This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
It’s basic training, of sorts, for U.S. troops headed for Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots:
Learn the culture. Deal with the locals in ways they understand.
At Fort Lewis, Army units at the platoon level learn how to distinguish friends from enemies and avoid insulting behavior in what can be very foreign Arab societies. In one mock exercise, for example, soldiers left their helmets, body armor and weapons outside when dealing with an Iraqi police chief.
In that country, a matter of simple respect. Counterinsurgency campaigns can be won or lost over such issues.
The notorious jailers of Abu Ghraib could hardly have done more harm to American interests – in Iraq and the rest of the world – if they had turned over reams of state secrets to al-Qaida. By posing and photographing Arab captives in degrading positions, they created an anti-American furor throughout the Middle East and far beyond. The photos turned countless ordinary Arabs into jihadis bent on killing Americans in the streets of Iraq.
At the opposite end of the cultural sensitivity spectrum are soldiers like the late Capt. Travis Patriquin, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.
To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.