- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

Rules of engagement

The commentary, “Untie military hands” (Commentary, Jan. 26), inaccurately describes of the rules of engagement for Iraq. Unlike the rules depicted in the commentary, the actual rules of engagement for coalition forces in Iraq gives commanders and soldiers ample flexibility to use the kind and amount of force needed to accomplish the mission and to defend themselves and others at all times.

The assertion that “seven incremental steps … must be satisfied before our troops can take the gloves off and engage the enemy with appropriate violence of action” is flat wrong. The purported “seven incremental steps” do not exist. The actual rules require coalition forces to defend themselves, at all times, with necessary and proportional force in response to attacks and actions indicating potential attacks. In Iraq, our forces operate on a complex battlefield. Many times, forces run into situations where they are unclear if a person encountered in this complex environment poses a real threat.

These situations usually include civilian automobiles approaching coalition force convoys or pedestrians interacting with patrols or checkpoints. In cases where uncertainty exists about a person’s intentions, and where time and circumstances permit, coalition forces are trained to use steps to warn that individual off and increase the show of force in order to prevent unnecessary engagement of innocent civilians coming into contact with our forces. These techniques also help Soldiers and Marines to determine whether the actor poses a legitimate threat. The moment coalition forces believe that the actor poses a real threat, the rules of engagement allow troops to engage with necessary and proportional lethal force. The rules always promote the right of self-defense. Coalition forces are well trained on the basic principles of the Law of Armed Conflict and apply them in every hostile engagement. Coalition forces understand military necessity and only engage legitimate targets. Coalition forces distinguish between noncombatants and legitimate targets, focus their fire on lawful targets, and endeavor to minimize the unnecessary or collateral damage to the innocent from the engagement. The rules aid in this disciplined use of force.

The commentary describes situations relating to the perfect rules of engagement. It argues that troops need the authority to engage “someone about to level an AK-47 in their direction” and to defend themselves against receiving hostile fIre from an enemy position without going through “a seven-point checklist.” Further, the article counsels that troops be able to engage “insurgents, be they Sunni or Shia” who commit hostile acts or demonstrate hostile intent regardless of the identity of the individual. The commentary pleads that these are the ROE that our troops need in order to win. The commanders of our forces in Iraq agree. That is why the rules now and from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom have authorized, and our troops have been trained, to fIre in each of these situations. In reality, the commentary is an unknowing endorsement of the robust rules in effect. The rules allow our forces to do what the commentary demands.

Coalition forces will continue to engage aggressively those who undermine the stability and security of Iraq, but in doing so, we will ensure our actions comply with our international legal obligations. Our military leaders require that all coalition forces understand and follow the Law of Armed Conflict in all operations and that our use of force is purposeful, focused and devastating to our enemies. The rules of engagement help us to do just that.

LT. COL. JAMES E. HUTTON

U.S. Army

Public affairs offIcer

Multi-National Corps - Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq

Follow the gun trails

Once again, researcher John R. Lott Jr. is revealing the ideology behind his misrepresented statistics in claiming that gun shows are not a major source of crime guns (Letters to the Editor, “Gun scruples,” Sunday).

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) report in question, “Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers” (http://www.atf.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/pdf/followingthegun_internet.pdf) analyzed crime-gun trace data compiled from 1,530 firearms-trafficking investigations over a 2½-year period.

The report found that “gun shows were a major trafficking channel, involving the second highest number of trafficked guns per investigation (more than 130), and associated with approximately 26,000 illegally diverted firearms.”

ATF further stated that “prohibited persons, such as convicted felons and juveniles, do personally buy firearms at gun shows and gun shows are sources of firearms that are trafficked to such prohibited persons.”

The National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress were so alarmed at the results of this report and others that they acted in 2004 to prohibit the ATF by law from releasing any further trace information to the American public under Freedom of Information Act. One would be hard-pressed to imagine a more anti-democratic measure outside of book burning.

The Department of Justice study mentioned by Mr. Lott (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/guns.htm) involved a survey of inmates in state prisons, 2 percent of whom said that they purchased the gun used in their crime at a flea market or gun show.

An additional 80 percent indicated they got their gun from “family, friends, a street buy or an illegal source.” No effort was made to trace the crime guns involved in the study to find out where they were originally bought and how they were subsequently trafficked.

It is likely that many of these guns were originally purchased at gun shows. The only thing the study hinted at was how the last illegal transfer of a firearm had taken place, and we know from ATF that guns often change hands several times before being used in crimes.

The Virginia State Police report that background checks prevented 2,668 illegal transactions by criminals and other prohibited purchasers in Virginia in 2005 alone. If this type of activity is taking place in regulated gun sales that are overseen by the ATF, then what type of individuals are buying guns when the rules are: “No paperwork, cash and carry”? It’s a question that the citizens of Virginia should be asking their legislators.

JOSH HORWITZ

Executive director

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Washington

More supermarkets in D.C.

The story, “Grocery stores galore on tap” (Page 1, Jan. 24), underlines the disparity of food access in the metropolitan area. You can better see the inequity if you zero in on Wards 7 and 8, located east of the Anacostia River. Ward 7 has just two supermarkets — one store for every 32,700 people — while Ward 8 has none.

Thanks to Giant, in the upcoming months Ward 8 residents finally will have one major chain grocery store in their community. It’s a long-awaited first step. We hope that Mayor Adrian Fenty makes food access a priority in his new administration — including fresh fruits and vegetables — from a variety of sources.

We can encourage more grocers to follow Giant’s lead, more corner stores to stock fresh fruits and vegetables, and we can make it easier for farmers markets to sell their produce in communities.

Providing people in all neighborhoods with access to food is just one way we can end hunger and improve nutrition in the District. As the article points out, the consumers are ready. So let’s create the shelf space.

ALEXANDRA ASHBROOK

Director

D.C. Hunger Solutions

Washington

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