"I couldn't justify shooting an unarmed civilian. I said I wasn't going to do it . . ."
February 24, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

In December 2010 Slate posted an interview with Iraq War veteran and conscientious objector Josh Steiber

Stieber has figured into the Wikileaks saga in the past.
posted by IvoShandor (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I first thought this was an interview with Iraq War verteran Justin Bieber. :'-(
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:55 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Verteran. A veteran with a backbone.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:56 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's really no way to defend yourself against a sniper shot or a roadside bomb, so some of our leaders felt that the only way we could defend ourselves was to intimidate the local population into preventing the violence in the first place. So our battalion commanders gave the order that every time a bomb went off, we were entitled to open fire on whoever was standing around.
Holy fuck.
posted by yeoz at 1:02 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hearts and minds
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2011


Holy fuck.

You didn't expect this occupation was going to be without senseless civilian slaughter, did you?
posted by clarknova at 1:29 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, I know that 'senseless civilian slaughter' happens, I just didn't think it was actively sanctioned like that.
posted by yeoz at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2011


I spent a couple of hours today on a very large military base. I went to visit a young soldier who has been trying to get out as a conscientious objector. Next time I go I'm going to bring copies of these articles and leave them around.
posted by mareli at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, I know that 'senseless civilian slaughter' happens, I just didn't think it was actively sanctioned like that.

There's one sense in which you're right, but another in which you're clearly wrong. That kind of order is clearly illegal. But in the long view, most of the people we expect to die in wars are innocents. As Smedley Butler put it, "War is a racket...It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many."
posted by Hylas at 1:50 PM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


With the war still on when he graduated from high school, Stieber enlisted in 2006 and was deployed to Baghdad in 2007. A devout Christian and a staunch political conservative, Stieber became troubled by the gap between the values he was told the military embodied and those he experienced on the ground. Partway through his deployment, he realized that his perspective had changed so drastically that he would rather go to prison than remain in the military.

This is the good kind of conservative. If Jesus actually is up there handing out eternal happiness to people, this man should rest assured he's on the list.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I support this guy's practice-what-you-preach sense of Christianity, which got him both into and out of Iraq. Too bad his leaders and educators were the preach-and-exploit kind of Christian.

And his account of the war is horrific and unfortunately not surprising.
posted by domnit at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So our battalion commanders gave the order that every time a bomb went off, we were entitled to open fire on whoever was standing around.
And nobody except one guy thought there was anything wrong with it? Man, something stinks in US Military training.
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


My friend said, "I think that Jesus would have turned his cheek once or twice but he never would have let anyone punk him around." Hearing him say it that way just made it sound so ridiculous. Here we supposedly had faith in this guy who very clearly was punked around, and ended up living and dying with sacrificial love. From then on, I really had to face the fact that I couldn't have it both ways. Either I was going to try to find this inward reality where sacrificial love was possible for a higher goal, or I was going to let self-defense be my ultimate value.

This.
posted by no mind at 2:11 PM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


There's really no way to defend yourself against a sniper shot or a roadside bomb, so some of our leaders felt that the only way we could defend ourselves was to intimidate the local population into preventing the violence in the first place. So our battalion commanders gave the order that every time a bomb went off, we were entitled to open fire on whoever was standing around.

What kind of journalist is told this and then doesn't ask for name, date and location? (Which makes me skeptical.)
posted by Jahaza at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2011


So our battalion commanders gave the order that every time a bomb went off, we were entitled to open fire on whoever was standing around.

(bold mine)

um, this is war crime stuff.... no? Pretty straight up I would think...
posted by victors at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes it is, absolutely totally not even slightly defendable war crime.
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:43 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


absolutely totally not even slightly defendable war crime.

Good thing we have all those elected officials willing to prosecute war crimes then.
posted by threeturtles at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What an admirable young man. I wish him every success.
posted by peripathetic at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2011


What a fantastic story, thanks for posting it!
posted by clavdivs at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2011


Imperialist army is imperialist.
posted by williampratt at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2011


There's really no way to defend yourself against a sniper shot or a roadside bomb, so some of our leaders felt that the only way we could defend ourselves was to intimidate the local population into preventing the violence in the first place. So our battalion commanders gave the order that every time a bomb went off, we were entitled to open fire on whoever was standing around.

This represents a successful use by the enemy of that tactic. The bombs and snipers don't kill enough U.S. troops to deter the U.S. presence. But they provoke the U.S. forces into a reaction that alienates the population. That's a win for the men in dresses. They won that engagement every time they achieved that outcome.

Kinda makes you mad, don't it?
posted by pressF1 at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


This brought to mind Krakauer's book Where Men Win Glory, the story of an NFL player who quit football to fight after 9/11 and died in Afghanistan. I finally got around to reading it in January and it too was an amazing story, I'd highly recommend it.
posted by mannequito at 5:40 PM on February 24, 2011


"This represents a successful use by the enemy of that tactic. "

Aaron Barr! Fancy meeting you here.
posted by sneebler at 6:00 PM on February 24, 2011


That's a win for the men in dresses.

while I agree with the rest of your statement, I think it needs to be said that this phrasing is fucking idiotic.
posted by dubold at 6:11 PM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Reading Gandhi was a life-changing event for me, as well. His teachings were what led me to apply for C.O. status in the 60's.
posted by kozad at 7:10 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What kind of journalist is told this and then doesn't ask for name, date and location? (Which makes me skeptical.)

Are you shitting me?

I hate to be the annoying person who says, "This is news to you people? You didn't know this?" But I've known about this so long I can't even remember where I first learned about it. The war in Iraq started in 2003 - eight fucking years ago. This strategy you're all just now getting upset about has been in place, and been no secret at all, for years. Veterans have been coming back with PTSD and talking about this in interviews for years. This has been discussed in numerous documentaries on Iraq. Search Netflix for "Iraq," see how many documentaries come up, and maybe watch one. If you have a really strong stomach, you might try LiveLeak (but that will get you as much gratuitous gore as it will anything informative).

I mean yes it's true, these are war crimes, they should not be happening, and you're right to be outraged. But you should also be outraged at the fact that the American mainstream media doesn't go particularly out of its way to inform the American public about the truth of what happens in our foreign wars, that on the contrary it goes to great lengths to prop up the image of America as some flawless, shining beacon, and that anything unpleasant that happens to tarnish that image is always ascribed to a few "bad apples" misbehaving rather than actual policy being carried out exactly as it was intended.

The unpleasant truth is that we aren't a good-hearted, well-meaning country that makes a few (mostly) forgivable mistakes occasionally but tries to make up for it. We plunder and pillage throughout the world, committing war crimes wantonly, not by mistake but as a matter of policy. We are the Evil Empire. We are the baddies. I don't say that because I "hate America," either, as the right wingnuts love to claim. This country was founded on noble principles; the problem is that we've strayed from them.
posted by Marla Singer at 10:30 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


. He went on to explain that the commander gave orders to shoot indiscriminately after IED attacks. "He said, 'Fuck it, this is what I want...anytime someone in your line gets hit by an IED...you kill every motherfucker in the street,'" McCord testified

Yeah, that's way off the ROE (given the IED attack is not coordinated with direct fire.)
The biggest mistake you can make is focusing inwards towards the detonation point and forgetting the enemy.
Be a good idea to move out of the kill zone and look for more IEDs and find your wounded and maybe police up their gibs if they have chunks missing. And then get on the horn, call some other people in the area, let them know, report in,, get ready for follow up attacks.

After that, if you have time to randomly spray potentially innocent civilians who (inexplicably) remain nearby, odds are it would be better to try to get information from them rather than gun them down indiscriminately.

Were I in charge of that outfit I'd have my staff running the men through drills, stand off and counter, counter suicide bomber techniques, the five 'c's (Confirm, Clear, Call/Check, Cordon, Control).
Once EOD gets there and has a clear entry point, you simply don't let others go in.
Why this is suddenly rocket science says to me we're losing focus on basic necessities (like staying alive in a war zone) and striking out with frustration and anger.
I understand these are highly exploitable states, prone to error and self-destruction.

That sucks because one can often take many with him before he goes.


This country still has noble ideals. In WWII Patton wanted to stop a cartoonist publishing pieces in the newspaper that made G.I.s look terrible and sloppy and tired (which they were). He was straightened out by his own staff.

Just recently a general was fired for what he said in the press.

We're still a good country and certainly well constituted. We've lost a bit, not by committing war crimes, those exist through the ranks in every war. But by giving the blessing for them at the highest levels (under Bush) and for not following up with prosecution afterward.

And allowing domestic politics to drive foreign policy decisions.
Or rather financial interests inside the country, driving domestic policies which lead to domestic politics which drive foreign policy decisions.

It is a nice little racket, yes.
Villeins ye are and Villeins ye shall remain.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:16 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you shitting me?

No. This reporter just published an interview in which the subject says that killing civilians at random was the anounced policy of a U.S. Army Battalion. And she can't be bothered to ask a followup question?

I hate to be the annoying person who says, "This is news to you people? You didn't know this?" But I've known about this so long I can't even remember where I first learned about it.

Feel free to provide an example where killing random civilians was the express policy of a U.S. Army Lt. Col. or above.
posted by Jahaza at 6:48 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


like alllllllllll the civilian targets we've dropped bombs on since wwii, or do those not count?
posted by jtron at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2011


Feel free to provide an example where killing random civilians was the express policy of a U.S. Army Lt. Col. or above.

It seems reasonably clear that higher level officers encouraged those below them to adopt dubious construction of the ROE in ways that were illegal. I seriously doubt you're going to find people who put anything in writing, other than policy writing and obviously flawed legal memoranda researching justifying aggressive war and torture. But the fact that it's so remarkably widespread and that no investigation at all has been continued into the higher ranks or civilians at the DOD (and above) is certainly suggestive. It's also important to note that we hanged more than a few Nazis and German generals for merely permitting these exact crimes, and that there was hardly any evidence of anyone expressly making written orders to shoot or gas Jews or POWs, etc. And we didn't stop with hanging Nazis and military commanders, we hanged the propagandists too.
posted by Hylas at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


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