Robert Fisk: The US military and its cult of cruelty

The change to 'warrior' creed is encouraging soldiers to commit atrocities

Share

In the week that George Bush took to fantasising that his blood-soaked "war on terror" would lead the 21st century into a "shining age of human liberty" I went through my mail bag to find a frightening letter addressed to me by an American veteran whose son is serving as a lieutenant colonel and medical doctor with US forces in Baghdad. Put simply, my American friend believes the change of military creed under the Bush administration - from that of "soldier" to that of "warrior" - is encouraging American troops to commit atrocities.

From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram, to the battlefields of Iraq and to the "black" prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder have now become so commonplace that each new outrage is creeping into the inside pages of our newspapers. My reporting notebooks are full of Afghan and Iraqi complaints of torture and beatings from August 2002, and then from 2003 to the present point. How, I keep asking myself, did this happen? Obviously, the trail leads to the top. But where did this cult of cruelty begin?

So first, here's the official US Army "Soldier's Creed", originally drawn up to prevent anymore Vietnam atrocities:

"I am an American soldier. I am a member of the United States Army - a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard ... No matter what situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform. I am proud of my country and it's flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier."

Now here's the new version of what is called the "Warrior Ethos":

"I am an American soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the Unites States and live the Army values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American soldier."

Like most Europeans - and an awful lot of Americans - I was quite unaware of this ferocious "code" for US armed forces, although it's not hard to see how it fits in with Bush's rantings. I'm tempted to point this out in detail, but my American veteran did so with such eloquence in his letter to me that the response should come in his words: "The Warrior Creed," he wrote, "allows no end to any conflict accept total destruction of the 'enemy'. It allows no defeat ... and does not allow one ever to stop fighting (lending itself to the idea of the 'long war'). It says nothing about following orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It says nothing about dishonourable actions ...".

Each day now, I come across new examples of American military cruelty in Iraq and Afgha-nistan. Here, for example, is Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, part of an American mobile interrogation team working with US marines, interviewed by Amy Goodman on the American Democracy Now! programme describing a 2004 operation in Babel, outside Baghdad: "Every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised, with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys. And I would ask the prisoners what happened,how they received these wounds. And they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the Force Recon Marines ... One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a Humvee ... he had a giant blister, third-degree burns on the back of his leg."

Lagouranis, whose story is powerfully recalled in Goodman's new book, Static, reported this brutality to a Marine major and a colonel-lawyer from the US Judge Advocate General's Office. "But they just wouldn't listen, you know? They wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists apprehended ... so they could brief that to the general."

The stories of barbarity grow by the week, sometimes by the day. In Canada, an American military deserter appealed for refugee status and a serving comrade gave evidence that when US forces saw babies lying in the road in Fallujah - outrageously, it appears, insurgents sometimes placed them there to force the Americans to halt and face ambush - they were under orders to drive over the children without stopping.

Which is what happens when you always "place the mission first" whenyou are going to "destroy" - rather than defeat - your enemies. As my American vet put it: "the activities in American military prisons and the hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are not aberrations - they are part of what the US military, according to the ethos, is intended to be. Many other armies behave in a worse fashion than the US Army. But those armies don't claim to be the "good guys" ... I think we need... a military composed of soldiers, not warriors."

Winston Churchill understood military honour. "In defeat, defiance," he advised Britons in the Second World War. "In victory, magnanimity." Not any more. According to George W Bush this week "the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad" because we are only in the "early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom".

I suppose, in the end, we are supposed to lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty in the dungeons of "black" prisons, under the fists of US Marines, on the exhaust pipes of Humvees. We are warriors, we are Samurai. We draw the sword. We will destroy. Which is exactly what Osama bin Laden said.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map