The Rod Blog

30 April 2006

Collateral Damage

Have you ever killed someone? Of course not. Do you know someone who has? Extremely unlikely. Can you imagine what’d it’d be like? I don’t think I can. It would have to change you profoundly. Your life would never be the same.

Early on in the Iraq war, I watched footage of soldiers in the back of a truck at night. Heavily armed, nervous, they are surrounded by a place and people they don’t understand. Any one of them could be the enemy. Any one of them could be lethal if they get close enough. Behind them, a car approaches. The soldiers wave their arms, and shout for them to back away. The driver either doesn’t hear, or doesn’t understand, and drives close to the back of the truck.

The soldiers rapidly become agitated, shouting with increasing urgency. Back off! they yell, aiming their guns to make their point. I don’t know what the driver was thinking, but he didn’t seem to get the message. Not good.

The soldiers are panicky, and inevitably, one starts fires, setting off a cascade of fire from the other troops. The night streams with tracers and the sound of gunfire. They’re shooting at us! one yells, and there’s a desperate air of adrenalin as the fight-to-survive instinct kicks in.

Today, these sorts of scenes pass for entertainment on television and in cinema, but I just find them sickening.

I really pity the soldiers in Iraq. A filthy little war, with virtually no chance of success. A survey by the New England Journal of Medicine of more than 800 US soldiers, nearly half reported killing an enemy combatant, and 14 percent had killed a civilian. Of nearly 800 also surveyed, 28 percent said they’d killed a ‘non-combatant’.

There are about 150,000 US soldiers in Iraq. God knows how many affected Iraqis.
All those dead and damaged people, and the most likely outcome is another dictatorship.

Until now I’ve shied away from political comment for fear I’d just annoy my audience. Goodness know, there’s already plenty of around without me joining in. Today I’ve made an exception because it matters to me. Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


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