Speaking today at Fort Benning, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urges US troops to watch their behavior during occupation duty, admonishing them not to make headlines with embarrassing behavior.
US military occupations and attacks across the globe have been full of headline-grabbing fiascoes stemming from policy as it is, but recently it has been troops, whether massacring civilians, taking video of urinating on corpses, or collecting human fingerbones, which have gained most of the attention.
“A few who lack judgment, lack professionalism, lack leadership can hurt all of us, and can hurt all of those men and women who serve this country,” Panetta noted. Officials say Army and Marine Corps leadership have been pushing a similar message recently, an effort to raise awareness of just how embarrassing such incidents are.
Yet at their core, such admonitions are just a rebranded version of the “hearts and minds” refrain, reflecting the assumption that somehow a bloody, endless occupation can be sanitized enough that the resistance will settle down. Whether Afghans are angry at the US for burning the Quran, for urinating on the dead, or for killing many civilians in a drone strike, the anger is going to endure.