General Petraeus responds

My previous post explains that 10% of American soldiers actively mistreat civilians in Iraq. Fewer than half believe that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect — this according to a survey conducted by the American military.

Not surprisingly, the post is generating some spirited discussion in the comments.

The good news is, General Petraeus (commanding general of all American troops in Iraq) has just intervened. He comments, in an open letter to every soldier serving in Iraq, “I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq”:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground.

The letter can be read in its entirety on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

The Bush Administration signalled a change of direction after losing control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in last year’s elections. Donald Rumsfeld was finally replaced as Secretary of Defense; and General Petraeus was installed in his post, with a mandate to give effect to a new strategy in Iraq.

Petraeus’s letter is a concrete example of a long-overdue sea change. Somewhere Dick Cheney is grinding his teeth in impotent rage. Meanwhile, one of Sullivan’s readers justifiably mocks the ideological right:

So does this mean that General Petraeus Hates America and Wants the Terrorists to Win? Or that he’s Not a Real Man?

It’s a fair point in the prevailing ideological climate:  where all criticism of the Bush Administration has been reflexively characterized as anti-American defeatism, tantamount to aiding and abetting the terrorists.

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