A must-read letter to the troops from General Petraeus...
... We are making progress but the odds are still against us. We cannot take chances or play fast and loose with our own values. In addition to something immoral occurring, it could be the final straw for this war. All it would take is a weak leader behaving immorally, or a tired leader not recognizing the stress level of his soldiers and reacting accordingly, and we might have the proverbial straw that breaks this camel’s back.Now, the letter to the troops from General Petraeus (link to PDF):
This letter from General Petraeus deserves the widest possible dissemination. It should be published widely, and posted on every headquarters wall, and read aloud by every troop in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can pummel al Qaeda and other terrorists mercilessly and grind them into the dirt, but we cannot afford to turn local populations against us while we do it. ...
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force-Iraq:
Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial proportion ofthe Iraqi population against it.
In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.
I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know first hand the bonds between members of the ” brotherhood of the close fight. ” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arrns—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.
Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk;” however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.
We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.
We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examinat ion of these issues. Leaders, in part icular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.
Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.
David H. Petraeus,
General, United States Army
Not as important, but Dennis Prager also just wrote A Letter to Our Soldiers in Iraq that's worth reading:
...You know that what you are doing is worth continuing. You see on an almost daily basis the faces of people who count on you to help them make a freer society than they have ever known. You know that your presence in Iraq is all that stands between numberless men, women and children and a horrible death. But, for whatever reasons, the fate of these people and their country do not matter to those who feel you are wasting your time and our nation's resources in Iraq.Read the rest from Dennis here.
You know that the fight you wage is worth waging. You know that you are not, by and large, fighting Iraqis who do not want you there but fighting people from other countries who come into Iraq in order to blow up and maim as many innocent Iraqis as possible.
You know that you are fighting the most vicious and primitive ideology in the world today. It is the belief that one's God wants his followers to maim, torture and murder in order to spread a system of laws that sends societies back to a moral and intellectual state that is pre-civilization.
You know that the war you wage against these people and their totalitarian ideology is also necessary because a society unwilling to fight for its values does not have values worth sustaining. And for that reason, you in Iraq and many of us back home are worried about America.
You know that there is real good and real evil in the world. You have seen both more than any of us at home will probably see in a lifetime. Why so many in America and the West generally no longer believe that there is good and evil, let alone in the importance of having good vanquish evil, is a subject for a book. But that is the problem here. So when, God willing, you return healthy and victorious, you will have another battle to wage -- on behalf of moral clarity. In that regard we are losing our way. Millions of our fellow Americans -- often the best educated -- do not understand that those who send young people to blow up weddings, kindergartens, market places and college libraries in the promise of a paradise filled with young women are the Nazis of our time.
You know all these things. And tens of millions of us back home also know these things. ...