Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Foriegn Military Presence

Via Juan Cole:
The former chief of Australia's armed forces, Gen. Peter Cosgrove, has called for an end to foreign troop presence in Iraq by the end of 2006: ' "I think we've got to train the Iraqis as quickly as we can and to a point where we take one of the focal points of terrorist motivation away, and that is foreign troops," said Cosgrove, who retired from the top military post a month ago. '

Now that he is retired he can speak freely, and has. Why does he think that "foreign troops" are a motivation in Iraq for terrorism? Remember, this is not some soft civilian Green Party member speaking from a bar in Melbourne. This is a high-ranking general of a highly rated military. Perhaps what he has in mind is explained in the next article:

AUSTRALIAN and British military legal advisers frequently had to "red card" more trigger-happy US forces to limit civilian casualties during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to one of the Australian advisers.

Colonel Mike Kelly, writing in the Australian Army Journal, says the junior partners in the coalition forces succeeded in reducing civilian casualties and reinforcing the legitimacy of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

In the most detailed insight yet into the secret rules Australian forces operated under during the conflict in 2003, Colonel Kelly, who went on to become a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said for Australian forces to open fire the enemy was "required to visibly carry weapons while deploying for an attack".

Defence sources said that under more relaxed US rules there only had to be a "reasonable suspicion" that the person was an enemy combatant and a threat . . .

"During Operation Iraqi Freedom legal differences in assessing legitimate targets, tended to be resolved by the use of the 'red card'," Colonel Kelly writes.

"This card involved the coalition partners being able to indicate their disapproval in their targeting or tactics in any mission that ran contrary to their legal obligations."

He added: "The United States generally accepted these decisions ... (it was) prepared to modify its approach in the interest of harmony with its military partners . . . "

I think there is a problem here when professional and hard-fighting Australian and British troops routinely feel that the US military does things that are frankly illegal, and might drag them into illegality. And that this difference in attitude has political implications seems clear--the British and the Australians are chomping at the bit to get out of Iraq ASAP. It is clear that they have often felt in the past two years that American recklessness has put them needlessly at risk. Proud of their own community policing skills, when British forces were briefly moved up to Babil province (the "triangle of death"), they complained that they were going to a place that the Americans had already ruined and made dangerous. Whether it is a fair perception or not, it has consequences.

Peter Dolan was embedded with US troops in Babil Province ("the triangle of death") and gives a sense of what daily life is like there for them.

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