Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Canadian Media Messes Up

This story about a Canadian officer who killed a prisoner in cold blood is more of an ad for the guy's book than anything else.  Semrau shot a wounded Taliban who was no threat.  That much is really not contested.  After so much angst in the media about "THE detainee scandal" which was about whether the Canadian Forces transferred prisoners to the Afghans knowing that they might be abused (not US-style rendition, to be clear, where torture was not just expected but actually desired), the Canadian media is playing up the tale of a guy who killed a detainee. 

Oh, and the preface is by Lewis McKenzie, a retired general, who says this:
“I strongly disagree,” MacKenzie writes. “When a soldier is faced with a similar situation in some far flung battlefield in the future, and has those 10 seconds to reach a decision, no regulation nor memory or knowledge of Captain Rob Semrau’s court martial will spring to mind.
“It will be his or her own moral code that will dictate their response — nothing more, nothing less.”
Um, no.  The detainee was not a threat.  So, the whole ten seconds, regs don't matter, it is just the personal code is ten tons of crap.  The rules of engagement, the laws of war, are supposed to apply in exactly these situations.  You have a defenseless prisoner--do you shoot him?  The answer is no.

Of course, Semrau's fans will say that I have no military experience, just as his panel at the court martial had no combat experience.  True, but some realities are just that--realities.  Killing prisoners is against the law, and also risk mission failure.  I think Canada learned perhaps some wrong lessons from its bitter Somalia experience, but holding people accountable for killing prisoners is not one of them.

So, let's put the book ads for Semrau where they belong--not on the front page in a fawning light.

1 comment:

Rex Brynen said...

As MacKenzie ought to know, the entire point of military training is to make sure you react as you are supposed during 10 seconds of stress.