The Curmudgeon


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Debasing Our Values

In the wake of the unfortunate publicity surrounding the unauthorised collateral damage at Haditha, American troops in Iraq have been ordered to take "extra training in moral and ethical standards". The training will emphasise "professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat" and will last for thirty days before the teenagers and twentysomethings are shoved back into the firing line. "As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," said the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, with more than an echo of Luke 18 x-xiv. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few", like those who go in for indiscriminate revenge attacks, "do not tarnish the good work of the many", like those who drop bombs on cities, or send people to fight illegal wars.

A former army intelligence officer noted that "if your leaders give the impression that they think Iraqi lives are not worth the same as American or British lives ... you'll get the impression that that's how you're meant to behave." This seems a little naïve. It has been transparently clear from the outset that Iraqi lives are not worth the same as American or British lives. At a conservative estimate, about a hundred times as many Iraqis have lost their lives as Britons and Americans combined; one need only compare the amount of newsprint devoted to each group to see that the market value of Iraqi lives lags far to the rear. Indeed, by killing only twenty-four Iraqis in exchange for one of their own, the alleged unprofessionals of Haditha seem to have sold their comrade rather cheaply. We must hope that the correct market values can be properly implanted into the troops during their upcoming ethical edification.


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