Local kid, age 20, returned this week from Iraq. He is a medic and was stationed in Ramadi- a name we all hear on the news. It’s a particularly dangerous place in a country full of dangerous places.
As I read the article, it got me thinking. What does it mean to be a medic these days in an armed conflict in Iraq, Iran, Afganistan, or anywhere for that matter? Are you a larger target because you have a red cross on your uniform or rucksack or truck or HmVee or helicopter? Are you a favorite notch for the rifle barrels of the enemy because if you are killed, more of your countrymen will die of their wounds?
It used to be popular myth ( truth? ) that if you were clearly identified as a medical corpsman/woman, you would not be shot at and your vehicles would not be blown up.
I suppose that was a part of what was called the Rules of Engagement. Is that a quaint little memory these days? Are medical personnel every bit as tasty a target for the insurgents as regular army/marine ground personnel?
I put this in here because it occurs to me that it may be a source of debate whether or not there has ever been such a thing as a “civil” war in these terms, or if one can even define roles on the field of battle so clearly.
When an entire country is a field of battle, what rules protect the medical personnel? Are there any at all? Should there be? If I were trying to successfully win a war, I’d make sure I eliminated as many of the enemy as possible and that- to a fighting man’s mind- would mean stopping any help from reaching the wounded.**
** Being a Quaker, devout pacifist and anti-war machine guy, this is a hypothetical series of questions.
Nope. First, you want the enemy to spend time and money on the wounded.
Second, you want them to allow you to collect your wounded. Which from what I’ve heard, we have not done; we’ve shot people trying to collect the wounded, occupied hospitals so there were none for the locals, and so forth; perhaps they are returning the favor. For that matter, it doesn’t matter for this purpose if we really have done such things, as long as the Iraqi’s believe it, and we’ve worked hard to make sure they believe the worst of us.
The term “civil war” has always seemed like an oxymoron, and understandably so. But there is such a thing, and many countries have had them: a war confined entirely or largely to national borders, fought by and among citizens of that country. Now, tragically, it seems to be Iraq’s turn.
I spent over two years in Iraq as a foreign aid worker and I can tell you that in that conflict, there is absolutely no protection given to medical or humanitarian personnel.
Bombings have targeted the Red Cross/Red Crescent, and the UN as well as many many NGOs working there. Bombs have been set in neighborhoods with secondary bombs timed to hit the ambulances coming to the scene.
Most of the hospitals in Baghdad are controlled by the Shiite dominated ministry of health. Sunni taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries from bombings have been dragged out and shot in the street after hospital workers alerted death squads to their presence.
Last year Sunni insurgents attacked the offices of the ministry of health and abducted dozens of workers.
It’s something I’ve never understood, honestly. We’re civilized enough to say that certain things are against the rules and agree not to do them. Why, then, can’t we go a step further down this logical path and say that *killing *is against the rules and agree not to do it? Why not settle our differences with a paintball tournament or something?