Senior Director of Iran Programs at Nonviolence International, Documentary Producer
Supporting Troops Must Be Conditional
American politicians cheerled the as our troops embarked on one of the deadliest military campaigns ever against a foreign civilian population during the assault on Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. But one incident from the invasion particularly stuck out as symbolic and indicative of the attitude of some in the military. After the invasion, an Iraqi woman in Fallujah found something written with a lipstick on the mirror in the living room. She could not read English, but an American at the scene could and understood it well. An American soldier had written the following words: "Fuck Iraq and every Iraqi in it."
This is just one example that, together with the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison and many other instances of insult and violence against Iraqis have led to the deterioration of America's image throughout the region. Many members of the military have joined the national service for the right reasons. But there seem to be some members who seem to see their membership as justification to act on some primitive, sexist, supremacist and macho world views that would be unacceptable in any arena in our modern society.
The latest instance of this phenomenon was demonstrated by an American soldier a few months ago that took upon himself to lecture the new members of Iraqi police. This is in light of the fact that the United States is widely seen in Iraq as an invading force. This soldier goes on a rampage, insulting the Iraqis with disgusting and sexist language and no self-restraint.
Let's set one standard clearly: this kind of behavior is completely deplorable, and no soldier who engages in this kind of behavior and uses this kind of language deserves unconditional honor.
Some people may see no problem with this kind of behavior and attitude. But a question that the leaders of the military should ask themselves is "what is our ultimate goal, and how are we going to get there." Both people in the military and those in other parts of our government agree that our ultimate goal is to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, earn their loyalty and set an example of the kind of attitude that Iraqis should bring to service in their own country. If this is our ultimate goal, the military has no right to expect us as taxpayers to support the troops as they engage in this kind of unacceptable and vulgar behavior in the name of our country. This behavior should not be tolerated, and any soldier who conducts himself in this manner on behalf of the United States deserves less than dishonorable discharge.