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Marines are ill at ease in an occupation role

July 12, 2006

Re "Marines Getting a New Message," July 9

So the Marine Corps is, at long last, teaching those in Iraq that "if shot at from a crowd of civilians, a Marine is not to fire back and endanger women and children." Gosh, what revolutionary military thinking! Decades ago, in Malaya, Cyprus and Aden, and currently in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, the British army implemented a similar policy of accountability and restraint, as these factors were always considered to be crucial in winning the hearts and minds of the civilian population. Marines, welcome to the modern world of counterinsurgency and terrorism -- and, quite frankly, it's about time.

MICHAEL H. BARTON

Los Angeles

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It is almost impossible for a Marine warrior to take on the mantle of benevolent overseer. When American soldiers are sent out to kill the enemy, and then become the force of an occupying power where there is no force monopoly, atrocities are inevitable. It happened in Vietnam; it is happening in Iraq. The problem is exacerbated by being in an alien culture with overextended tours of duty.

The tension of being constantly on guard against ambush and death, of not being able to respond with a trained warrior's need to act with decisive force, develops enormous pressures. It does not take a psychiatrist to deduce that among 150,000 men and women, something or someone has got to give to release that pressure. I do not believe we can bully people into our form of democracy; we can only corrupt our own.

ROBERT SILVER

Los Angeles

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