I find it infinitely interesting that the media so often fail to ask so many of the really important questions. For example, according to icasualties, as of the 13th of October, 2012, 1,567 of the 2,136 US troops killed in Afghanistan have died since Obama became president of the United States. That is, 73% of all troops fatalities there happened in the 45 months since Obama took office, compared to 8 years under Bush. The number of wounded under Obama has increased almost 5 times over the number of wounded under Bush.
Why have so many more died under Obama in less than four years, than under eight years of George W. Bush’s watch?
The answer is easy. Under Obama, the Rules of Engagement (ROE) have been progressively tightened since 2009, limiting more and more the circumstances under which a US serviceman can use deadly force. Worst of all, the ROE has become so complicated that soldiers are afraid to fire for fear they will face a court martial. The aim of the changing ROE is theoretically benign: every attempt is being made to guard against civilian casualties. But US soldiers are facing people who are indistinguishable from civilians in almost every way, until they start shooting or set off a bomb. How do they know if someone involved in suspicious activities is a civilian or an insurgent?
You can see the effect of the changed ROE on US military deaths as follows:
Under Bush, the casualties were relatively low. Indeed, as Peter Szoldra, an ex-Marine commented, “When I deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry squad leader in 2004, I had the utmost confidence in my superiors, our mission to restore order to Afghanistan, and to help the Afghan people. At the time of my deployment, we had clear rules of engagement (ROE): if you ever feel that your life is threatened, you can respond with force, to include deadly force.”
He adds: “Beyond this, we also patrolled our area of operations with the knowledge that if we ever radioed “troops in contact,” our requests for air or artillery support would be approved.”
All this has changed. Now, he says:
“Instead of being afraid of the might of U.S. firepower, enemy fighters use our Rules of Engagement and restrictions on air support against us. When faced with a split-second decision of whether to shoot, soldiers many times must hesitate—or be investigated. Or, as in the case of the 2009 Battle of Ganjgal, excessive restrictions on air and artillery assets unfortunately meant excessive American deaths.
We are willing to restrict ourselves to the point of helplessness to avoid even a possibility of civilian casualties,” said one military officer who I’ll refer to as Evan, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I have personally watched the same man arm and disarm 12 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) over a week, with no strikes allowed due to collateral concerns.”
Simply put, Obama would rather have our soldiers die than deal with the political fall-out from accidental civilian deaths. To see the ridiculous constraints our soldiers labor under, here’s a telling quote from another article:
“On many nights, the Marines watched through their night-vision goggles as shadowy figures dug holes in the ground, and on several occasions they opened fire. At some point, the order came down: Stop shooting at night unless you can positively identify an insurgent.
“We knew what that person was doing … burying an IED for sure,” said Wimer, who is now out of the Marines and enrolled in college. “But the command would say, ‘You can’t be positive. They might be a farmer.’ Ridiculous.”
Yes, ridiculous. But the result is tragedy.