Sunday, November 14, 2010

Notes from Afghanistan Training: War is Not for Catholics and Catholic Thought

This post is not a geography post but part of my diary of preparing for my time in Afghanistan

Try to Save a Life?  That's a War Crime. 

Situation:  Taliban forces are attempting to storm a firebase.  American and Afghan forces are succesfully elminating the attacking waves.  An American solider spots a Taliban solider cowering near a rock.  The Taliban solider appears to have been providing support fire but now seems to be in a panic unable to decide if he should reload, try to storm the firebase, or runaway.  The American solider has three choices of what to do in this combat situation.

1) Shoot the target in the head.  Outcome:  The solider decides to take out the threat.  He takes aim at the Taliban's head and fires off a round.  The bullet hits the Taliban in the face, killing him instantly.  At the end of the battle the solider gets to brag about his "head shot" while leadership congradulates everyone on neturalizing the enemy.

2) Shoot the target in the chest.  Outcome:  The solider decides to take out the threat.  He takes aim at the Taliban's chest and fires off a round.  The bullet punches through the chest and into the right lung causing a sunken chest wound.  The Taliban sets his back against the rock in a desperate attempt to breath.  The Taliban suffers an agonizing thirty minutes until he finally dies.  The solider gets to brag about how he got a "Hajji to suffer" while leadership congradulates everyone on neturalizing the enemey.

3)  Shoot the target in the arm.  Outcome:  The solider decides the Taliban is not an immediate threat therefore should be forcably neutralized but not killed.  He takes aim at the Taliban's dominant arm and fires off a round.  The bullet enters and exits the arm, causing some bone and marrow fly out, forcing the Taliban to drop his weapon and scream in pain.  The solider knows the threat is disarmed and the wounded Taliban solider can recieve medical attention at the end of the battle.  However, leadership detains the American solider and charges with him maiming which is against the rules of engagment.  The American solider can now be tried in a military court of justice.

Under military rules of engagement, a solider can only maim an enemy during a prisoner escape.  To do it at any other time is consider cruel and could possible be considered a war crime (yet killing him and bragging about it is just fine).  That is what I recently learned in training.

The rule was introduced to prevent overt cruelty but sometimes it is the right thing to do; especially when one remembers many of the foot soldiers are "accidental guerrillas" and not global Islamists.

Need a Chaplin?  Good Luck.

There are an estimated one million Catholics in the whole DoD/Military-related complex (which includes Veteran's Hospitals, DoD civilians, etc).  Of that approximately a quarter million Catholics are in the armed service.  There a total of 285 Catholic chaplains in the Military Archdiocese.  I was blown away when I learned this.  For those who wish to help with funding chaplins and much needed resources it is possible to donate to the Military Archdiocese.  Thank you for any support.

Always Hope

So what is a Catholic suppose to do?  Pray for peace and follow the examples of Fatima and Emperor Karl of Austria.


John C said...

This is rather overly simplistic and as a result could lead some to get the wrong impression. If the allied soldier is the poficent with his weapon and can choose exactly what part of the body he is going to aim at during the heat of combat, wow he is good an should be able to brag. In your third scenario you alleged that the combatant would be disarmed, however you failed to describe how the soldier must have shot BOTH arms. A one armed combatant with an AK is still a threat. In this situation if the combatant is cowering for cover it would be difficult to shoot him. If he is standing wide out in the open, weapon held low and not aimed at the soldier in a threatening way there is the option to order him to drop his weapon and surrender. Leaders never teach our soldiers to "wing" the enemy. If our Soldiers aim and pull the trigger it's to kill.
And although it's nice to have an chapain of your own faith that is often hard for any religion but all the chaplains I have served with are top notch and if necessary can link you up with a fellow member of your faith.

Catholicgauze said...

Hi DH,
Thanks for the comment and insight. Every case is different and yes this is just a hypotehtical example. However, if one can disarm an enemy (most targets would be combat ineffective if their dominant arm bursts with marrow flying out from sheer shock and pain) by winging him then it is something that should be considered depending on the circumstance. Yes I understand it is a war and people do die because it is intended; however the military's treating option 3 as illegal is morally wrong.