By Bryan Reinholdt
For an act to be premeditated it has to be planned. In the United States we hear about premeditated murder and in some states this has been defined as mere seconds before the criminal act. Our reasoning for going to war with Iraq and Afghanistan was the premeditated plans of terrorists, among other things, that seemed to fail evidential scrutiny. Our "preemptive" or "premeditated" actions were framed as a response against those who, as President Bush put it, "hate us for our freedoms." On September 12, 2001 the United States government decided to act in self-defense to those countries it deemed guilty of harboring terrorists. Iraq was the only country to endorse the attacks saying it was a "lesson for all tyrants and oppressors." When violent actions aren't premeditated they are classified as self-defense which is the legal justification for killing in situations that would otherwise be deemed as murder. In this case, the act is called "justifiable murder." Are these wars premeditated murders or justifiable murders? The debate over the wars/occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan can be summed up in an analysis and comparison of premeditated acts (unjustifiable murder) and self-defense (justifiable murder).
In the recent killings of 16 Afghan women and children in Panjwaii district of Kandahar province by, allegedly, one rogue staff sergeant who had gone through multiple deployments, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "War is hell. These kind of events and incidents are going to take place. They've taken place in any war. They're terrible events. This is not the first of those events, and they probably won't be the last." If we can place the Defense Secretary's comments in the larger context of global war, we are all (US and Al Qaeda) simultaneously acting in self-defense for what we believe is just cause for an enemy's premeditated murder. Chicken and the egg, but this is more than theory, it is about human lives. If we know, like Panetta states, that these kinds of atrocities are going to happen, how are we preventing them? Are we trying to prevent them or does that impair soldier readiness? Make no mistake: we went into Iraq and Afghanistan with the premeditated intent to kill. Whether soldiers are told to engage in violent actions that amount to murder or justifiable murder against an enemy, this is the tightrope that Panetta seems to be walking on. Reports suggest that all safeguards were in place to thwart premeditated actions of this kind. Yet, soldiers exposed to traumatic experiences (PTSD, MST, and TBI) are repeatedly treated as if their experiences are justifiable while the soldiers themselves deal with the trauma as if they carried out premeditated murder. The trauma is mounting within each soldier and the nation collectively. A draw down in troops from Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't mean the war is over. It continues in the minds of veterans.
IVAW's Operation Recovery campaign seeks to support service members standing up for their right to heal, to expose those responsible for deploying traumatized troops, to demand that those who deploy traumatized troops end their inhumane practice and end these wars by winning our Right to Heal.
Support our troops. Support Operation Recovery.
Bryan Reinholdt is the national Treasurer for Iraq Veterans Against the War. He served as an Apache armament and electronics maintenance specialist during Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the 8/229th Aviation Regiment under the 42nd Infantry Division on FOB Speicher. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Kentucky.