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Kill ‘Em All

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This from an article in The New York Times:

“Ideally, we would kill them all,” Col. Joseph Anderson, a brigade commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told Reuters [in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters]. “But if they choose to change their mind and flee, there’s not much we can do.”

Now wait a minute: I thought we wanted Iraqi fighters to drop their weapons and end resistance, so we wouldn’t have to kill them. But Col. Anderson is apparently satisfied only by as much death as possible. Those of you “disgusted” by Columbia professor de Genova and his call for a “million more Mogadishus” might examine the attitude of your own feckless troopers. de Genova is not in a position to create a “million more Mogadishus”, but Col. Anderson is in the position to decide life and death for many, many people.

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About Martin Blank

  • Man, it almost sounds like we’re an invading army or something.

    Of course, Col. Anderson may have simply been expressing deep humanitarian concerns. If those Iraqis were to flee, then they might go hungry.

  • Eric Olsen

    A military commander’s top responsibility is to achieve his mission with the fewest possible casualties of his own men. He isn’t even talking about the military here, but a noxious paramilitary group – only the death of this enemy can ensure safety for his own men. And he also wasn’t talking about surrender – which would be acceptable – but the return of these “death squads” to the population where they can cause further damage at any time.

    There is nothing even slightly untoward about Anderson’s statement.

  • san

    Eric: So when US military commanders called for Iraqi fighters to lay down their arms and walk away, then they were being untoward? I mean, which one is it: Lay day your arms and refuse to fight or fight so we can kill you? Please clarify for the Iraqi people so they know exactly what to do when coalition forces approach.

    You’ll have to forgive me. This is all very confusing to me. I do not have the benefit of the illusion of moral superiority instilled in the prowar movement, so I have to ask myself real questions about these mixed messages conveyed by US policy. Frankly, I’ve begun to wish that I could swallow this whole thing hook, line and sinker, like you of war support, without considering all the inconsistencies. I would sleep better at night.

  • Dur! Anderson is talking about the military and paramilitary who have faded into the civilian population in order to camouflage themselves in a way where it’s almost impossible to target them. That’s why it says “in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters” – or did you not read that?

    Gosh, I so love the paranoid ranting that’s appeared on Blogcritics lately.

  • I do not have the benefit of the illusion of moral superiority instilled in the prowar movement

    We’re delusional (illusional?) to think our country morally superior to the Baathist regime, particularly the worst thug fighters of that regime?

  • san

    Tom, “in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters”; yeah, “dur”, I’m the one who inserted that into the quote for clarity. That’s why IT’S IN BRACKETS. Dur. So I not only read it, I saw fit to include it.

    The paramilitary fighters were included in the US call to lay down arms and walk away. I didn’t see the official policy statement where that request was rescinded. Now, when they are laying down their weapons and walking away, we want them to come back and fight so we can kill them. If you can’t see how illogical that is, I can’t help you.

    You can’t blame it on fading into the civilian population. Hell, the civilian population is already faded into the civilian population, and I’m sure they will resist here and there. The point is that this military officer ran his mouth off and practically reversed stated US policy on Iraqi resistance.

    Yes, Al, if you think you are inherently morally superior, you’re delusional. Without an arbiter, no group can justly claim moral superiority over another. Regarding the Baathist regime: We are not strictly speaking of that regime; many Iraqis are resisting out of nationalism and not allegiance to the regime. Even assuming our mission is better in the end than the Baathist regime — and I’ll grant you the Baathist regime is a nasty business — not everyone who fights to defend Iraqi sovereignty is in league with the regime.

  • It’s actually unclear in the story, so we may all have the same position on this, which is:

    1) Killing unarmed men who don’t pose a danger is wrong.

    2) Killing an armed force that is simply retreating to get a better position is justified.

    Is this in the middle? Unarmed men who might be a danger?

    What’s not clear to me is that these fleeing paramilitaries pose a threat. I’m not claiming they don’t–that was just my first impression. I thought these were unarmed men who laid down their arms because they didn’t want to fight in the war anymore, but were just frightened of being captured.

    But now that I look at the story again, it doesn’t seem clear. They laid down their “equipment,” but where were they running to? I can’t tell.

    If they were clearly running to join up with another unit, well, they are still combatants. (But why abandon their rifles? I don’t get it. Whatever weight it adds it more than makes up for in utility.)

    I sure wouldn’t want to be a soldier in battle forced to make split decisions on these matters. Is the guy in my sights a scared farmer running back to his farm because he’s heard horror stories about what the Christians do to the Muslims when they are captured? Or is he a dedicated soldier for Saddam who is headed straight for another unit?

    And the problem is that in reality, the population isn’t divided between die-hard Saddam loyalists and Saddam despisers who are grateful for liberation. Those poles exist, but there is obviously a continuum in between. On that continuum, how do you decide who gets killed?

  • Rob

    [in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters].

    Those would be the same Fedayeen who appear to surrender, but shoot those who come forward to accept their surrender. They’d also be the ones that force civilians to shield them, and herd civilians into our forces by shooting the civilians at the back of the crowd to encourage those in the from to run for their lives. Better off dead, I say.

    Really great argument, San. at least Brain tries to make sense and not twist words and take things out of context, you lack credibility as far as I am concerned.

  • san

    What words did I twist? What did I take out of context? Indeed, I provided the phrase in brackets to clarify the context of the officer’s statement. If I was as contextually bereft as the majority of war supporters I would have likely pulled the quote without clarification of any kind. Instead I quoted specifically what was said and who it was said about.

    What exactly is a Fedayeen paramilitary fighter anyway? They started out as Fedayeen, the next day they were “militia”, that night they were “death squads”. How should I identify a Fedayeen were one to approach me? They all dress like civilians. How do I differentiate a “death squad” member who has abandoned his arms from, say, an Iraqi nationalist fighter who has laid down his rifle? Do they have a secret handshake? More importantly, how does the US military distinguish unarmed Fedayeen from anyone else? Please, please, I beseech you, tell me.

    My credibility suffers only as much as your ability comprehend my point.

    What is that Brian? #1 or #4; did we ever come up with a list to make things easier for people like Rob?

  • Rob,

    You seem to be saying that there was something approaching a certainty that the men fleeing were planning to re-join an armed unit and fight again. In that case, I would say they are of course combatants, and “kill them all” isn’t particularly unusual for a soldier in any army to say about his opponents. I was reacting to, as was San, I think, the notion that we would say “put down your weapons and walk away,” and then shoot dead those who obeyed. I was imagining Iraqis who simply gave up and wanted to get the f— away from the war.

    There have been some similar expressions from other soldiers quoted in the press, along a similar, “kill them all” mentality–meaning, slaughter all the damn Iraqis. Not that this is an unusual sentiment, either, in a war setting. The thought that a Colonel might be saying it just made it more ominous, as he has the power to order such a thing.


    I haven’t numbered the fallacy list yet. But “you lack credibility as far as I’m concerned” would be an ABUSIVE AD HOMINEM, I think (as would your retort, of course). We should probably make that #1, since it’s so popular.

  • san

    Brian, yes, on both points: At what point does the, “Ideally, we should kill them all,” attitude end and the “thank you for not resisting” policy kick in? And, yes, the same statement from a beleaguered or misguided corporal does not carry the same dark weight as such a flippant remark from an officer in command. Further, that he said it with such disregard for the fact that he would be quoted on it in a newspaper seems to indicate that he expects the public to be comfortable with his personal policy.

  • Rob,

    Forgot to come to San’s defense on this matter–your accusation that he took something out of context is unfounded. He deliberately wrote the context into the excerpt.

    Here’s the entire excerpt he quoted:

    “Ideally, we would kill them all,” Col. Joseph Anderson, a brigade commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told Reuters [in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters]. “But if they choose to change their mind and flee, there’s not much we can do.”

    The “[in regard to Fedayeen paramilitary fighters]” is something San added in there of his own accord. He went out of his way to add in the proper context. Rather than “twisting words,” he showed more care than most people here do in making sure he wasn’t twisting words. There was no deceit at all, and your accusation was uncalled for.

  • Rob

    The ones that drop their weapons, put their hands on their heads, lay down on the ground and make no threatening moves are surrendering, it is not that hard to figure out.

    San seems to think this is some law enfrocement task, this is a war, where an officer might say things as they were quoted, after having lost soldiers to false surrenders, watched Fedayeen members herd civilians infront of them as shields. San presents his ultimate argument, equating it to the Colmbia professor’s statement as though they were made in equal circumstances, as though the officer just decided to get in his car and drive through a peaceful Iraqi village popping civilians in hopes of getting the combatants among them.

  • san

    A military officer is responsible for representing the policies of his command at all times, regardless of his personal views. So, do you think Col. Anderson did or did not accurately represent the policies of his command in his statement? For example, had Col. Anderson said, “We don’t belong over here; ideally, we’d pull out now,” how would you feel?

    Within the constraints of a policy that promotes Iraqis refusing to resist US forces, his comments as a representative of that policy were reckless. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with him or not, or if you can sympathize with his statement under the circumstances, his remark was reckless. If de Genova’s and Arnett’s statements were reckless, likewise Anderson.

  • Last I checked, U.S. soldiers were not taking their orders from Columbia professors.

    In fact, with the possible exception of a few Columbia students, I don’t know who even pays much attention to Columbia professors. Actually, even the Columbia students who organized the teach-in (it goes without saying, of course, that they are commies) are upset with the guy for raining on their parade.

    To be fair, though, it is within the realm of possibility that de Genova’s commanding stature as an assistant professor of anthropology and campus gadfly could have sparked a really dangerous undergrad essay.

  • InMarin

    Looks like we are killing ’em all:

    Photo-Essay 2: Tell Us Is This Liberation?

  • sean

    yes, inmartin, civilian (including women and children) casualties are horrible. but they are going to happen in a war. do you think us military saught these people out to “kill ’em all”?? the vast majority of iraqi civilians will survive this, and they will have a MUCH better life because of it. just listen to countless iraqis who escaped to the US and what they think about it.

  • InMarin

    Yes, setan, I think the US did ‘saught these people out’. That’s what this thread is all about, sir.

    (I’m getting a number of private emails about these photos; not everyone agrees that these killings are justified. I think that’s a reflection of how unjustified this entire invasion is.)

    I kind of like the comparison Media Whores Online draws:

    Where are all the so-called “pro-lifers” who tell us pregnant women considering abortion and the public considering abortion rights must view images of aborted fetuses if they are to make a fully informed judgment, since witnessing the gruesome realities is important in determining whether abortion or abortion rights are moral – a perfectly reasonable position?

    Why aren’t they demanding for these images of wounded or slaughtered children to be featured in every newspaper and on every TV network, so that Americans can make an informed decision about the justification and morality of this war?

    They might say the slaughter is taking place for a “greater good,” the “liberation of Iraq,” so we needn’t bother ourselves with the gory, demoralizing details.

    But an argument is made frequently and effectively that the greatest obstacle to the liberation of people in many of the poorest, most oppressed countries in the world is a lack of reproductive freedom of any kind for women (a condition strongly supported by both the most radical Islamic fundamentalists and their American counterparts – the theocratic Bush regime and its “Christian” fundie constituency), and that women in any country cannot become or remain liberated if the state controls their reproductive rights. For those reasons, some say abortion rights and access to birth control are crucial in “liberation” of all populations.

    Strangely, though, that position doesn’t seem to move those who claim to support the slaughter of Iraqi children in the name of a greater “liberation,” and they don’t believe we should be spared the gory, demoralizing details of abortion.

    It couldn’t be that the views of rabid “pro-lifers” on the issue of abortion are based not in concern for “protecting the unborn” but in a belief that the right of the state to force citizens to remain pregnant and give birth against their will must be preserved as a punishment for women who engage in sex. Could it?

    Until the likes of Bill Bennett begin clamoring for networks to show images of wounded or killed civilians and soldiers in the name of informing our views on the war, intelligent people must conclude their motives regarding abortion are in fact rather suspect. Or rather obvious.

  • san

    Excellent points, InMarin, all of them; particularly, the argument that if it makes sense to view graphic images of abortion in order to make conclusions about abortion, then we must also view graphic images of war to assess the merits of war.

    I myself have a problem with any authority that feels secure enough morally to alone decide what is for the greater good at the expense of lives.


    What’s all the fuss you are making here about Col Anderson words? That’s the way a hard though kick butt military leader should talk.He is talking about fighting,about combat.Odd you don’t criticize “fighting words” like Anderson’s from Communist revolutionaries or generals.

    The foe he is talking about are Fedayi…members of Fedayeen Saddam- The paramilitary force founded by Saddam’s son Uday in 1995 composed of young soldiers recruited from regions loyal to Saddam.

    Fedayeen Saddam include a special unit known as the death squadron, whose masked members performed certain executions, including in victims’ homes. The Fidayi operated completely outside the law, above and outside political and legal structures.

    From June 2000 through to May 2001 they performed an operation consisting of executing targeted women by beheading. Women belonging to families suspected of being hostile to the regime or whose members were in prison as “opponents” (the term of course covers a considerable number of definitions) were particularly targeted.

    Saddam’s Fidayi conducted the beheading operations, which took place in two stages.

    Accompanied by the leaders of the Ba’th party, the Fidayi raided a night raid on the district.

    The population was summoned for the next day at prayer time. They arrive at the stated hour at the home of the victim, dragged out in what clothes she was wearing. She was then stretched out on an iron bench, her head hanging down, in front of her children, her family and the whole population of the district. The executioner and his assistants dressed in brown bearing the logo ‘Saddam’s Fidayi’ and usually do not come from the district or the region.

    The Feddayi detailed to carry out the beheading took his sword satnd beside the victim held out by an assistant and cut’s the victim’s head off.

    According to the scenes described, the head is exhibited or the body and the head are thrown into black boxes and taken away.

    So regarding to Feddayi and the whole organization….Yes,go ahead Col Anderson…KILL THEM ALL indeed!

    PS how proud so many puertorricans like me are in Iraq working hard to make Anderson’s wishes come true!

  • san

    You do know what “pax” means, don’t you?

    As a topical aside, the DL, Mr. Pax himself, while still in exile from Tibet, may agree with you more than disagree based upon a statement he made about a month ago.

  • Andrew Jackson

    How convenient for you intellectual types to convene on the web and criticize. I’ll forgo the long soliloquy and say simply that our only problem as a nation is that we are divided in purpose and therefore ineffectual. We want to crush opposition and yet we want to appease bleeding heart liberals who cry foul at the first mention of collateral damage.

    Either pull *completely* out of the Middle East and let the Huns annihilate themselves and deal with the last man standing or Kill em *All*
    Since the later is not possible in light of world pressure, than the first option will accomplish the same end and will be cheaper as well.

    By an large they have cultures that remain fiercely rooted in violence.
    They do not deserve or appreciate the help we offer and we are incredibly foolish to offer it repeatedly after getting nothing but aggression in return

    Don’t “Kill em all”
    Simply leave them to themselves and they will kill themselves.