Thursday, June 29, 2006


Battlepanda links to this article about a soldier in Iraq who has some interesting things to say.

My brother mentioned a simple solution to the problems described here:

The language barrier has done irreversible damage to our entire occupation.

“On the rare occasions that we’ve had men who speak the language with us, it has yielded key information—in one case it almost resulted in the capture of a high-value target. I can’t begin to imagine the kind of miscommunication damage we could have avoided had we had interpreters during two of our three deployments. Nothing adds to the disconnect between U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi populace like absolute miscommunication. We are astronauts and they are Martians, plain and simple.
Jew#2 imagined that some flashcards on a key ring with some important arabic phrases in english on one side and written in arabic on the other would improve the situation significantly. Things like "Lie Down", "Halt", "We won't hurt you", "Be calm", "Who", "What", "Where", "When" "How" and "How many" could be included. Also responses from the Iraqis would be as important if not more. Giving a response card with words and short phrases arranged next to translations of those phrases to the Iraqi so he can point to answers like "Yes", "No", “Certain”, "Meter", "Kilometer", "Hour", "Day", "Before", "After", “Injured, sick, disabled”, and “Help” (operating under the assumption that arabic numerals are common knowledge) would also probably help. In addition, a short FAQ could be prepared for Iraqis who are being raided. Something like:

We apologize if we are rough, but we are trying to protect ourselves and you from harm.

We are here because we have some reason to believe there may be people who are assisting the insurgents in this place. If you remain calm and follow our instructions we will not hit you or harm you.

We are sorry for the intrusion if you are not involved, we try our hardest but do sometimes make mistakes.

We may have to detain some of the young men with you. This may be simply to take them to a translator who will be better able to sort out the situation. Please direct all inquiries as to their status to xxxxxxxx. Inquiries written in English will receive priority. Please include your name and the name of the detainee you are inquiring about, as well as your relation to the detainee. Comments should be contained on one side of a single page.

All other comments and complaints can be made to XXXXX.
We give a nicely premade OODA loop to the Iraqi family at that point. We tell them what is going on, controlling the Observe part. We give them some options, make a complaint or inquiry of some kind, that’s the orient part. All that’s left is for them is to decide what kind of angry words they want to put on paper, and then bring it someplace. The alternative is to let the insurgents explain that we are rough because we are cruel, we raid randomly to instill terror, their men are being humiliated, and their only method to respond to this situation is to sit near a bomb with a cell phone trigger waiting for the Kafirim.

As for people who would object based on the idea that a letter drop would be an ideal insurgent target, I would point out that the logistics of a national election were handled, and would have been considerably more complex and dangerous then a simple mail collection. However, even if that is still an unacceptable risk to coalition lives, the letters could simply be destroyed. They would have served a purpose already by having provided a distraction that channeled much of the initial anger. However, actually following up on the detainee inquiries would be a great step forward in alleviating mistrust. Even more progress could be made if attempts to make restitution for property damage were also made.

The idea of having a complaint box fit into my larger theory of legitimacy. People need to feel empowered by an entity that they are legitimating. They need some means of control over it. Democracy can be that means, but more often it is a legal system that will address individual’s complaints (individuals have control because they can get the court to order some action). By giving individuals indirect access to the government, we are allowing the individual to be independent of the local community and family. This is especially important if there are insurgents in that community.


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