As Americans, our information about war comes primarily from the media. We see it on TV, the internet, and sometimes, through social media. We send our military ‘over there’ to fight our wars, so we never have to experience it, here at home. We watch the horrors of war on television, available 24 hours a day, and we form our personal opinions based on the information we are exposed to. Some of us even have family and friends in those war zones and a lot of us are veterans of both current and former wars, making our view of war far more personal. Depending on the spin of events we receive, we know who the enemy is, as opposed to ‘innocent civilians’. We want the enemy destroyed, innocent civilians protected, and our soldiers to be safe. We have been told that we are fighting for freedom and democracy, to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people we are there to save, and we are positive that those people see us as liberators.
What if another country, or countries, decided America’s approach to government was ‘evil’ and declared war on us? What if they attacked us with powerful armies and invaded us? What if we suddenly found ourselves living under an occupying army? How would we feel? Would we welcome our invaders? I don’t believe there is a single American, no matter their political belief, that would not do everything within their power to resist that invader. I believe we would fight to drive that army out of our land, no matter the personal cost. Though that occupying army may outnumber us, or possess superior weaponry, we would fight a guerrilla war to defeat them, just as all revolutionary armies in history have fought against tyrants, or invaders. Right or wrong, this is our homeland and we will fight for our right to govern ourselves. In such a guerilla war, it might be very difficult for the soldiers in that occupying army to determine exactly who is ‘enemy’ and who is an ‘innocent civilian’ because, by virtue of the occupation, all civilians become the enemy, at one level, or another.
Our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of that occupying army and have been given the task to take out the enemy, and win the hearts and minds of the civilians. The civilians, and enemy look alike, dress alike, share the same language and religion, and probably feel the same way we would about living under an occupying army. The people in those countries are in the position of trying to survive their occupation, hoping to drive out their invaders, reclaim their land, and the right to govern themselves… just as we would do, in their position.
Whether in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, we are the occupying army. Our soldiers face a population that does not hesitate to use every man, woman, and child to fight. There is no safe place for our soldiers. They face snipers, IED’s, and suicide bombers, at every turn. They are forced to operate at the highest level of paranoia, just to stay alive. In addition, they are further burdened with threats of prosecution from their own, should they fire on an ‘innocent civilian’ in countries where even the children are programmed in the glory of jihad, and preach ‘death to Americans’. It is wrong to ask our soldiers to fight a war, and then punish them for doing what they felt necessary to stay alive in a hostile land. We need to recognize that with very few exceptions, in an occupied land, there are no civilians.