A few months ago, I linked to an awful portrait gallery of some GIs who opened fire in Tal Afar on a car carrying nothing more than a family of seven, killing the parents in front of the children. Today Crooked Timber has an interesting letter from a GI reflecting on what the shooting really means. The fellow strikes exactly the right line: what's most horrible is that these soldiers were not monsters, but were only following the stated protocols, protocols which are themselves the only possible reasonable ones in a war zone like the one in Iraq. Stuff like this happens in every last war.
This is exactly why anyone reasonable should hesitate before advocating a war: in advocating war, one is affirming scenes of precisely this nature. Presumably even the chickenhawks who promoted this war knew that they were advocating this sort of thing; but does anyone today look honestly at Iraq and say to themselves that, as of today's reckoning, the positive results of the war have made these sorts of scenes worth it, especially for the men and women who have committed these acts and who must one day come home and one day to live as civilians among the rest of us (let alone the victims)?
One day the reckoning may be different, but it's like a guy who drops the first five big hands at the table at the start of the night: to get back anywhere remotely close to even, he's going to need a long winning streak, based not just on great bets, but also on wild luck.