More than one third of all Soldiers and Marines continue to report being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to Rules of Engagement (ROE). In interviews, Soldiers reported that Iraqis would throw gasoline-filled bottles (i.e., Molotov Cocktails) at their vehicles, yet they were prohibited from responding with force for nearly a month until the ROE were changed. Soldiers also reported they are still not allowed to respond with force when Iraqis drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses on them when they drive by. Every groups of Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported that they felt the existing ROE tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war (pages 13 - 14).
However, under "Key Recommendations" the Report states that American troops need more "Battlefield ethics training...so that Soldiers and Marines know exactly what is expected of them in terms of battlefield ethics and the procedures for reporting violations." (p. 5) Seriously, you have to wonder what planet these people live on. Sure PFC, why don't you just rat on your best buddy. You know, the guy your life depends on in combat. Every group of soldiers and Marines interviewed reported their hands being tied in fighting the war and killing the bad guys and the Report's recommendation is to make sure the knots are tied correctly.
Smith comments on the above quote:
The entire report is worth serious study by professional military and policy-makers. To be precise, I do not believe that the rules of engagement were “changed” to allow the engagement of insurgents who hurled Molotov Cocktails at them. The most recent version is CJCSI 3121.01B, and it is more likely than not that a field grade officer felt that he could not make the decision on principles of application of the existing ROE and a JAG had to be consulted.
You read that right. Field officers in a war zone having to get permission from lawyers before they return fire. It has come to that. On a positive note Ralph Peters has an article posted at Frontpagemag that states:
Iraq's a mess. Got it. The Bush administration has made so many mistakes I stopped counting a year ago. But we've finally got a general in Baghdad - Dave Petraeus - who's doing things right. Iraqi politicians are still disgracing themselves, but our troops are killing America's enemies - with the help of our former enemies.
I hope this is true and that at least on some level Patraeus "gets it."
Update: After skimming through the Report I notice there is no mention of one simply expedient that would help troop morale. They're called mascots, maybe after all their interviews and study and Ph.Ds the Report authors could have discovered that the troops are human beings. However, the Report authors are very concerned about Marines directing harsh language at "non-combatants" in a guerrilla war. The Horror!
Crossposted at The Dougout