American Military's Cult Of Cruelty
By Robert Fisk
18 September, 2006
In the week that George Bush
took to fantasising that his blood-soaked "war on terror"
would lead the 21st century into a "shining age of human liberty"
I went through my mail bag to find a frightening letter addressed to
me by an American veteran whose son is serving as a lieutenant colonel
and medical doctor with US forces in Baghdad. Put simply, my American
friend believes the change of military creed under the Bush administration--from
that of "soldier" to that of "warrior"--is encouraging
American troops to commit atrocities.
From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo
to Bagram, to the battlefields of Iraq and to the "black"
prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder
have now become so commonplace that each new outrage is creeping into
the inside pages of our newspapers. My reporting notebooks are full
of Afghan and Iraqi complaints of torture and beatings from August 2002,
and then from 2003 to the present point. How, I keep asking myself,
did this happen? Obviously, the trail leads to the top. But where did
this cult of cruelty begin?
So first, here's the official
US Army "Soldier's Creed", originally drawn up to prevent
anymore Vietnam atrocities:
"I am an American
I am a member of the
United States Army--a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because
I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable
to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard ...
No matter what situation
I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety,
which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country.
I will use every means
I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from
actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform.
I am proud of my country
and it's flag.
I will try to make the
people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American
Now here's the new
version of what is called the "Warrior Ethos":
I am an American soldier.
I am a warrior and a
member of a team. I serve the people of the Unites States and live the
I will always place the
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a
I am disciplined, physically
and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I
am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies
of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of
freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American soldier.
Like most Europeans--and
an awful lot of Americans--I was quite unaware of this ferocious "code"
for US armed forces, although it's not hard to see how it fits in with
Bush's rantings. I'm tempted to point this out in detail, but my American
veteran did so with such eloquence in his letter to me that the response
should come in his words: "The Warrior Creed," he wrote, "allows
no end to any conflict accept total destruction of the 'enemy'. It allows
no defeat ... and does not allow one ever to stop fighting (lending
itself to the idea of the 'long war'). It says nothing about following
orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It
says nothing about dishonourable actions ...".
Each day now, I come across
new examples of American military cruelty in Iraq and Afgha-nistan.
Here, for example, is Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, part of an American
mobile interrogation team working with US marines, interviewed by Amy
Goodman on the American Democracy Now! programme describing a 2004 operation
in Babel, outside Baghdad: "Every time Force Recon went on a raid,
they would bring back prisoners who were bruised, with broken bones,
sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys. And I would
ask the prisoners what happened, how they received these wounds. And
they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were
subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by
the Force Recon Marines ... One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust
pipe of a Humvee ... he had a giant blister, third-degree burns on the
back of his leg."
Lagouranis, whose story is
powerfully recalled in Goodman's new book, Static, reported this brutality
to a Marine major and a colonel-lawyer from the US Judge Advocate General's
Office. "But they just wouldn't listen, you know? They wanted numbers.
They wanted numbers of terrorists apprehended ... so they could brief
that to the general."
The stories of barbarity
grow by the week, sometimes by the day. In Canada, an American military
deserter appealed for refugee status and a serving comrade gave evidence
that when US forces saw babies lying in the road in Fallujah--outrageously,
it appears, insurgents sometimes placed them there to force the Americans
to halt and face ambush--they were under orders to drive over the children
Which is what happens when
you always "place the mission first" whenyou are going to
"destroy"--rather than defeat--your enemies. As my American
vet put it: "the activities in American military prisons and the
hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan
and elsewhere are not aberrations--they are part of what the US military,
according to the ethos, is intended to be. Many other armies behave
in a worse fashion than the US Army. But those armies don't claim to
be the "good guys" ... I think we need... a military composed
of soldiers, not warriors."
Winston Churchill understood
military honour. "In defeat, defiance," he advised Britons
in the Second World War. "In victory, magnanimity." Not any
more. According to George W Bush this week "the safety of America
depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad"
because we are only in the "early hours of this struggle between
tyranny and freedom".
I suppose, in the end, we
are supposed to lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty
in the dungeons of "black" prisons, under the fists of US
Marines, on the exhaust pipes of Humvees. We are warriors, we are Samurai.
We draw the sword. We will destroy. Which is exactly what Osama bin
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited