Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Heavy handed

The Independent reports of a leaked memo from the British government regarding American military conduct in Iraq:

Details of the internal Foreign Office memo emerged as Labour leaders were warned by campaign teams across the country that middle-class members in marginal seats were deserting the party in droves over the occupation of Iraq.

The memorandum, said to have been written last week and leaked to The Sunday Times, warned that "heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and [Shia] opposition to the coalition and lost us much public support outside Iraq."

It added: "The scandal of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib has sapped the moral authority of the coalition inside Iraq and internationally."
Nothing controversial here. The damage to American credibility wrought by Abu Ghraib is well-known, at least outside the pro-war circles where the torture has been consistently minimized and distorted.

The other concern indicated above -- that US troops have been "trigger happy" or "heavy handed" -- is less well known, I think, although it has been one of the consistent themes of the Iraq conflict. Criticism from British soldiers towards their American counterparts was reported almost immediately once the war began last year, and American tactics have only gotten worse as the occupation has become bloodier and more protracted.

For a vivid retelling of what the Independent euphemizes as the Americans' "spray and slay" tactics, read this interview with Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey in the Sacramento Bee.