US soldiers violate rules of engagement

Fallout from the recently-released video showing the US soldiers killing civilians in Iraq has included questions about whether the soldiers violated the rules of engagement governing conduct during wartime.

 The recent release by WikiLeaks of footage showing the death of two Reuters journalists at the hands of US soldiers has raised questions about the rules of engagement even though the soldiers involved in the incident were absolved by a military court.

“The idea of combat is not to simply kill people,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, Director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. “ What you want to do is bring people in alive if at all possible. The rules of engagement give you the opportunity to do that.”

Shaffer emphasized that the rules used in Afghanistan and Iraq do not validate the actions of the soldiers in the video.

“First off, you have to do PID – positive id of the target. You had to assess if they are a credible threat. Was there a valid threat? I didn’t see that there,” said Shaffer.

However, life in war is an imprecise existence.

“Every soldier on the battlefield has to make a shoot/don’t shoot call every day,” said Shaffer, who served two deployments in Afghanistan.” You hope to make the right call. In urban warfare, you’ve always got to be careful. It always comes down to that moment in time where you have to make the call.”

The incident has reflected badly on US operations in Iraq, giving the impression that US soldiers are trigger-happy and equate killing Iraqis is like playing a video game.

“This is not the way the army conducts business,” said Shaffer. “ We are deeply disturbed by the verbiage used. We’ve got to be better. We have to be very precise in how we show the world how we do business.”