HIGH STANDARDS OF DISCIPLINE ARE ALSO A FORM OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
Details are sketchy but some American soldiers are being accused today of having violated the Geneva Convention in Afghanistan by having desecrated the bodies of enemy combatants. While mutilation of the enemy dead is traditionally considered a provocative act in military history, the issue is of particular sensitivity among Muslims because Islam, like Judaism, has specific and strict religious rules regarding the burial of the dead.CENTCOM
in Afghanistan and at HQ has taken a very hard line on this incident
, pro-actively reaching out to the press to announce the criminal investigation and the serious nature of the charges:"U.S. INVESTIGATES ALLEGATION OF LAW OF WAR VIOLATION, BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The Army Criminal Investigation Division has initiated an investigation into alleged misconduct by U.S. service members, including the burning of dead enemy combatant bodies under inappropriate circumstances."This command takes all allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously and has directed an investigation into circumstances surrounding this allegation," said Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, Combined Joint Task Force-76 Commander. "If the allegation is substantiated, the appropriate course of action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and corrective action will be taken." Service members are expected to abide by the highest standards of behavior and the law, he said. "This command does not condone the mistreatment of enemy combatants or the desecration of their religious and cultural beliefs," Kamiya said. "This alleged action is repugnant to our common values, is contrary to our commands approved tactical operating procedures, and is not sanctioned by this command. Our efforts to thoroughly investigate this allegation are a reflection of our commitment to the Government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people." American intervention in Afghanistan has by and large been far more successful than in Iraq in part because, relatively speaking, the " footprint" has always been light. Moreover, the light presence was combined with serious and ongoing attempts to win over Afghans of all ethnic, tribal and sectarian backgrounds including Pushtun Deobandis, most of whom ( though by no means all) were once the core supporters of the Taliban. Public desecration of dead Afghans or even foreign Muslims by U.S. troops is less than helpful in that regard and escalates the risk for all American personnel. The original jihad against the Communist government in Kabul that resulted in the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the ten year war was triggered by Parcham-Khalq Marxist secret police goons going into the villages and roughing up the local mullahs and generally stomping on the religious sensibilities of rural Afghans.
Quick action by American authorities, as commanders seem to be taking, is more likely to defuse the situation and avoid handing al Qaida and Taliban die-hards a propaganda coup.