the combined torrents of Islam, destitution, an average IQ in the eighties, strident sectarian fighting, clan loyalties, rampant inbreeding, and an 'international community' that mostly wants us to fail. Accentuating those impossible odds is a tactical template of half-measures that effectively level out the technological advantages we should be leveraging.
A slight majority of the warriors surveyed wouldn't report on one another for behavior deemed unethical by air-conditioned generals and Whitehouse spokespeople. It's hard to blame them--all they really have is one another.
More than one-third (44% of marines, 41% of soldiers) advocated the use of torture to protect US military personnel. While the result makes ready ammunition for charges of an ingrained propensity for abuse in the American military, imagine if the same question was asked of Iraqis with regard to saving the skin of members of their respective religious and ethnic sects. Given that most of the Muslim world want harm done to US troops in Iraq, how much larger would these majorities become if the well-being of a fellow Muslim was hanging in the balance?
Despite the enormous resources (human and otherwise) we've expended in the war, 61% of Iraqis support attacks on American soldiers. If Kurds are removed from the equation, the percentage increases to 68%. More than two-thirds of non-Kurdish Iraqis want US soldiers to die. Why the hell should we bleed for these people?
I agree with Tommy Thompson. Let's put the rhetoric celebrating self-determination where our mouths are. Let the Iraqis vote on whether or not a US troop presence should remain. Then we can spend a portion of the $80 billion saved annually on developing and offering rewards for viable energy alternatives while separating ourselves from the Islamic world as much as possible. If they're determined to remain in the 12th Century, let them.