Monday, May 23, 2005

Our troops

The New York Times today carries the story of Dustin Berg, an American soldier under investigation for his role in the death of an Iraqi police officer. Apparently, there's some controversy over the investigation:
In Iraq, these stories have caused bitter resentment and distrust of the troops. Among Americans, they have strained units, leaving some Army supervisors saying troops seem reluctant to carry out their duties, and have led to an outpouring of anger in hometowns across the United States. "These guys go out and do what their country asks them to do, and now they're being told they did it wrong?" said Rich Hendrix, a Vietnam-era veteran who spent a recent afternoon inside the American Legion Hall in Ferdinand, Corporal Berg's hometown of 2,300 in Southern Indiana, where residents overwhelmingly say they support him. "I say they're doing the best they can. You can't even be sure who's your friend and who's your enemy over there, so what are they supposed to do?"
So what did Dustin Berg do? What is it that Mr. Hendrix thinks people are unduly criticizing about?
The soldier, Cpl. Dustin M. Berg, fired three times at his Iraqi partner, Hussein Kamel Hadi Dawood al-Zubeidi, and killed him. As Corporal Berg ran away, he picked up Mr. Zubeidi's AK-47 and shot himself in the side. In the days that followed, Corporal Berg lied about what happened, saying Mr. Zubeidi was the one who had shot him. And for months he went right on lying, after he recovered from his wound, after he left Iraq, even after he received a Purple Heart he did not deserve with his parents watching at a solemn ceremony back home in Indiana.
I can't believe there's a controversy over criticism of this guy. But there is.
"In earlier wars, I don't think some of these homicide cases would be prosecuted at all," said Guy L. Womack, a Houston lawyer and retired Marine lieutenant colonel who prosecuted marines and has represented the Army reservist accused of being the ringleader of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. "We're second-guessing things we don't need to second-guess."
I wonder what sort of action would be worthy of second-guessing.

7 comments:

  1. Read the entire article from today's TImes and you will see what the controversy is about. The Iraqi officer, according to Berg, attempted to prevent Berg at gunpoint from reporting a suspected insurgent they had seen on the street. I.e., according to Berg, the dead Iraqi was an insurgent collaborator, minimally. But of course, to some Americans, it's easier to suspect fellow Americans than it is to suspect foreign nationals, especially when the former are in the military.

    Brown University in philosophy, eh? Why do I feel like I can predict most of what you think without having even read anything beyond your note on Dustin Berg? Some of us, and even some who've been through grad school ourselves, trust guys like Mr. Berg A LOT MORE than we trust philosophy grad students at Brown University. Go figure.

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  3. Thank you, I have read the article, which is here. You suggest that this will explain to me what the controversy is about, but on the contrary, the article confirms that Cpl. Berg shot and killed his Iraqi colleague, then shot himself to cover the crime, repeatedly lying about the incident to his superiors. Furthermore, the article expresses Cpl. Berg's full admission of guilt and remorse:

    "I should have considered the Iraqi police officer to be an ally and not a threat," Corporal Berg said in court. "I believe I am negligent for the shooting. I should have used reasonable care. I should not have killed Mr. Zubeidi. I acted too quickly."

    Today's article shows that I was rigt when I wrote this post two months ago: Cpl. Berg's actions were deplorable, and it's absurd to complain about the fact that he's being criticized.

    Some of us, and even some who've been through grad school ourselves, trust guys like Mr. Berg A LOT MORE than we trust philosophy grad students at Brown University.

    My credibility is not at issue. I've made no factual claims; I'm interpreting the news as I read it. So whether you trust me has nothing to do with anything at all.

    But of course, to some Americans, it's easier to suspect fellow Americans than it is to suspect foreign nationals, especially when the former are in the military.

    Yes, it's quite easy for some of us to suspect fellow Americans who admit to having committed every element of the alleged crime. But yes, there are also Americans for whom it's difficult to suspect even dishonorably discharged American former soldiers who are serving prison sentences after admitting to grave misconduct. I'm comfortable in the camp I'm in.

    Brown University in philosophy, eh? Why do I feel like I can predict most of what you think without having even read anything beyond your note on Dustin Berg?

    Tempting as it is, I won't speculate as to the inner workings of your psychology, Sergeant.

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  4. FYI, I have a new post today on this topic. Future responses can go there.

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  5. I think the real story is why the military is only pursuing a 45 month sentence for murder charges? I suppose it is becuase Berg shot someone a little too brown for us all? Suppose it had been a white American police officer that Berg admitted to murdering and lying about later - would less than 4 years be enough then? This story is grotesque and represents the most disgusting aspects of the American military and our pathetic "war for peace".

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  6. Former US Army Sgt David D. Hellin7/26/2005 06:32:00 PM

    To the last poster: Put yourself in this soliders shoes and then see how you feel. This soilder enlisted to serve for us all and he made a mistake on the BATTLEFIELD under a huge amount of stress, something you will never know about. Yes I served from 2001 to 2004 with the 82nd Airborne Div. 504th PIR and was a Ranger for 3 of the 4 years, I also deployed to OEF in 2002 and OIF in 2003. I also went on foot patrols with the ING and IPF and let me tell you it is scary and not in the way you might think, I have went on patrols with Iraqis that spoke no english and had very little skills. I have often found myself cursing out an ING squadie for pointing his AK at another ING, US servicemen, or a civie, also sloppy grenade safety. Sometimes you wounder about there loyalty and dedacation and they go off and talk to insurgent prisoners that they are not to speak to. What this kid did was an accident plain and simple, he deserves a discharge and thats all.

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  7. I went to high school in Ferdinand and I know members of Dustin's family. I graduated high school with his brother. I do not agree with what Dustin did at all. He wasn't at war with his ally. He could have admitted his mistake, but instead he took the coward's way out and shot himself. I know it has been a long time, but I still think about his mistake often. His sentence, to me, doesn't fit his crime. Unfortunately, he is now a young man with this on his record. Maybe this will force him to think next time - oh but wait, there won't be a next time.

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