06/05/06 — Opinion - The Enemies

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Opinion - The Enemies

By Gene Price
Published in News on June 5, 2006 1:45 PM

In war, the loss of some innocent civilian lives is inevitable. "Collateral damage" is a term coined in relatively recent years. It has been applied particularly to structures destroyed and civilian victims of strategic bombing strikes.

Since we have been engaged militarily with religious fanatics -- and before that in encounters with communists in Vietnam -- civilians, churches and facilities such as hospitals and schools have been used by our enemies as shields for combat operations.

The enemy can fire on our soldiers and our aircraft, but we risk horrendous criticism at home and around the world if we fire on such "sanctuaries." Politicians, notably President Lyndon Johnson during Vietnam, have been particularly sensitive to such outcries.

And they have cost the lives of countless American servicemen and women.

Currently in the news are accounts of U.S. infantrymen having killed civilians in the aftermath of a deadly improvised explosive device attack in Iraq.

The wanton killing of civilians by our people cannot be tolerated, of course -- though the religious fanatics routinely are murdering civilians -- women, children, old folks -- in marketplaces, schools and even in places of worship.

We cannot allow ourselves to sink to such depths of inhumanity.

But young soldiers who have been caught up in the horror of seeing their comrades blown to bits in roadside bombings and ambushes perhaps should be accorded some consideration for their responses.

To their credit, the vast majority react with a discipline reflecting admirably on their upbringing at home and their training in the military.

That having been said, "innocent civilians" need not include civilians who dance around and cheer at the scenes of IED blasts that have destroyed U.S. equipment and killed and wounded our service personnel.

Those dancing and rejoicing at the scenes of the killing and wounding of our service personnel, or providing havens for terrorist bombers, clearly are the enemy. And none of our combat troops should be punished for treating them accordingly.