Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Daily Gripe #37 - Camouflage

I'm no military strategist. I'm certainly not qualified to make battle plans or lead troops into battle. I served eight years on Active Duty in the Army. I was lucky enough to get to see other parts of the world at no cost to myself (other than my portion of taxes that covered such things). I was also lucky enough to never be deployed into harms way. I served during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. I served during Operation Just Cause, and numerous other maneuvers. I was lucky enough to be assigned to units that were not deployed in any of these activities.

Lucky, I say, because although I was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for my country, I was never asked to. While I have the utmost respect for those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world, I am thankful today that I was never asked to go into battle.

But something really gripes me!

Any time you turn on the network news -- CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, CNN -- you see two things. First, you see insurgents on the street, armed and dressed in the common attire of the rest of society. Second, you see United States military members on the same city street, standing next to armored desert-colored "Humvees," wearing full battle dress: desert camouflage; Kevlar helmets; LBE belts heavily laden with ammunition pouches, canteens and other equipment; cravats; combat boots; flak vests; full ruck sacks; etc. What's the problem here? Let me tell you.

During my time in the military, while on training maneuvers, I never found myself even remotely comfortable in full battle dress. That's the first problem. While our troops are loaded down with a hundred pounds of movement-restricting equipment, the enemy looks just like any other man on the street.

Which is the second problem: our troops stick out like sore thumbs while the enemy blends in. If some Saddam-loyalist freak wants to kill an American GI all he has to do is look for the color of desert sand in the middle of town. Boom! And if he hits an Iraqi civilian, who cares? But how does that same GI defend himself? Duck! Because if he retuns fire, at whom does he shoot? If our soldier kills an Iraqi civilian because he can't tell the difference between a civilian and the enemy, he could go on trial for his life. At the very least, that soldier, the American military, President Bush, and the entire cause in Iraq will be dragged through the press and crucified for killing an innocent civilian.

I know we have to outfit our troops with the latest in protective equipment for their safety, but come on! What protection does a person get from wearing a desert camouflaged uniform on the streets of Baghdad? You may as well dress him in a t-shirt and paint a bullseye on his back!

I served during the late eighties and early nineties, more than twenty years after the "end" of the Vietnam War, and we wore jungle fatigues! Why? We haven't fought a war in the jungle since Vietnam, but American GI's stationed here in the U.S. are still issued jungle fatigues!

I'm a supporter of the military, and I voted for President Bush twice, and for his father twice, but I think it's past time to outfit our soldiers with real camouflage. The word camouflage is defined as: the act of concealing the identity of something or someone by modifying its appearance. Tell me, how is it camouflage if we dress our troops in ways that make them unmistakably identifiable as American miltary?

I believe if we ever want to truly win this war and bring our troops home we need to forget about such nonsense as the antiquated and oft-overlooked (by others) Geneva Conventions and adopt a new convention: When In Rome. That's right, if we're going to fight a nonstandard enemy on his own turf, we have to fight like the enemy. We have to look like the enemy, act like the enemy, and fight by the same rules (or lack thereof). As long as we continue to hold ourselves to a standard that no one holds this enemy to, we will be fighting an uphill battle.

Tell me what you think. Email me, or submit your comments using the link below.


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