Kunduz and Columbia

I won’t need to provide links, you’re already familiar with outlines of the stories. I do have a few comments to make about similarities in what happened, and about one striking difference in official response.

The two are US attack on a MSF hospital in Afghanistan, and a Deputy Sheriff in South Carolina throwing a student to the floor.

The similarity I find is that, in each instance, excessive force was called into a situation which — so far as we outsiders can determine — could have been resolved far less dramatically.

At the hospital (and here I am limited to such information as has been made public) a Green Beret unit called in firepower to attack a building where they believed a Taliban figure was hiding. The GB unit understood that the building was, or included, a hospital occupied by patients and medical staff. Nevertheless, in what seems a flagrant violation of Rules of Engagement, or Just Warfare, an AC 130 gunship was called in. It circled and attacked the building for nearly an hour. The toll you probably already know.

Details of the South Caroline story also are — and understandably — open to debate and interpretation. Still, it is clear from a video of the ridiculous — I use that word quite deliberately here — confrontation that a young girl, whose only offense may have been teen-age defiance, was thrown to the floor and led away in handcuffs, as was another girl who had the temerity to complain of the first girl’s treatment. The crucial factor, so far as this argument goes, is that the girl refused to hand over her cell phone. She refused the teacher, who then summoned a principal. The girl refused to hand over to the principal, who then summoned a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the school. And the DS tossed her to the floor when she refused him.

The critical item — call it the resolution point — in each scenario was an “official” determination to call in brute force. At the hospital, it was the Green Beret team. At the school, it was the principal.

In Afghanistan, other shoes have yet to fall. In South Carolina, the Sheriff has fired his Deputy. I say hurray for the Sheriff, yet I also have to say I’m just a tiny bit sympathetic to the Deputy. He ought never to have been called into the classroom. A teen-age girl won’t hand over her cell phone and the principal calls in the cops? Absolutely and unquestionably uncalled for. It’s the Deputy who got fired, it’s the principal who ought to take the fall.

And at the hospital, who knows when or even if any resolution will come. US forces managed in a painfully blundering fashion to exacerbate the problem by trying, after the attack, to bulldoze their way into the hospital to look for evidence. And that is a second example of the central issue in these situations.

Someone is uncertain what to do, or lacks the courage to do it, so calls in a higher power to do the dirty work. A higher power which, in both these situations, was absolutely uncalled for.

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2 thoughts on “Kunduz and Columbia

  1. This is a subject which cuts me to the quick. Not only is it getting worse and worse, it is becoming normal. Common error makes right so if one is theoretically right, there is nowhere to go because you have to continue in the loop of wrongness to be right (relatively). Someone who tries to get to the first principles of a problem as a way to get the thing sorted out will sadly be seen as 1. Mentally ill, 2. Spoiling the flow of things, 3. Really old-fashioned and out of touch (which sort of incorporates the first 2). I don’t know where this idea of heirarchy comes from but man, it isnt even being done as heirarchy! Calling in someone higher equates now to pulling out the legal bully as though it’s progress to have only one.

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