Grassroots Commentary

Insanity: The Rules of Engagement

Leigh Bravo · Aug. 22, 2014

What are the Rules of Engagement (ROE)? These are the military directives meant to describe the circumstances under which ground, naval and air forces will enter into and continue combat with opposing forces.

New rules of engagement were put into place by the Obama administration in 2009 and 2010, which many claim have caused hesitation and confusion for our military.

In an article for the Washington Times, Rawan Scarborough interviewed Wayne Simmons, a retired U.S intelligence office from NATO headquarters who said:

“It is no accident nor a coincidence that from January 2009 to August 2010, coinciding with the Obama/McChrystal radical change of the [rules of engagement] casualties more than doubled. The carnage will certainly continue as the already fragile and ineffective [rules] have been further weakened by the Obama administration as if they were playground rules.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerne said:

“We have handcuffed our troops in combat needlessly. This was very harmful to our men and has never been done in U.S combat operations that I know of.”

In 2010, the first full year of the troop surge, there was five times the annual death toll compared with 2006-2007  and three times the number in 2008.

What do the rules of Engagement say about collateral damage?

“Those targets that, if struck, have a ten percent probability of causing collateral damage through blast debris and fragmentation and are estimated to result in significant collateral effects on non-combatant persons and structures.”

What does this mean to the soldiers on the ground who are in an intense fight with the enemy? All attacks with the possibility of harming 30 or more civilians need approval from the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in writing before they can be carried out?  Is this reasonable?

An article published in 2009 in the Washington Times was able to piece together specific components of the new Rules of Engagement:

  • No night or surprise searches.

  • Villagers must be warned prior to searches.

  • Afghanistan Army or police must be present on U.S. searches.

  • U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless they fire first.

  • U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy of civilians are present.

  • Only women can search women.

Troops can fire at insurgents placing an IED but not if walking away from the area were IED’s are placed.

What kind of war are we fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do the bad guys wear uniforms? Do the bad guys hide guns? Do the bad guys commit suicide by carrying bombs covered by civilian clothes? Do the bad guys use women and children to carry out killings of soldiers? The problem is soldiers cannot tell who the bad guy is, and this is definitely an advantage for the enemy.

Marcus Luttrell, of  "Lone Survivor" said:

“Our rules of engagement in Afghanistan specified that we could not shoot, kill, or injure unarmed civilians. But what about the unarmed civilian who was a skilled spy for the forces we were trying to remove? What about an entire secret army, creeping through the mountains in Afghanistan pretending to be civilians?  These terrorists/insurgents know the rules… They’re not their rules. They’re our rules, the rules of the Western countries, the civilized side of the world.  The rules are unworkable because half the time no one knows who the goddamned enemy is, and by the time you find out, it might be too late to save your own life. Making sense of the ROE’s in real-time situations is impossible.”

Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, 28,  was found guilty of 2 counts of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of pay and dismissal from the military,  when he returned home from two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. What was his crime? In July 2012 Lorance ordered the engagement of three Taliban scouts who were tracking his platoon’s movements. His men opened fire immediately  and two of the men were killed while one ran away. Lorance said he was trying to protect his unit. The previous platoon leader of the unit had recently been killed.

The government prosecutor said, “Lt. Lorance used his rank and position to harass, intimidate, threaten and murder Afghans.”

In an interview on NPR, Tom Bowman, a National Desk reporter,  told his firsthand experience while in Afghanistan:

“[W]e were inside this center, a command center, watching a video screen. They were watching live while these guys were digging a hole for a roadside bomb. And there were other indicators, too, besides digging the hole. There was a guy swimming across a canal with this wire, and the wires are used to detonate the bomb. They had all the indicators that these guys were insurgents planting a bomb. So they thought about using a machine gun to shoot these guys. there was another combat outpost not too far away. the problem was there was a compound of houses between where the Marines were with their machine gum and the guys planting the bomb. So then they decided to bring in the helicopters and use the machine guns to shoot these guys. As the helicopters came in, these guys look up in the air and start walking away. One of the guys was carrying a yellow jug - and that’s become the icon of the roadside bomb. They mix fertilizer and diesel fuel in this, and that becomes part of the bomb. And then we saw one of these guys throw the jug into a haystack.”

The Marines no longer had the authority to engage the enemy.

An article in Breitbart by Billy and Karen Vaughn, told the story of an Army Ranger who recently left the military and said, “I had to get out. I have a family who needs me. I didn’t join to be sacrificed. I joined to fight.”

According to the article:

“This decision came after he lost a friend to the Rules of Engagement. He explained how the Taliban had attempted an ambush on his friend’s squad but quickly realized they were in a battle they couldn’t win and began retreating. While chasing them, the U.S. soldiers were ordered not to engage due to the slight chance the Taliban had laid down their arms as they ran through some type of shack. While arguing with leadership at the Joint Operations Center, his friend was shot and killed.”

Recently Captain William Swenson was given the Medal of Honor.  Swenson spoke of his frustration when he repeatedly called headquarters to request airstrikes but was denied for hours as more than 150 Taliban fighters attacked his position. He said:

“It’s not JAG’s [military attorney] responsibility to interject to say, ‘Hey, we are concerned that you’re going to hit a building.’”

“I can tell you that I am concerned with saving as many lives as I can, not necessarily one. Unfortunately, this is combat. I can’t be perfect, but I can do what I feel what’s right at the time.”

“I just get the craziest thing across the radio sometimes. Just people second guessing.”

Another soldier in the same report said  there was a dwelling used by the Taliban, including women, as a safe haven from which to fire rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. Yet the command would not target the building. He said:

“Let’s focus on [rules of engagement] because there is no reason you can’t level a house if they are shooting from it. I’ve never heard of a rule that would not allow  [you] to fire on a house. They always teach you that you always have the right to defend yourself. Let commanders on the ground make decisions. We are using lawyers to make tactical decisions.”

Is this how we treat the heroes that have volunteered to fight for our country? How can we allow politicians who have never been to the battlefield  or officers sitting at a desk in Washington to decide at what moment a soldier is able to defend himself or his unit in wartime? When a soldier is faced with a split second decision, should they be forced to hesitate and potentially lose their life or be prosecuted when they return home for committing a crime?

New rules instituted by the current administration demand that no military attack via air or ground can be launched unless it can be guaranteed that no civilians will be killed, no collateral damage will occur. Airstrikes cannot be launched unless the person authorizing the strike is willing to declare on the record that there will be no collateral damage or face prosecution.

The Rules of Engagement, since Vietnam, used to be about doing whatever it takes to win. Now, soldiers must adhere to rules made by politicians who have never seen the battlefield, attempting to be politically correct and by the media who demonize any soldier that is involved in a battle where there is collateral damage. Are these the rules of a Nation who is concerned about protecting the lives of our soldiers or the rules of the few who are looking to keep their cushy government jobs by pacifying the public to ensure their re-election?

It is time to bring common sense back to government. Collateral damage, and unintentional killing of civilians is a consequence of war. But the question is are our soldiers lives more important than the inevitable collateral damage? Should our soldiers be forced to defend their wartime actions, in the middle of a battle,  to the government of the United States while they are fighting for the people of the United States?

It sounds like pure Insanity to me!

If you would like to help, please visit “” and contact your representative and demand that we stop the insanity surrounding the Rules of Engagement.

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