Sunday, November 04, 2007

Robert D. Kaplan's Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts

While not directly addressing the "atrocities" committed there, an Autumn 2005 thought from a former Iraqi mukhtar on Abu Ghraib:

The former mukhtar seemed to like the American lieutenant, as we continued to sit on his machine-made carpets, lean against undressed cinder blocks, and drink tea in his home. But he said no [to a plea to stand by the lieutenant against the insurgents]. "I cannot resume my role as mukhtar. They will kill me. The contractor down the street was threatened if he continued to repair the neighborhood. If you are so serious about security, why," he went on, "did you Americans release prisoners from Abu Ghraib?"

Lt. Turner said that the decision to release prisoners from Abu Ghraib was one made by Iraq's own new government. The former mukhtar wasn't convinced. Because many of the detainees at Abut Ghraib were known to be hardened criminals from the Mosul area, the release had undermined the credibility of American troops here. Abu Ghraib had a different connotation for Iraqis meeting with Americans in Mosul than it had back in the United States. Here the words meant American weakness and lack of resolve, not human rights violations. (p. 249)

One of the really wonderful aspects of Kaplan's book, indeed his main goal, is to give us insights into the type of men and women serving in our Armed Forces. Most of them deal with the men and women of the Hog and Grunt varieties (noncoms or non-commissioned officers and lower). Here though he writes of Army Maj. Larry Smith of Savannah, Illinois:

After community college, Larry enrolled at Rockford College.... In October 1983, after hearing about the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, as he told me, "I got up and walked out of a class on French literature, went straight to the local recruiter's office, and joined the Army as a buck private. I have nothing against French literature. But at the time, it didn't mean much to me."

Over the next fiver years, while working as a military policeman in Alabama and Germany, he rose to sergeant. Then he enrolled in the ROTC program at Illinois State University in Normal, graduating as a second lieutenant. Tours at Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Fort Carson, Colorado, followed in succession, as he rose to the command of a military intelligence company. Next, he decided he wanted to be a foreign area officer for the Indian subcontinent. That led to a year of studying Hindi at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and a year of graduate school in subcontinental Asian studies at the University of Texas at Austin. (p. 212)

No comments: