The Calculus of Carnage

An Iraq veteran reflects on the disturbing ratio of enemies to innocents killed in combat.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Did you follow news and debate about the war?

Jason Christopher Hartley: I think in a lot of ways we don’t know so much what is going on. I mean we did read a fair amount of news. Well I should say, myself and a lot of my friends we would read a lot of news, but not really that much, and then what we experienced while we’re there is so… It’s like really the whole forest and the trees thing, where we could tell you a lot about our specific missions or anything like on a tactical level, but as far as like kind of more overarching, big-picture type stuff, I would… You back in America watch the news and probably have a better grasp of what is going on big picture-ish than we would have definitely.

Question: How many good guys do soldiers kill for every bad guy?

Jason Christopher Hartley: Well yeah, that’s kind of the drag and I guess really kind of the standard thing with combat is in my area roughly speaking every time… anytime there was any kind of engagement there would… and this is by my own non-scientific count. There would usually be about one combatant killed for three non-combatants killed, and by combatant I mean like good guy, bad guy, you know, insurgents, coalition forces. So the shooting starts, maybe a couple of combatants go down, tons of women and children get blasted in the process, which I think is… I don’t know. In my humble opinion, I think it’s kind of a statistic that isn’t looked at often enough. Combat is great and everything, but if you’re there ostensibly to help a people, but in the process of helping them you’re kind of like killing all of them. You know, it’s maybe someone should look at that more closely. Paul Rykoff, the executive director of IED, had a kind of a really good way of putting it, is that we’re creating enemies more quickly than we can kill them because you… You know you go into someone’s home. You kind of accidentally kill a lot of people. That’s never a good thing. You know you’re making enemies a lot faster than you’d like.