FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Secret Rules of Engagement in Iraq

Wikileaks has obtained the long kept secret Rules of Engagement (ROE) for U.S. troops in Iraq. This document sets out the rules guiding authorized U.S. troop actions in that occupation. While the Wikileaks document dates from 2005, as these ROEs generally change slowly the rules for today are likely similar, though we can’t be sure, of course, to what extent more recent ROE’s differ.
Among several interesting nuggets in the ROE, it provides indications that U.S. attacks likely to result in civilian deaths required authorization at the top of the Pentagon, by the SECDEF (Secretary of Defense). Thus, the ROE states repeatedly; “If the target is in a HIGH CD [collateral damage] area, SECDEF approval is required.” And what is the definition of a High Collateral Damage area? The ROE contains a set of explicit definitions of its terms. There we find High Collateral Damage Targets defined as:

“Those targets that, if struck, have a ten percent probability of causing collateral damage through blast debris and fragmentation and are estimated to result in significant collateral effects on noncombatant persons and structures, including:

(A) Non-combatant casualties estimated at 30 or greater;

(B) Significant effects on Category I No Strike protected sites in accordance with Ref D; (

C) In the case of dual-use facilities, effects that significantly impact the non-combatant population, including significant effects on the environment/facilities/infrastructure not related to an adversary’s war making ability; or

(D) Targets in close proximity to known human shields.”

Thus, all attacks, except those in self-defense or active pursuit, with a reasonable possibility of harming 30 or more civilians needed approval from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Presumably such approval would need to be in writing. The ROE thus suggest that there may exist an extensive documentary record of requests, and possibly Rumsfeld’s approval or rejection, for attacks with the potential for resulting in significant civilian casualties. Congress should demand access to these documents to determine the extent to which attacks resulting in civilian casualties were authorized, potentially providing insight into who was responsible for possible war crimes committed in the course of the occupation.

While much of the rest of the ROE appears rather unsurprising, there are a couple of other interesting aspects to the document. One is that the main “hostile forces,” from the U.S. perspective are the Baath remnants, such as the Special Republican Guard and the Baath Party Militia. There is no mention of Iraqi al-Qaida or its predecessors. These predecessors, led by al-Zarqawi, had identified with and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida as early as October, 2004, yet they receive no mention in the ROE. The ROE rather refers to Baath forces that “have transitioned from overt conventional resistance to insurgent methods of resistance.”

While the Sunni al-Qaida predecessors do not make the list of hostile forces, the Shia-based Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr does make the list of “Declared Hostile Forces,” However, as of the ROE’s writing, this status was “suspended and such individuals will not be engaged except in self-defense.”

Another interesting feature of the ROE is a complete ignoring of the language barriers separating U.S. troops from the Iraqi populace. Thus, in a section on graduated force, the first stage is “shout verbal warnings to halt.” There is not even a mention of the fact that most Iraqis cannot understand warnings shouted in English. In general, the ROE is notable for lacking any recognition that, in an “insurgency,” there are at best blurry boundaries between combatants and noncombatants. Thus, there is no emphasis of the need to take extraordinary measures to protect the civilian population. Rather, it provides a rationale for virtually any attacks:

“US Forces may always use force, up to and including deadly force, to neutralize and/or detain individuals who commit hostile acts or exhibit hostile intent against US Forces or Coalition Forces.”

As we have seen repeatedly, from the numerous roadblock killings of civilians to the Haditha massacre, this ROE authorization to use force can be used to provide cover for virtually any civilian killings. The ROE suggests that preventing such deaths was low on the priority list of those officials writing the rules of engagement for the occupation. Even so, a military study found that less than half of US occupation soldiers would report a unit member for violating an ROE.

Thus, even the limited protections provided civilians in the ROE were often not present on the ground.

STEPHEN SOLDZ is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice web site and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

STEPHEN SOLDZ is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations. He is President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility [PsySR].

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail