Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Absurdity of Rules of Engagement

    Although this subject is of a topical nature ie; our Coalition Forces involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, it does not feature very highly on most Westerners radar. Given that Australia is also a signatory to the Rules of Warfare, as laid down by the Geneva Convention, it should be incumbent on all who wish to serve in the military to make themselves aware of the further restrictions, under Rules of Engagement, which have been placed onto all military personnel who undertake combat duties in current and future roles that requires the presence of our soldiers in foreign lands.

    Rules of Engagement are now considered to be an integral part of operations in foreign lands where the Coalition military is required to carry out its function while the normal lives of the occupied civilian population can be maintained with minimum interference. In other words, Rules of Engagement have been designed to keep the civilian casualty list down to foster local good will which also placates the sensibilities of the politicians and the left wing hand wringers back home. While the doctrine of Rules of Engagement has been successful in keeping civilian collateral damage to a minimum thereby limiting political fallout and bad press, it has allowed the enemy to take up some very disturbing practices against coalition forces involved in eradicating them from the landscape.

    The Daily Telegraph Editorial, September 28, 2010, highlighted the often very difficult circumstances that coalition soldiers find themselves in whenever the Taliban decide to use women and children as human shields, while fully cognizant that our highly trained and restrained by rules soldiers will not shoot back, even when shot at by these completely amoral Muslim guerilla fanatics. Those who have heard about the 2010 charging of three Australian soldiers by the Australian Army, who were involved in a firefight sometime during 2009, would also be aware that the incident so described saw the deaths of 5 Afghani children. The children had been holed up in a house with a Taliban fanatic who decided to fire upon advancing Australian troops from within the house with no apparent regard at all for the lives of the children he was hiding behind. And while the complete 'picture' of what actually occurred during that incident was not immediately available to those of us with an interest in our soldiers welfare, it should be noted that soon after being charged, two of the soldiers involved spoke out by issuing statements that defended their actions.

    It must be emphasized here to those who do not comprehend what Coalition forces Rules of Engagement cover, and what actions may occur before our troops are permitted to return fire, even while being shot at, that when soldiers are limited in the actions that they may take when coming under fire, and remember that these are real bullets that are fired at them, it increases the risk of them being killed or very badly wounded, while the enemy who is doing the shooting and hoping to kill them, is not restricted by any rules which may hinder his actions. In short, adding Rules of Engagement onto Rules of War and expecting our soldiers to comply with them is adding to their already high stress levels, and adds further dangers which imperil all coalition personnel while it contributes to an imbalance of military tactics which favors the enemy who Coalition soldiers are employed to eliminate.

    Here are two examples of Rules of Engagement:

If having been fired upon by a shooter who then drops his weapon to his side as soon as he comes under notice from coalition forces, he should no longer be considered an immediate threat and is not to be fired upon, even if he decamps to another location where it is likely he will take up another position to resume firing.


    If troops come under fire from a dwelling place which could be considered to have women and children present they are to avoid returning fire and deploy to another safer area.

    It's no wonder then that an Army lawyer, a Brigadier Prosecutor, got to rub her hands together at what she perceived was her first real case of substance involving three Australian soldiers who she charged with murder soon after that 2009 incident. Thankfully, and as cooler heads prevailed by applying some common sense, as of this time, those three soldiers have now been cleared of any wrongdoing. This after nearly two years of being forced to live in limbo because some Army lawyer decided to try and make a name for herself!

Rules of engagement have been written by politicians, lawyers and military people who will never visit, let alone take part in a war zone and in all probability, like that Army lawyer, have never been in a combat situation and will never be required to shoot back in self defence. The Rules of Engagement are not only absurd they are immoral, because those rules force the combat soldier to give away part of his own right of self defence to the benefit of his enemy. And those who should know better than to impose such restrictive rules on our fighting forces have forgotten or just plainly ignore, that our soldiers are in those places they are in to protect the basic freedoms of those who enact the very laws that the soldier now finds he is restricted by.

    It's an absurd situation and it needs to be changed!


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