All soldiers experience hell

Allegations of U.S. soldiers killing unarmed Iraqi civilians point to larger injustices.

On March 12, in a small town south of Baghdad, Iraq, a 14-year-old girl was raped, burned and murdered along with her unarmed parents and 5-year-old sister – allegedly by four American soldiers. Unfortunately, allegations of this kind are not new and point to larger injustices in the ongoing war.

The charge has spurred considerable outrage in the Iraqi community and strained already tenuous relations between U.S. authorities and their newly formed Iraqi counterparts. Currently, the soldiers are being tried in military court, but, understandably, many Iraqis are calling for justice in an Iraqi system – a call that, thus far, has fallen upon deaf ears.

U.S. citizens far removed from the horrific reality of operations on the ground in Iraq generally assume our soldiers behave in a way that is consistent with our view of U.S. civilization. We assume Americans are rational, moralistic and dignified. But, more and more as conditions in Iraq worsen and combat stress increases, there is ample proof of the contrary. Recently, another allegation surfaced – that American soldiers killed, in cold blood, 24 unarmed citizens in Haditha.

This is not to say there are no atrocities being committed against Americans or any other Westerners. To many American ears, Westerners have faces and names, we mourn their passing. However, innocent Iraqis who are killed or murdered are labeled in these minds as “collateral damage.” The young woman and her family are still “others” to the United States. The injustice of it all is that we fight this war to bring democracy to Iraqis, and yet we feel they are less. For example, one of the accused soldiers told his colleagues that “all Iraqis are bad people.”

American Civil war Gen. William T. Sherman once famously said, “War is hell.” Indeed, what the world is witnessing – and what Iraqis and many American soldiers in the region are experiencing – is hell on earth.