An Enlisted Man's Point of View
By George H. Wittman on 7.2.09 @ 6:07AM
As anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces knows, avoiding civilian casualties where possible is an integral element of American war fighting. These "rules of engagement" go all the way back to General Washington's Continental Army. There was a time in the beginning of the Korean War when it was not uncommon among basic training cadre to remind new recruits that "No one shoots at somethin' in a pagoda, no matter what's goin' on -- unless, of course, you get an order from some officer above the rank of a butter bar [2nd Lieutenant]."
With all due respect to "second looey's" of the "brown shoe" army of the early fifties, neither they nor the enlisted ranks were quite sure what to make of those ornate oriental buildings that were supposed to be treated as if they were churches -- and thus sacrosanct in American eyes. The communist North Koreans, on the other hand, viewed pagodas as very useful sniper sites, field aid stations, and often excellent booby-trapped hospitality suites -- sort of exploding Motel 6's. They also hid among the streams of refugees as they moved south. The collateral casualties didn't bother them; the Americans could always be blamed.
It seems that the U.S, military is once again being urged to avoid civilian casualties. This time Afghanistan is the new theater of operations where American soldiers, Marines, and airmen are supposed to kill the enemy, but do it as decorously as possible to avoid civilians becoming collateral damage.