Listening to this winter soldier testimony doesn’t sound very pleasant:
They did so with the approval of their chain of command. “It was encouraged, almost with a wink and a nudge, to carry drop weapons and shovels with us,” said Jason Washborn, a Marine corporal who served three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. “In case we accidentally did shoot a civilian, so we could toss weapon on the body to make [him] look like an insurgent. I was told… that if [the Iraqis] carried a shovel, or if they dig anywhere, especially near roads], then we could shoot them [on suspicion of planting roadside bombs]. So we actually carried tools in our vehicles.”
Something that I think isn’t asked often enough is whether the level of discipline and good behavior necessary for by-the-books counterinsurgency operations is organizationally or psychologically realistic. The whole essence of the military is that you’re following orders, and you’re trusting your fellow soldiers with your life. Those are principles honed over the centuries for combat, but they’re not conducive to maintaining strict obedience to rules of engagement over the course of a long occupation. It’s natural that American soldiers in Iraq are going to put the needs of their fellow soldiers over the needs of Iraqis, but it’s also completely contrary to the idea that our occupying army is going to be some kind of humanitarian boon to the Iraqi people.