U.S. should prevent Iraqi resentment

Searing heat, constant fear of ambush and working on extension in an alien land is an especially bad combination for professional soldiers trained to remorselessly kill. Patience wears thin and tensions in U.S. occupational soldiers increase and, sadly, more incidents clearly contradict our proclaimed mission of humanity. Soldiers must not forget and must believe their current mission is as much for the Iraqi people as for themselves.

Horror stories come out of Iraq reminiscent of barbarous acts committed against civilians in the Vietnam War. Events of the past weeks are especially hard to bear. Thousands of Iraqis forced out of work protest in the streets because of the U.S. decision not to provide jobs to former Baath Party members. There is the report of a U.S. armored personnel carrier crushing an Iraqi family to death as they drove from a family gathering. There are the accounts of countless civilians hit by stray bullets fired from U.S. guns. There is the utterly despicable U.S. policy of punishing innocent Iraqi farmers by bulldozing their fruit trees. In a particularly heinous incident, U.S. marine soldiers beat Baath Party member Nagem Sadoon Hatab to death as they held him in a detention center. These incidents help to further tarnish the not-so-rosy U.S. record while occupying countries.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. military does not keep a tally on civilians killed by soldiers. To do so would seriously undermine war efforts. As this guerrilla war drags on, some U.S. troops might begin to blame Iraqi civilians for their predicament. Granted, the United States has not always been totally humanitarian with civilians during warfare, but every effort must be made to prevent acts of soldier vigilantism. Some necessary and positive moves are being made. For instance, last week the United States lifted curfews and began opening key bridges to ease transportation in preparation for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Many more moves will have to be made, however, to prevent growing resentment among the Iraqi people.