To “We the People,” an American military life is worth far more than an enemy life. If in battle you as the commander make a mistake, you should always try to make it in favor of your soldiers. In combat no commander, with the lives of his men threatened, should have to play mind games as to how to protect enemy lives.
For example, In Afghanistan an Afghani officer walked into an American Headquarters. One of the American officers working there didn’t like his looks and started to draw his weapon. The senior American officer present said, “You know the rules of engagement; put your gun away. We are to trust Afghani officers unless they show signs of overt hostility.” The American officer returned his gun to its holster. The Afghani officer smiled drew his pistol and shot both Americans dead.
Since before the French and Indian War, rules for Americans engaged in combat have been consistent. The first rule is that soldiers have the right to protect their own lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers. If a soldier has to make a choice between saving an enemy life, military or civilian, or saving the life of an American soldier, the American life gets saved.
True, commander’s actions in battle should be directed toward saving the lives of the troops under their command. They should also try to avoid causing unnecessary enemy civilian casualties. But if saving enemy civilian lives is not possible without endangering friendly American military lives, they should save the lives of their troops first. Death is a normal consequence of war. It’s called collateral damage, one of the unintended consequences of war. That is why life and death decisions on the battlefield should be made by combat tested commanders, not by those back in the Pentagon drinking martinis at Happy Hour.
Starting with the War in Vietnam, America’s rules of military engagement in war have been slowly changing, from doing whatever it takes to win to trying to be politically correct. These soft new rules inevitably get more of our soldiers killed than is necessary. Commanders who replace their politically correct rules of engagement with tried and tested common sense rules may find themselves court-martialed, imprisoned, drummed out of the service or all of the above.
Under the modern rules of engagement, airstrikes cannot be launched against enemy positions unless the person calling for the airstrikes is willing to declare, on the record, that no enemy civilians will be killed by the strikes and that there will be no collateral damage. Similarly Muslim terrorists; positions cannot be engaged unless the commander directing the strike can certify that no enemy civilians will be killed or harmed. This is preposterous.
These seeds of political correctness were planted years ago. I recall once when I was controlling an airstrike in Vietnam -My call sign was “Catkiller Six,” that I couldn’t get the fighter- bombers to hit the right target. Finally, in disgust, I told them to call off the airstrike and return to their base saying, “It shouldn’t be that hard for you to level a few mud huts in the middle of a jungle village, especially when my rockets have clearly marked the target.”
CatKiller Six, did you say village?
Yes, since last night, all friendly civilians have been evacuated out of the village. Only Viet Cong enemy forces are hiding there. Because you can’t hit the target, the South Vietnamese will have to fight their way through the village hut by hut and take a lot of casualties doing it.
“Why didn’t you say so earlier? … Flight, this is leader … Follow me. We’re going to level a village.
Which is exactly what they proceeded to do, but only after first insisting that I give them my name, over the radio, in the clear, as the person authorizing the strike and to blame if any enemy civilians were killed. I wondered where this political correctness would finally lead and now we know.
In Afghanistan it is routine procedure that airstrikes cannot be launched against enemy forces unless the American commander certifies that no enemy civilians will be killed. I suppose the next step will be commanders certifying that in combat, no enemy soldiers will be killed. When do we certify that the lives of friendly American forces are of more worth and value to “We the People” than the lives of our enemies?
VALUING AMERICAN LIFE
MAJ. GEN. JERRY RALPH CURRY, US ARMY RETIRED
Author: From Private to General and The Dream Continues